Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway Hosts Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Programs in Perry and Pike County Schools

Press Release Date:  Thursday, April 25, 2013  
Contact Information:  Shelley Catharine Johnson
Deputy Communications Director
502-696-5659 (office)

Attorney General Jack Conway and his Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners today alerted students in Perry and Pike counties to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. Joined by Mike Donta, an Ashland, Ky. father who lost his son to prescription drug addiction, and Dan Smoot, Vice President of Operation UNITE, General Conway urged students at Perry County Central High School and Mullins School in Pikeville not to be the next generation lost to prescription painkiller abuse.

"These are some of the most addictive substances on the planet, and if taken in the wrong combination or with other substances, they can kill you," General Conway said. "The misuse of powerful drugs like OxyContin, Xanax and hydrocodone has fueled the epidemic of prescription drug abuse here in Eastern Kentucky and across the Commonwealth. We now lose more people to overdoses than traffic accidents."

Prescription drugs are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States and are responsible for more than 1,000 overdose deaths each year in Kentucky. General Conway also expressed concern about a new national survey released this week by The Partnership at that finds one in four teens reports having misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime. Of those kids who admitted to the abuse, one in five, or 20 percent, did so before age 14.

Since launching the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program in 2010 with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and concerned parents, General Conway and his partners have alerted more than 20,000 middle and high school students to the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.

"Educating children at an early age about the dangers posed by prescription drugs is essential to preventing addictive behavior and saving lives," said Dan Smoot, Vice President of Operation UNITE, which serves 32 counties in southern and eastern Kentucky and currently has nearly 9,000 student UNITE club members.

Students also heard from concerned parent Mike Donta who urged students not to choose the same path his son chose.

"To receive a phone call that says your son is dead is devastating," said Donta, who lost his son, Michael, in 2010 following a three-year battle with prescription pill addiction. "I have traveled from one end of the state to the other with General Conway to share my message that prescription drugs really do kill. If you abuse prescription drugs, you are going to struggle the rest of your life."

School officials in both Perry and Pike counties praised the school programs and efforts to raise awareness among middle and high school students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

"The work being done by Attorney General Conway and Operation UNITE to prevent the abuse of prescription pills and other illicit drugs is truly saving lives," said Perry County School Superintendent Jonathan Jett. "There is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of our students."

"We appreciate Attorney General Conway bringing this powerful message to our students," said Pike County School Superintendent Roger Wagner. "The abuse of prescription drugs is an issue that affects the lives and futures of students in Pike County and across Kentucky."

Today's programs come amid clear signs that Kentucky is making progress in its fight against the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. According to the latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in Kentucky is down and for the first time, the state is below the national average for prescription drug abuse.

Prescription Drug Diversion Efforts

In addition to his awareness efforts, Attorney General Conway launched Kentucky's first and only statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force in August of 2009. The task force has been involved in more than 430 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, the state's largest prescription drug bust that resulted in the arrests of more than 500 people.

General Conway worked closely with Gov. Steve Beshear, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Senate President Robert Stivers and other lawmakers to win passage of landmark legislation in 2012 to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription pills in the Commonwealth. Since its passage, nearly half of Kentucky's pain clinics have shut their doors and prescriptions for the most abused and diverted drugs, like oxycodone, hydrocodone and Opana, are down, in some cases nearly 50 percent.

In addition to the work being done here in the Commonwealth, General Conway reached across party lines to work with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to ensure that her state implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky's KASPER system. Together they have worked to shut down the pill pipeline between Florida and Kentucky and to see that all 50 states have prescription drug monitoring programs in place and that all of the programs can share data across state lines.

Attorney General Conway and General Bondi currently serve as co-chairs of the Substance Abuse Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

Attorney General's lawsuit against Purdue Pharma to be heard in Pike Circuit Court

Attorney General Conway successfully pushed to have a lawsuit filed by his office against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, brought back to Kentucky. A federal appeals court ruling cleared the way for the case to be heard in Pike Circuit Court, where it was originally filed. The lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma of misrepresenting the addictive nature of the OxyContin and fueling an epidemic of prescription pill abuse across Kentucky.