Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse in Rural Kentucky

Kenneth D. Tunnell, Eastern Kentucky University

During the late 1990s, rural Kentucky (and rural pockets of nearby states) witnessed the emergence of new drugs of abuse -- pharmaceutical analgesics. The powerful oxycodone, Oxycontin, first manufactured in 1996 and designed for time-released pain relief, found a ready population in rural hamlets and mountain communities. Intended for patients in pain associated with terminal disease, it became a drug of abuse as it was over-prescribed and trafficked within newly developing black markets. This paper describes the take-off of this new drug of abuse (and others since it), its antecedents, its effects on rural communities and coordinated efforts at containing it.

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Updated 05/20/2006