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Drug Abuse

Using a Comprehensive Approach to address the Drug Abuse Epidemic


The current opiate epidemic emerged several years ago and started with the abuse of opioid prescription drugs.  At the time, the law enforcement community responded with both enforcement action and education.  Laws were enacted to monitor prescriptions for these drugs, which has led to a decrease in the illicit access to these prescription drugs.  Unfortunately, however, heroin and other dangerous opiate drugs have now emerged in our communities and are taking more lives than motor vehicle accidents and homicides.  Our office has responded to this threat with several initiatives, including a Heroin Initiative, an Overdose Prosecution Initiative, the 2012 Statewide Prescription Drug Summit, and the formation of USA HEAT, an educational program focusing on the consequences of the epidemic use and abuse of these drugs.  Robust enforcement of federal drug laws is a necessary component of a successful effort against this epidemic and has led our office to develop a comprehensive approach to fighting it.

Forging Partnerships to Combat an Emerging Epidemic


Our Heroin Initiative

This initiative is currently in place in the Northern and Central Kentucky areas..  It entails partnerships with local law enforcement and the increased use of federal prosecution for defendants who are trafficking in smaller amounts of heroin, when certain requirements are met.  Normally, these traffickers would be prosecuted at the state level.  This initiative provides enhanced, federal focus on the prosecution of individuals who are professional drug dealers, not addicts, and who have significant criminal histories..

Our Overdose Prosecution Initiative

In early 2015, our office established an initiative that has become an important tool in combatting illegal drug trafficking.  Under federal law, defendants convicted of drug trafficking (Schedule I and II drugs), that results in a death or serious bodily injury (i.e., an overdose), are subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years or, if they have a qualifying prior conviction, a mandatory term of life imprisonment.  This significant penalty has two practical effects on many drug dealers:  (1) it gives them an enormous incentive to assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of others and (2) it represents a potentially enormous deterrence for dealing drugs.  The prospect of a minimum, twenty-year federal sentence is truly daunting for many.

Since its inception, the initiative has been the direct source of several prosecutions, including cases where we have been able to charge and convict not only the first-level dealer, but their source of supply as well.  Indeed, this initiative has directly led to charges against defendants who are responsible for large quantities of very dangerous drugs and numerous overdose deaths in our community.  In the cases we have prosecuted, we have had success in achieving long sentences for dealers and some measure of justice for the victims.

Examples of our Overdose Initiative Cases:

Law Enforcement Naloxone Tool Kit, click here to view


U.S. Attorneys' Statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Summit


Kentucky’s two U.S. Attorneys, Kerry B. Harvey and David J. Hale, in conjunction with the University of Kentucky, hosted Kentucky’s first Statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Summit, in February 2012.  The one-day event was attended by more than 300 health care professionals, educators, public officials, high school students, and law enforcement leaders from across the state.  The Summit focused on increasing collaboration across a wide array of disciplines to combat prescription drug abuse, one of the Commonwealth’s most urgent, destructive, and widespread challenges.


To learn more about USA HEAT, click here.

ClickPill Summit Report Front Page for full report.

To learn more about Prescription Drug Abuse contact DEA Diversion Website.


Updated December 28, 2022