Coroner: Whitley averages one drug-related death per week

Jul 18, 2012 | Posted by: roboblogger | Full story: The News Journal

Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley spoke to the Whitley County UNITE Coalition Monday about drug-related deaths in Whitley County.

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East Bernstadt, KY

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Jul 18, 2012
 

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Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley spoke to the Whitley County UNITE Coalition Monday about drug-related deaths in Whitley County.
Over 18 months, Whitley County has averaged nearly one drug related death per week, Coroner Andy Croley told the Whitley County UNITE coalition Monday evening.
In 2011, there were 51 confirmed drug related deaths in Whitley County. Through June 25, there have been 23 confirmed drug related deaths in Whitley County with another 10 cases with toxicology results still pending.
"I know these are our stats for Whitley County, but I can promise you that all 120 counties in Kentucky are going to have the same prescription medication problem that we are having here," Croley said.
"The problems we are seeing is through legal medication that is being prescribed to people, who are abusing those in a lot of ways. Everybody wants to talk about that it's an epidemic. It's really a pandemic. It is all over the nation."
Croley also mentioned one of the most high profile overdose deaths in recent Whitley County history that occurred on Jan. 5, 2010, in the parking lot of Williamsburg City Hall where three people were coming back from a trip to a Florida pain clinic when one man died in the back seat.
The group's navigational device lead them to Williamsburg City Hall when they were looking for a hospital.
Croley, Operation UNITE Director Karen Kelly and others spoke during the meeting, which was attended by over a dozen people, about the regions drug problem, specifically overdose deaths and problems with prescription medication.
Prescription drugs
Croley said that the type of drugs he is seeing in most overdose deaths are prescription drugs.
The most common drug found in Whitley County drug related deaths this year is Alprazolam, which was found in 23 percent of victims, followed by Oxycodone in 13 percent of victims and marijuana in 9 percent of victims, Croley said.
Kelly said in terms of drugs on the streets that Operation UNITE is seeing similar numbers from around the region but that black tar heroin and Opana use are on the rise.
Xanax use is particularly increasing with young people. The average age of first time drug use overall among children is age 11.
"Kids are telling us now,'Why would I take a drink so mom or dad can smell it on me when I get home when I can snort a pill and then I just wait until I am OK,'" Kelly added.
"We're concerned because our communities are dying. Prescription drug abuse has far surpassed any epidemic with crack cocaine or heroin. Prescription drug abuse has more than doubled where we have ever been."
Whitley County UNITE Coalition Co-Chair Adam Sulfridge noted that during a six-month period in 2011 over 50 percent of the Whitley County overdose deaths involved either Hydrocodone or Oxycodone in their system.
Sulfridge added that in 2010, 69 tons of pure Oxycodone and 42 tons of pure Hydrocodone were dispensed in America.
"80 percent of worldwide prescription pain killers are consumed by America yet we are 4.6 percent of the world's population,"
Sulfridge added. "We can't tolerate that. I really hope people realize that out of 36,000 people in this county, 3.8 of them are dying of drugs per month."
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East Bernstadt, KY

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Jul 18, 2012
 
Over 18 months, Whitley County has averaged nearly one drug related death per week, Coroner Andy Croley told the Whitley County UNITE coalition Monday evening.

In 2011, there were 51 confirmed drug related deaths in Whitley County. Through June 25, there have been 23 confirmed drug related deaths in Whitley County with another 10 cases with toxicology results still pending.

"I know these are our stats for Whitley County, but I can promise you that all 120 counties in Kentucky are going to have the same prescription medication problem that we are having here," Croley said.

"The problems we are seeing is through legal medication that is being prescribed to people, who are abusing those in a lot of ways. Everybody wants to talk about that it's an epidemic. It's really a pandemic. It is all over the nation."

Croley also mentioned one of the most high profile overdose deaths in recent Whitley County history that occurred on Jan. 5, 2010, in the parking lot of Williamsburg City Hall where three people were coming back from a trip to a Florida pain clinic when one man died in the back seat.

The group's navigational device lead them to Williamsburg City Hall when they were looking for a hospital.

Croley, Operation UNITE Director Karen Kelly and others spoke during the meeting, which was attended by over a dozen people, about the regions drug problem, specifically overdose deaths and problems with prescription medication.

Prescription drugs

Croley said that the type of drugs he is seeing in most overdose deaths are prescription drugs.

The most common drug found in Whitley County drug related deaths this year is Alprazolam, which was found in 23 percent of victims, followed by Oxycodone in 13 percent of victims and marijuana in 9 percent of victims, Croley said.

Kelly said in terms of drugs on the streets that Operation UNITE is seeing similar numbers from around the region but that black tar heroin and Opana use are on the rise.

Xanax use is particularly increasing with young people. The average age of first time drug use overall among children is age 11.

