Local/Regional News
5:40 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

A.G.'s Website Shows Impact Of Prescription Abuse

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The video testimonials are sobering in a state where more people die from drug overdoses than auto wrecks.

A former Miss Kentucky Teen USA recounts how her father, a successful businessman, nearly lost everything because of his addiction to prescription pills. A father mourns his son's death after years of being hooked on painkillers.

The online videos are meant to showcase the human toll caused by addiction to drugs readily found in family medicine cabinets. They're posted on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway's prescription drug abuse prevention website at ag.ky.gov/rxabuse.

"Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that has shattered families in every corner of the commonwealth," Conway said.

Conway said public awareness was crucial and he encouraged Kentuckians to share their stories of how addiction has shaken their families.

In one video, Ashland resident Mike Donta recounted his 24-year-old son's death in 2010 after years of addiction to painkillers.

"That's a call a parent never wants to receive," Donta says. "You're always concerned about your child, no matter how old they are or what they're involved in. ... My son made bad choices, and the consequences for him were he lost his life."

His son Michael committed suicide, leaving behind his own young son and a daughter he never got to see. Donta's video was posted on the attorney general's website on what would have been his son's 27th birthday.

Donta remembered his son as a good kid and athlete who was well liked. His son's first encounter with improperly popping prescription pills came in high school, when a friend raided his mother's pill bottle.

In another video, former Miss Kentucky Teen USA Jefra Bland traces her father's addiction to the back surgery he had years ago.

"You can go from one pill to being a full-blown addict in the blink of an eye," said Bland, a Campbellsville native.

Her father went into rehab repeatedly but would relapse, she said.

"Most people don't understand the influence that it has on a family, the brokenness that it causes a family," she said. "I watched my father go from having it all, being a successful businessman ... to losing everything due to prescription drug abuse."

She said her father now is doing well after undergoing more treatment.

"For the first time in my life, I actually am getting to start a relationship with my dad again," she said. "I'm actually getting to know the real him."

The problem is pervasive in Kentucky, Conway said. He cited one 2012 poll that indicated one in three Kentuckians has a friend or family member who has experienced problems from abusing prescription pain relievers.

Kentucky lawmakers passed a sweeping measure last year aimed at combating prescription drug abuse. The law requires all new pain management clinics to be owned by licensed medical providers and have medical directors in charge. It also requires all doctors, dentists, optometrists, registered nurses and podiatrists who write prescriptions to use the state's prescription monitoring system, known as KASPER.

Conway said there are signs that Kentucky is making inroads in the fight against prescription abuse.

The latest report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed a decline in the non-medical use of prescription pain relievers among all age groups in Kentucky, he said.

---

Conway said that people can submit videos as part of the online initiative's "Faces of Prescription Drug Abuse." More detailed instructions on how to create a "video response" are available at http://goo.gl/VzKp2 .