FRANKFORT – Overdose deaths in the commonwealth have decreased for the second year in a row, with 2023 seeing a 9.8% decrease compared with the previous year, Governor Andy Beshear announced Thursday, June 6. 

According to the 2023 Kentucky Drug Overdose Fatality Report, 1,984 Kentuckians lost their lives last year to a drug overdose. Fentanyl accounted for 79.1%, and methamphetamine accounted for 55.2% of overdose deaths. The two continue to be the most prevalent drugs contributing to overdoses in the state. The report also indicates that 35- to 44-year-olds had the highest number of drug overdose deaths in 2023, at 571, which was a decrease of 13.4% from 2022.

Today’s report continues Kentucky’s trend in declining overdose deaths. In 2022, Kentucky’s drug overdose deaths declined by 5% compared with 2021, marking the first decline since 2018. Kentucky was one of only eight states to see a decrease in overdose deaths while the nation saw a slight increase.

“By working together, we have decreased the amount of drug overdose deaths in Kentucky, yet still far too many lives have been lost, and we still have a long way to go,” said Gov. Beshear. “From the far west to the far east of the commonwealth, we are creating a home where fewer children will know the pain of addiction and loss of a loved one to an overdose. We have remained committed to helping our families overcome addiction and celebrate our progress and renew that commitment today.” 

The Governor added that while the state saw a smaller increase in this report, there continues to be a concerning trend of increased overdose deaths among Black Kentuckians. The latest report shows that increase has slowed by increasing 5% compared with 22% in the last report.

“This increase is concerning, despite it being smaller than previous years,” Gov. Beshear said. “We are committed to working with community partners and leaders to reverse this trend, and we are going to use recently received grant funding to increase education and outreach efforts.”

“We have made great progress this past year in providing treatment resources to more Kentuckians in different parts of the commonwealth,” Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram said. “In 2023, 160,000 doses of Narcan were distributed, 3,920 calls were made to the KY HELP Call Center and 35,918 individuals utilized the 84 syringe service program sites. While all of this is cause for celebration, we must take a moment to grieve those lost and, in their names, keep working harder and being diligent in our approach, so we save more Kentuckians and their families.”

Several leaders from addiction treatment agencies joined the Governor for today’s announcement to speak about Kentucky’s intentional work to address addiction and offer more treatment services. 

“The Recovery Ready Communities process afforded Northern Kentucky the opportunity to evaluate its recovery-oriented system of care, while also celebrating the many successful initiatives and life-saving strategies implemented through partnerships,” Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Director Amanda Peters said.?“As the first region in the commonwealth to receive this designation, it validates our coordinated response.?We will continue to use this collaborative approach because every loss of life reminds us that there is more work to be done.” 

“Across the commonwealth, Kentuckians have put into practice numerous, evidence-based interventions that have proven to save lives and help people achieve recovery,” said Commissioner Katherine Marks of the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. “These outcomes demonstrate where progress has been made and sharpens our ongoing commitment to healing all individual lives, families and communities.” 
“At People Advocating Recovery, we know that initiating recovery can be extremely challenging,” said People Advocating Recovery CEO Tara Hyde. “Today’s milestone highlights the impact of the recovery movement and the crucial collaboration between local and state agencies and underscores the power of unified efforts in fostering more Kentuckians to achieve long-term recovery. We remain committed to ensuring every Kentuckian has access to resources on their path to wellness, because one life lost is one too many for our?community.”

The Director of Pharmacy Public Health Programs, Dr. Jody Jaggers, with the Kentucky Pharmacy Education and Research Foundation said Kentucky recently launched a new website to help Kentuckians find places to obtain the life-saving drug Narcan, which is used to reverse opioid overdose. Those seeking Narcan can visit FindNaloxoneNowKY.org to find a location near them that can provide the drug at no cost.

“Naloxone – an FDA-approved opioid overdose reversal medication – continues to be one of our most important tools for saving the lives of individuals experiencing an overdose,” Dr. Jaggers said. “While we celebrate the reduction in overdose deaths for the second consecutive year, we also acknowledge there are still far too many Kentuckians lost to this preventable tragedy.”

Today’s news follows the Governor’s recent announcement that Kentucky’s Counterdrug Program helped save Kentuckians’ lives by supporting the seizure of 265,170 fentanyl pills and 208.3 pounds of fentanyl during the 2023 federal fiscal year, which runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. The group also supported the seizure of 822 pounds of methamphetamine and more than 310 pounds of cocaine, enabled 164 arrests and facilitated surrender of more than $2.3 million in cash tied to illegal drug activity in 2023. Recently, the Governor signed the 2025 State Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Activities Plan, continuing this important, life-saving work. 

In 2023, the state supported the distribution of more than 160,000 doses of Narcan were distributed. The state’s Treatment Access Program also allows those without health insurance to enter residential treatment, and the Recovery Ready certificationhelps communities support residents who are seeking help for drug or alcohol addiction. 

The state is also leading the nation in the number of residential drug and alcohol treatment beds per capita. And last year, Gov. Beshear announced a new searchable website to help people in recovery find housing, FindRecoveryHousingNowKY.org

The administration has also recorded the three lowest recidivism rates in over a decade. This year, Gov. Beshear announced a new website to support Kentuckians seeking second chances find a job, get an education or continue recovery. The site also connects business leaders with resources to help them hire second-chance talent. 

The Governor has continued to fight the state’s drug epidemic since his time as attorney general, when he led the nation in the number of individual opioid lawsuits filed by an attorney general. Now, Gov. Beshear is working to make sure the hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement funds go to support treatment and the communities impacted.  

Additional treatment resources are available by calling the KY Help Call Center at 833-8KY-HELP (833-859-4357) to speak one-on-one with a treatment referral specialist.  

Visit the Kentucky State Police website to find one of KSP’s 16 posts where those suffering from addiction can be paired with a local officer who will assist with locating an appropriate treatment program. The Angel Initiative is completely voluntary, and individuals will not be arrested or charged with any violations if they agree to participate in treatment. 

About The Report
The 2023 Kentucky Overdose Fatality Report is compiled by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center using data from the Office of Vital Statistics, the Office of the State Medical Examiner and Kentucky’s coroners. These numbers are subject to change.  

For the first time since 2018, the nation marked a 3% decrease in overdoses according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report published in May.

The CDC report includes both the deaths of Kentucky residents and nonresidents in their reporting. Kentucky’s overdose report includes only the deaths of Kentucky residents, which has been the standard since the Kentucky General Assembly first required this annual report. The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy includes resident deaths only to better target harm reduction and prevention activities for Kentuckians.