A decade ago, OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller, was being abused at alarming rates in the Appalachian areas of eastern and southern Kentucky Now, the level of pain pill abuse throughout the state and across the country is at epic levels, McClatchy Newspapers report. Despite successes — including several high-profile drug arrests across the U.S., increased treatment programs, and the adoption of prescription drug monitoring programs in 43 states — the problem is now so entrenched that the cheap flights and van rentals drug traffickers use to travel from Florida to Kentucky and other states to peddle “hillbilly heroin” are nicknamed the “OxyContin Express.”
The sheer scope of the problem is a key reason. Kentucky often ranks at or near the top in U.S. measures of the level of prescription pain pill abuse. The rate of overdose-related deaths more than doubled among men and tripled among women in Kentucky from 2000 to 2009, according the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Nearly every family in eastern Kentucky has been touched by prescription-drug addiction and death.