- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

LEXINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Six small counties in eastern Kentucky have become the prescription narcotics capital of the country, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Sunday.

In the first of a seven-part series, the newspaper's analysis of painkiller deliveries suggest that in a three-year period, enough of the drugs were delivered to amount to three-quarters of a pound of the pills for every resident.

The Herald-Leader's research found that nearly half a ton of narcotics

made its way to six small mountain counties in Kentucky from 1998 to 2001

and that federal officials say that the more legal narcotics are available in an area, the more will be diverted to illegal use.

Using federal data on hospitals and other legal outlets for prescription painkillers in the relatively small area, the analysis showed more were shipped there than to any other place in the country.

Kentucky state officials said the figures are a signal of an "addiction epidemic."

One state police captain said that for every prescription-drug dealer his

officers take off the small-town streets, four replacements are ready to take

over.

A public defender in Perry County estimates that 95 percent of his

clients either sell or abuse prescription drugs.

Eastern Kentucky circuit court dockets are jammed with possession and trafficking charges related to all controlled substances jumping 348 percent from 1997 through 2001.

"This may be the first epidemic — if it is an epidemic — that started in

rural areas," said Richard Clayton, an addiction specialist who heads the

University of Kentucky's Center for Prevention Research.



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