Drug overdoses, driven largely by prescription drug abuse, overtook motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of unintentional deaths in Kentucky back in 2010 and remain the state's leading cause of death. From 2000 to 2010, the number of drug-overdose deaths in Kentucky rose a staggering 296 percent, highlighting the state's drug abuse epidemic that now kills more than 1,000 Kentuckians a year. But a recent poll suggests many Kentuckians are not fully aware of the state's drug problem.
In an effort to gauge awareness of the problem, the Kentucky Health Issues Poll asked Kentucky adults whether traffic accidents, falls, firearms or unintentional drug overdoses resulted in the highest dumber of deaths in the state each year. Only 44 percent of Kentucky adults correctly indicated that drug overdose is the leading cause of unintentional Kentucky deaths; 43 percent incorrectly identified traffic accidents as the leading cause.
Respondents from Eastern Kentucky, where the problem is most prevalent were more likely to correctly identify it as the leading cause of death, at 69 percent. However, only 29 percent of Louisville-area respondents did.
“Experts have reported significant prescription pain reliever abuse in eastern Kentucky,” said Susan Zepeda, presient of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsored the poll. “It is no surprise that the Kentuckians most aware of this issue are those who are living in this region. Awareness is the first step towards curbing this trend – it is up to all of us to get involved and take action to reduce the toll of this health crisis.”
The poll was conducted for the foundation and The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati from Sept. 20 through Oct. 14 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,680 adults throughout Kentucky was interviewed by land line and cell telephones, and the poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.