HEBRON ESTATES - It has been just over seven years since she lost to her daughter due to prescription pills.
But the pain in the eyes and in the voice of Dr. Karen Shay was apparent to students at North Bullitt High and Hebron Middle on Thursday.
Shay spoke of the pain that never leaves her mind thanks to that tragic day on Jan. 4 when she lost her daughter, Sarah, at the age of 19.
The discussion was part of state Attorney General Jack Conway’s Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program and it made a stop in Bullitt County last week.
Conway said that the problem with prescription drug addiction is the accessibility. Pills can be found in every home in the country.
In taking his message to the people, Conway said Kentucky has made major inroads in changing its laws to make pills more difficult to obtain.
But, still, Kentucky’s overdose death rate is the sixth highest in the nation.
And Conway said that one in five teenagers admitted taking prescription pills for non-medical uses.
“We lose more people to overdoses than we do to traffic accidents,” said Conway.
Conway said that people might believe that just because the medication has been prescribed to someone, it is safe for another person to take.
“If it is not prescribed to you, it could have terrible consequences,” said Conway.
And, if you get hooked on prescription pills, Conway said your future path is one of two places - jail or a grave.
Thanks to legislation in Florida, Conway said the pipeline of illegal prescription pills to Kentucky has been slowed down. Still, Conway said illegal pills can be as simple as searching someone’s medicine cabinet.
Most students indicated their parents had medication at their homes but only a few said the medicine was located in locked cabinets.
Conway said Kentucky and a majority of other states are taking steps to curb the availability of prescription pills and to increase the accountability by physicians.
Even so, he said there is too many young adults getting hooked on pills and many are paying the ultimate price.
For Shay, she knows the pain and suffering that comes from such a situation.
Her daughter was upset with the passing of her father. Shay said the two had an argument and never had a chance to patch up their differences.
It was that guilt, Shay believes, which led Sarah into a path of seeking comfort through pills.
The Morehead, Ky., woman said that her initial feelings were of numbness and then hurt. Later, she gained some wisdom from the painful situation.
“It never, ever leaves,” Shay said of the pain. “She had everything in the world going for her.”
Describing her daughter as a sweet, intelligent, attractive and athletic young lady, Shay allowed the pills to take over her brain.
“Teens feel invincible,” said Shay. “They (pills) take over your brain so fast.”
Addiction sets in and it takes over a person’s life. That will lead to death.
She cautioned those in attendance to look for signs of a friend falling into the path - lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating and then losing all their friends.
The hole will only get deeper with jail or death at the end of the road.
For five years, Shay said she went into a survival mode...just hoping to make it through each day.
“It devastates your family,” said Shay. “It destroys your life.”
The pain resurfaces as Sarah’s friends grow up and get married, have kids or graduate from college.
Her daughter was in a bad state but never imagined that she would go to a party and have a boyfriend put some type of drug into her drink and food. Before long, she was dead.
Shay said that addiction does not discriminate and it is an equal opportunity illness.
“It doesn’t take a lot to get addicted,” she warned.
In closing her emotional plea, Shay told students to remember that every decision made has a consequence.
And only you are responsible for those choices.
If you are having problems, prescription pills are not the answer.
She said don’t allow harsh words to be the last thing said during an argument.
There are true friends who can provide advice and Shay said there are plenty of professionals who can lend assistance.
“It’s all about balance,” said Shay. “You can get through it.”
Van Ingram, the state’s executive director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, said prescription painkillers are nothing more than “heroin in a pill.”
He said prescription pill overdoses kill more people annually than all other drugs combined.
Ingram said it is a myth that just because a pill is prescribed by a doctor that it can’t harm you. He said students need to be educated about the dangers of using pills which are not prescribed to them.
Conway said Kentucky is making strides in the control of prescription pills. But more work is needed.
Anyone wishing to know more about the statewide program, go to the attorney general’s website.