"Kids are telling us now,'Why would I take a drink so mom or dad can smell it on me when I get home when I can snort a pill and then I just wait until I am OK,'" Kelly added.

"We're concerned because our communities are dying. Prescription drug abuse has far surpassed any epidemic with crack cocaine or heroin. Prescription drug abuse has more than doubled where we have ever been."

Whitley County UNITE Coalition Co-Chair Adam Sulfridge noted that during a six-month period in 2011 over 50 percent of the Whitley County overdose deaths involved either Hydrocodone or Oxycodone in their system.

Sulfridge added that in 2010, 69 tons of pure Oxycodone and 42 tons of pure Hydrocodone were dispensed in America.

"80 percent of worldwide prescription pain killers are consumed by America yet we are 4.6 percent of the world's population,"

Sulfridge added. "We can't tolerate that. I really hope people realize that out of 36,000 people in this county, 3.8 of them are dying of drugs per month."
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East Bernstadt, KY

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Jul 18, 2012
 
Overdoses

Croley said that the drug levels come back in one of three ranges when they are measured in the bloodstream.

Therapeutic is the level a doctor recommends. Toxic is the level that could harm the body and lethal is a level of the drug, which has been known to cause death.

An overdose happens when people put more of a drug into their bodies than they can metabolize correctly causing the body to go into an agitated state, Croley said.

"What causes someone to overdose? Is it one pill? No, it's not one pill. Is it the first time someone takes a pill? Normally, it's not," Croley said. "The reason people are overdosing is because they don't ever get to the high that they got to the first time."

Then they start taking multiple pills and medications.

"When they are taking multiple medications, they don't understand what they are doing to their body and to their system," he added. "There are so many people out there that actually overdose and are so close to death that they don't realize it."

Many times people have multiple drugs in their system when they overdose. One time Croley had someone with six different types of medications in their system.

Not all drug use bad

Kelly, who has a brother with stage four cancer, said UNITE's goal isn't to keep pain medication out of the hands of people that legitimately need it.

Croley agreed that pain medications aren't bad when put into the hands of people, who really need them, but these typically aren't the people Croley is seeing in cases of fatal overdoses.

Pill mills are part of the problem putting pain medications in the hands of people, who don't need them for pain but instead are using them to get high or sell for a profit, he noted.

"We have found that there are many pharmaceutical companies that don't want better procedures cracking down on these drugs," Kelly added. "They are still sponsoring studies that say we under treat pain in this country."

Uphill fight

Croley said he thinks there is a strong correlation between drug usage and the employment rate.

Kelly noted the economic desolation and desperation is one aspect but that in many areas perhaps a bigger problem is that drug use has become a large part of the culture.

Kelly said one friend, who she grew up with, had all three of her sons affected by drug use. One son died, another went to treatment and has since left Pike County, and the other is still struggling. The mother never used drugs in her life.

Kelly said she has a niece by marriage, whose mother died of an overdose, her aunt committed suicide, and both of her brothers have drug addiction issues.

"She told me when her son uses, she is going to get him help early and not wait until he is desperate," Kelly said. "She expects my great nephew to use because he is growing up in that community.

"This is what we have to wrap our minds around that is who we have to reach out to. She has seen so much death and devastation that she expects more of it."

Croley said that the answer to the problem starts with education.
Saddened

United States

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Jul 24, 2012
 

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It saddens me to see this is such a problem not only in our area, but all areas. I lost my brother who was only 46 yrs old in May from a drug overdose of prescription drugs. He had been to see his doctor that day got his Meds filled and died about 8 hrs later. I made numerous complaints and I saw on the news last night this physician has had his license suspended. It will not bring my brother back, but maybe now he will take some reaponsibilty in some of the lives he is destroying.
So sorry

Corbin, KY

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Jul 24, 2012
 
I'm so sorry for your loss, and I'm glad to see some stats on the #'s of deaths related to substance abuse. I think it's been happening for many years, and has just not been in the public realm enough to attract those who want to help combat this problem..."Out-of-sight, out of mind" kind of thinking...People (and especially some church people) don't want to hear any negatives, but real life isn't like that. We have to address the negative in order to achieve the positives. I may get blasted for saying that, but that's OK. Life isn't all roses, but God wants us to all do our part, which means being aware, learning how we can help, and then just doing it! Thanks for your information, Andy & Karen. I have complete faith that we will overcome this in our community, because we have a wonderful, loving, and caring community. Thanks to all for helping!
sneakers

Williamsburg, KY

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Jul 26, 2012
 

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I'm so sick and tired of these one sided stores,every one wont's something done but no ones doing anything about the solution , maybe if there was some help for these people this wouldn't be the out come, there way of fixing it is throw u in jail,why don't they offer some type of help,these people are not bad people just someone that some where along the way something happen weather it be a car wreck, or was in allot of pain whose to say it wont be u tomorrow, u don't even realize u have a problem till u have a problem.
why not just ask

