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Conway’s RX drug tour stops at SCHS

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He says 1 in 5 students uses prescriptions illegally

By Todd Martin

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has made tackling the state’s prescription drug problem one of his main goals while in office.

On Thursday, that issue brought him to Shelby County High School, where he added those students to the more than 30,000 across the commonwealth to whom he has spoken.

“Just because it comes in a container with a doctor’s name on it does not mean it is OK for you to take it,” he told students assembled in the Mike Casey Gymnasium. “Who here knows who Heath Ledger is? That’s right, he was an actor that starred as the Joker in the Batman movie and even won an Oscar.

“But one night he went home and mixed some pills and didn’t wake up.”

Conway said that the illegal use of prescription drugs has been one of the most talked about topics in his travels around the state.

“From eastern Kentucky to western Kentucky, I’ve heard from people that we’ve lost a generation to prescription drug abuse,” he said. “Now we have to make some changes. We’re working in Frankfort to change laws. We’ve shut down half of the pain clinics in the state and we’re trying to educate you.

“But we need your help. There needs to be conversations at home, with your families. This is an addiction that’s starting at home because medications aren’t locked up.”

According to Conway, one in five high school students is using prescription drugs illegally, and three people die daily.

But although he has helped lead crackdown in prescription drug abuse, that has opened the door for another dangerous drug.

“We’re now seeing heroin like we’ve never seen it before,” said Van Ingram, the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. “The same active ingredient in heroin is in many of these prescription drugs.”

But how is heroin becoming a problem with no providers, like prescription drugs, a student asked at the end of the program.

“A lot of addicts, as we cut down the access to prescription painkillers, are turning to heroin because it’s the same high,” Conway said. “A lot of it is coming from gangs, and that’s a bigger issue that’s even harder to handle.”

Conway’s presentation also included Mike Donta, whose son passed away at the age of 24 from prescription drug abuse, and a testimonial video that included interviews with two mothers who lost their daughters to prescription drug abuse.

“More people die in Kentucky each year from prescription drug abuse [more than 1,100] than from car accidents,” Conway said. “And it’s all preventable. We just have to keep the dialogue open through public education.”