When you think about Kentucky, you may have many preconceived ideas and stereotypes about what occupants of the state look like, act like, and live like. Many, I’m glad to say, are untrue. There is one fact, however, that is well-known and, sadly, a reality: the drug epidemic.
I witness the magnitude of the issue especially in my hometown. Families are ripped apart, businesses fail, and the drugs run rampant. To understand why drugs are such an immense problem, however, you must understand the socioeconomic circumstances of the Commonwealth. Especially in Eastern parts of the state, poverty is a major issue. According to the United States Census Bureau, Lee County (located in Eastern Kentucky) has a median income of around $22,698, which is a near $33,000 difference than the U.S. average of $55,755. If you were to take a look at other counties in Kentucky, you would see statistics that show much of the same central idea: poverty, lack of education, and lack of employment.
I write this article not to shame Kentuckians or paint my state in a way that makes others perceive it even more negatively. I do this because the issue is spiraling further and further out of control, and I’m worried for the future of my state. Though laws have been passed with good intentions to decrease the drug epidemic, we are not fixing the root of the issue.
Until we reach into the rural, poor areas and create more jobs and growth we will still see the same vicious cycle for generations.
What’s important to remember, however, is this: spreading a narrative where we shame those with addiction to drugs is harmful and will only worsen the issue. A major issue I see is too many people who see drug abusers as drug abusers first, and people second. Especially in towns like my own, many people are addicted to drugs who are too ashamed to ask for help due to the stigma of being an “addict”. Many rehabilitation programs are available and resources out there for those who are suffering from addiction and seeking help.
I’m saddened by the news reports everyday reporting another overdose in a surrounding county. I’m saddened by the kids I see in my town placed in foster care due to both parents being in jail on drug-related charges. I’m saddened by seeing pharmacies one of the few thriving industries in my state. Change needs to happen. It’s my hope by writing this article that I’ve brought awareness to those even not living in Kentucky the dire issue that’s taking place.