Corbin, KY

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#9
Jul 26, 2012
 
Part of the solution is for a person to recognize, and accept, when they have the problem of being addicted to pain meds. I understand that many medical schools are now beginning to teach how to recognize signs of drug dependency, and I think that's a good thing. But, if you are hurt/have an accident/have surgery, etc. and are on pain meds. for a legitimate cause, just remember that the legally prescribed medicines can lead to addiction just as street drugs can. This is where you can help--by having a family member or friend help you advocate to your dr. that you are NOT interested in staying on the pain meds., but want to be weaned off so that addiction never becomes a problem. Personally, I think all doctors with any common sense would already be aware, and proactive in dealing with this issue, but apparently that isn't happening. So, the general public can be aware, and speak up! Ask for help if pain medicines become a problem, and hold the drs. accountable for their prescribing practices.
concerned

Middlesboro, KY

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Jul 28, 2012
 

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why not just ask wrote:
Part of the solution is for a person to recognize, and accept, when they have the problem of being addicted to pain meds. I understand that many medical schools are now beginning to teach how to recognize signs of drug dependency, and I think that's a good thing. But, if you are hurt/have an accident/have surgery, etc. and are on pain meds. for a legitimate cause, just remember that the legally prescribed medicines can lead to addiction just as street drugs can. This is where you can help--by having a family member or friend help you advocate to your dr. that you are NOT interested in staying on the pain meds., but want to be weaned off so that addiction never becomes a problem. Personally, I think all doctors with any common sense would already be aware, and proactive in dealing with this issue, but apparently that isn't happening. So, the general public can be aware, and speak up! Ask for help if pain medicines become a problem, and hold the drs. accountable for their prescribing practices.
There are sometimes that it is impossible to be weaned off of prescription pain medicine. My husband was in an accident herniated his L4-L5 and has several bulging discs, also has DDD(degenerative disc disease). He will NEVER get better only worse says his specialists. He is prescribed pain medication and takes it everyday. I'm sure he is addicted to it. The doctor also knows this but says if he doesnt take it then he will be in severe pain and it will limit his EDL activities. We have a son who needs his father to do "father" things with him while he can. So there isnt any "weaning" that can be done in some cases...

“I can see you”

Since: Jun 11

Lookout Mountain

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#13
Jul 28, 2012
 
He sends body fluids to Frankfort toxicology lab. I did the same thing for twenty two years. That is were the results come from. Sent back in a report, any where form two weeks to two months.
Watching too

Williamsburg, KY

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#14
Jul 31, 2012
 
Leave the physicians out of it if they are good physicians they cannot help it if some dummy goes home and takes the whole bottle ,if people have chronic pain they need their meds that's why they make the stuff .dont kid yourself all the police dept and others get theirs ,are u going to do without yours in chronic pain and taking them like the bottle says go figure you are the ones suffering ????
what

Winchester, KY

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#16
Aug 4, 2012
 
So sorry wrote:
I'm so sorry for your loss, and I'm glad to see some stats on the #'s of deaths related to substance abuse. I think it's been happening for many years, and has just not been in the public realm enough to attract those who want to help combat this problem..."Out-of-sight, out of mind" kind of thinking...People (and especially some church people) don't want to hear any negatives, but real life isn't like that. We have to address the negative in order to achieve the positives. I may get blasted for saying that, but that's OK. Life isn't all roses, but God wants us to all do our part, which means being aware, learning how we can help, and then just doing it! Thanks for your information, Andy & Karen. I have complete faith that we will overcome this in our community, because we have a wonderful, loving, and caring community. Thanks to all for helping!
I don't know what you are referring to talking about the CHURCH PEOPLE not wanting to hear anything negative....that is crazy I know in this town has a family member touched by this horrible epidemic!!! I am so thankful that for their prayers.
So sorry

Corbin, KY

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#17
Aug 4, 2012
 
What I meant by that is that those who pray and actively get involved in helping those in need due to substance abuse issues, are fewer than those who don't. I guess it has to be a calling...but in my church there are a few who respond to the need, while the rest don't want to hear anything about it. Maybe it's just my church. If so, I've generalized in error, and if I have done that, I apologize. I have just found, after 30+ years of working in the public and with people in need (for many reasons, not just substance abuse issues) that I usually got turned down when requesting help from churches, but found amazing help elsewhere. I have a strong faith and know our society is good... but hated trying to break through the denial I found...

Since: Jun 11

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Aug 6, 2012
 

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Like i always say, if your going to do something, do it right. Good job burg. Over time this problem should work itself out.

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