Summary of America’s Opioid Epidemic

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America’s Opioid Epidemic summary
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Even before the scourge of opioid addiction decimated Appalachia, eastern Kentucky was a dreary place. The coal mines had closed, and the jobs had left. Then came a wave of addiction to prescription pills, heroin and methamphetamine, and the picture became even bleaker. In this quick overview of the pathology of eastern Kentucky, researchers J. Stephen Morrison and Lillian Dattilo find a few reasons for optimism but even more causes for concern. getAbstract recommends this grim report to those seeking insights into a devastating social problem.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How severe eastern Kentucky’s opioid problem is.  
  • What strides officials have made in containing the epidemic.  
  • What obstacles remain.

About the Authors

J. Stephen Morrison is senior vice president and director of global health policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where Lillian Dattilo is a research assistant.



Eastern Kentucky’s coal country has become an epicenter of the modern opioid epidemic. The state of Kentucky has one of the United States’ highest rates of drug overdose deaths, and the opioid scourge has emerged as a dangerous threat to society. The problem is especially acute in eastern Kentucky, a stretch of Appalachia where some counties see overdose death rates that are triple the national average and where poverty, weak government and geographic isolation compound the dilemma. The roots of the crisis lie in prescription painkillers, but Kentucky now faces a toxic stew in which users combine illicit substances such as heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl with legal drugs.

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