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Kentucky Announces Drop in Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teens

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A newly released survey indicates far fewer Kentucky teens abused prescription drugs last year, compared with four years ago. The 2012 Kentucky Incentives for Prevention School Survey found 9 percent of high school seniors abused prescription drugs last year, compared with 15.2 percent in 2008. Among sophomores, prescription drug abuse rates decreased from 14.1 percent to 7.6 percent. Among eighth graders the rate decreased from 6.5 percent to 2.9 percent, the Courier-Journal reports.

Kentucky officials said the drop is due to a law signed by Governor Steve Beshear in 2012 designed to reduce prescription drug abuse. The law requires that all pain clinics be licensed, specifies requirements for ownership and employment, and obliges Kentucky’s licensure board to develop regulations for pain clinics. It gives law enforcement easier access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring database. Doctors must examine patients, take full medical histories, and check electronic prescription records before writing prescriptions for opioids.

The law also includes education campaigns for middle and high school students, which Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said has reached 25,000 students, teachers and parents.

“Education works,” Governor Beshear said in a news release. “Our public health and law enforcement communities have worked tirelessly to educate the public about the dangers of using prescriptions outside of a doctor’s care. And this report shows that when people have the correct information, they make better choices.”

Some addiction experts said they are concerned that the drop in prescription drug abuse among teens may be accompanied by a rise in heroin use in this age group, the article notes. “The General Assembly has passed legislation to make it more difficult to access prescription drugs,” said Karyn Hascal, president of The Healing Place recovery program in Louisville. “My concern is the unintended consequence is that people have switched to heroin. … The problem is addiction, not the drug of the day.”

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