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May 19, 2018

Fewer U.S. workers are using prescription opioids, but more are using methamphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana, according to data released by Quest Diagnostics, which conducts workplace drug testing, Katie Zezima reports for The Washington Post.

The overall percentage of workers who tested positive for drug use remains unchanged since 2016 at 4.2 percent, but it’s higher than the 3.5 percent return in 2012.

Drug TestDrug TestPositives for meth have increased 167 percent in the South and Midwest in the past five years, and cocaine positives have increased dramatically in some areas: there was a spike of 91 percent in Nebraska and 88 percent in Idaho from 2016 to 2017.

Marijuana positives have increased in states where recreational use of the drug has been legalized, such as Nevada, Massachusetts, and California. Those states also saw a bump in positive marijuana tests among safety-sensitive workers such as pilots and truck drivers, Zezima reports.

“The increases come as the number of workers testing positive for prescription opioids and heroin have declined, even though the opioid crisis continues to ravage the United States,” Zezima reports. “The rate of drug tests that were positive for a prescription painkiller declined by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017. Tests for a metabolite that is in heroin dropped by 11 percent from 2016 to 2017, a three-year low.” Part of that may be because Quest doesn’t test for synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is driving the increase in drug overdose deaths.

Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest, told Zezima: “These changing patterns and geographical variations may challenge the ability of employers to anticipate the ‘drug of choice’ for their workforce or where to best focus their drug prevention efforts to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.”


The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see

May 10, 2018

Bills Will Improve Prescription Drug Monitoring, Better Treatment Options including medication assisted

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 10, 2018) – In a time where Kentucky is among the worst states in the nation for opioid abuse,  representative Danny Bentley continued his work on anti-drug issues in the Kentucky House of Representatives this session.

Rep. Danny BentleyRep. Danny BentleyBentley authored and passed two pieces of legislation in the 2018 Session that will allow the Commonwealth to take a large step forward in this fight.

House Bill 246 takes a revolutionary step forward in providing medication-assisted therapy as a treatment program for drug abuse.

This legislation establishes a pilot project to allow local pharmacies to administer this medication-based treatment, in order to test its effectiveness.

The goals of this newer, more innovative approach to drug treatment are to reduce the frequency of drug lapses, lower treatment costs by creating more options, and provide better health outcomes to those struggling from the pain of addiction. The pilot program also includes a mental health component to dealing with addiction, and also does not involve any controlled substances.

“I am excited about the new opportunities that this program will provide for empowering individuals to overcome the scourge of drug abuse,” said Bentley, who also been a leader in the House when it comes to tackling the drug issue. “Addiction is plaguing our communities, and we must be vigilant in seeking new approaches to helping our citizens in need. Further, I am grateful for Rep. Addia Wuchner’s leadership in allowing me to move this bill through her committee.”

Wuchner, a Republican Representative from Florence and Chairwoman of the House Health and Family Services Committee, is retiring at the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, House Bill 213 expands Kentucky’s prescription monitoring capabilities by allowing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to enter into sharing agreements with other jurisdictions.

The Commonwealth utilizes KASPER, or the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting, in order to track controlled substance prescriptions that are dispensed. It serves as both a source of information for doctors and pharmacists as well as a tool for law enforcement to utilize in the fight to eradicate substance abuse.

As it presently exists, the Cabinet can only enter into contracts with states. With this legislation, Kentucky can enter into agreements with local jurisdictions, including counties.

“This legislation will open up new doors for tracking down wrongdoing and keeping prescription drug abuse in check,” said Rep. Bentley.

Bentley, a pharmacist and member of the House Committee on Health and Family Services, has dedicated his time in the General Assembly to combatting the drug epidemic. His efforts to expand the monitoring of prescription drugs as well as to provide more effective treatment options have been applauded by both Republicans and Democrats.


May 3, 2018

Unidentified state resident sickened after eating romaine lettuce

Kentucky Press News Service

The federal government's warning about E. coli contaminated lettuce now includes Kentucky after an unidentified state resident was sickened after eating romaine lettuce.

More than 120 people have been sickened by eating the romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona region. The warning has been extended to 25 states, which now includes Kentucky. 

A California resident died from E. coli poisoning becoming the outbreak's first fatality, the CDC announced on Wednesday.

This particular strain of the illness produces a toxin that causes vomiting and diarrhea and potentially other severe symptoms, including in some cases kidney failure. Of the people sickened by eating romaine lettuce, 52 have been hospitalized, 14 of them with kidney failure, the federal government said.