HAZARD — As part of his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, Attorney General Jack Conway talked to students in Perry and Pike counties on Wednesday and Thursday about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.
Joined by Dan Smoot, vice president of Operation UNITE, a non-profit corporation that educates the community about and helps fight the drug epidemic in Kentucky, Conway shared stories with the students from parents who had lost their children because of prescription drug abuse. Mike Donta, of Ashland, was there at the schools to share his story. Donta lost his son in 2010 after a three-year battle with prescription drug addiction.
“Every day you make a choice. You made the choice to come here today, made the choice of whether you ate breakfast or not, what you chose to wear. But every choice you make has consequences. Most of those are good and positive, but some of them can be bad. Some of those can even be life changing,” Donta said while speaking to freshmen and sophomores at Perry County Central High School on Thursday. “My son made bad decisions.”
Prescription drugs are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and are responsible for more than 1,000 overdose deaths in the state each year, according to a press release from Conway’s office.
“The misuse of powerful drugs like OxyContin, Xanax, and hyrocodone has fueled the epidemic of prescription drug abuse here in Eastern Kentucky,” Conway said. “We now lose more people to overdoses than traffic accidents.”
According to the Office of the State Medical Examiner’s 2011 Kentucky Toxicology Report, the top four substances found in overdose death victims in the state were controlled substances, including alprazolam (42 percent), oxycodone (31 percent), hydrocodone (27 percent), and oxymorphone (23 percent). Alcohol ranked fifth on the list at 20 percent.
Since launching the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program in 2010 with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE, and concerned parents, Conway and his partners have alerted more than 20,000 middle and high school students to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs, according to Conway’s office.