Accidental overdose becomes leading cause of death in Kentuckians under 40

Accidental overdose becomes leading cause of death in Kentuckians under 40
Published: Sep. 24, 2023 at 1:34 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Accidental overdose deaths are on the rise across the country, including in the Commonwealth. A study from Stateline found that accidental overdoses are now the leading cause of death in people under the age of 40 in Kentucky. This comes as Narcan becomes newly available at pharmacies nationwide.

“Narcan, it’s an amazing drug. I have brought more people back from seemingly the brink of death to have them awake and talking to me in a matter of seconds with the use of that drug,” said assistant professor at EKU, Holly Buchenroth.

Buchenroth spent 10 years working as a firefighter paramedic with the Lexington Fire Department. “When I first came on, I hadn’t really seen a lot of opioid overdoses. We were actually seeing people using things like bath salts and methamphetamines,” said Buchenroth.”

However, as the years went on, Buchenroth says she watched firsthand as opioid overdoses increased. “It’s because of these synthetic opioids, namely, fentanyl.”

She says just last year in Fayette County, half of all people who died of an overdose had fentanyl in their system.

“Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin,” said Buchenroth. “This drug called Narcan all of a sudden started becoming a drug that we were giving on a daily basis because Narcan counteracts the opioid.”

Now, the life-saving drug is not just in the hands of paramedics but also those of everyday people. Earlier this month, the drug became available to purchase at pharmacies across the country.

“It’s becoming more available over the counter. It’s saving lives,” said Buchenroth.

She says she’d like to see the cost of Narcan go down. “For the over-the-counter, it’s about $45 for a two-pack. It’s still relatively expensive for the average person to buy.”

Buchenroth recommends keeping an eye out for community events where Narcan is handed out for free, as well as reaching out to harm reduction groups in your city.

The Lexington Fire Department has a Narcan Leave Behind program. They recently purchased more than 3,000 doses of Narcan to hand out to the community on an as-needed basis.

If you’re interested in receiving Narcan, reach out to the fire department to connect with their community paramedicine program.