Jessamine County Coroner

Prescription Drugs

I recently attended a drug-related program sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Attending this program were approximately 100 law enforcement personnel from various police departments as well as state and federal crime fighters, investigators and regulators.  This was a unique opportunity for me, as I was the only coroner present.  The program was based on the “Drug Diversion” program, which strongly affects the state of Kentucky, as well as most others in the country. 

Drug Diversion is the process of illegally obtaining, dispensing or distributing and eliciting controlled pharmaceutical drugs or chemicals for illicit use.

This chain of illegal activity has become rampant and often utilizes elaborate schemes and organization all geared to getting unwarranted prescription drugs into the hands of illegal users while enhancing the personal wealth of some unscrupulous physicians and other business people.

Until very recently, Florida was well known for the ease of obtaining illicit prescriptions and drugs through its vast number of “pain clinics”.  While most pain clinics are legitimate, many set up shop for the sole purpose of cranking out prescriptions and drugs.  Interestingly, the state of Kentucky has more “patients” who visit Florida pain clinics than any other state.  It has not been uncommon for caravans of vehicles with “patients” traveling to Florida every month or so to re-stock their inventory of drugs. Obviously if the intent was to obtain legitimate prescriptions for actual medical problems, they would not have to travel to Florida to do so. 

While this is a global problem, we as Kentuckians need to have a real concern for what’s happening here at home.  Most people think of drug abuse as young down and outers lying in a doorway using street drugs like heroin and cocaine.  The truth is that a high percentage of drug abusers are adults who actually started out by taking prescribed “pain killers” for a legitimate medical problem.  Most of our young people who are “using” started out with the gateway drugs of alcohol and nicotine.  Gradually they take on more potent drugs, often from a friend or from the medicine cabinet at home. 

Prescription drug abuse has now surpassed all illicit drugs with the exception of marijuana.  Likewise, pharmaceutical overdose deaths have exceeded deaths related to illicit drugs. Even more ironic is the fact that pharmaceutical overdose deaths have surpassed deaths related to auto accidents.  Remember, pharmaceutical drugs are those legitimate, legal medications that are supposed to be prescribed by physicians to heal and treat.  How has this happened?

While there are numerous methods for obtaining prescription drugs for illicit use the one I’m most concerned about is the family medicine cabinet.  Many users and addicts admit to obtaining their first pills from their parents, grandparents or neighbor’s medicine bottle. 

Help prevent illicit use of your medications by getting rid of all excess unused medications in your home. The Nicholasville Police Department now has a medicine disposal box in their main lobby.  No questions asked, no papers to sign.  Just bring them in and toss in the drop box.

You just might save the life of someone you love.

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