The nation's largest response to health fraud brought together 56 physicians – including a psychiatrist from Louisville who was accused of prescribing a fentanyl patient.
Michael Clevenger / Courier Journal, Louisville Messenger Journal

This story is being updated.

Fentanyl, a dangerous drug cartel and local drug traffickers, slipping into heroin and even pills, contributed 763 deaths in Kentucky last year – more than twice as many heroin-related deaths.

Three other drugs also contributed to more deaths in heroin, including crystal methamphetamine, so purely now they are called "ice cream" after the cases in which toxicological tests were performed.

Fatal overd According to an annual report released Wednesday by the Kentucky Department of Drug Control, the total number of Commonwealth Drugs increased by more than 11 percent from 2016 to 2017, taking in 1,565 lives.

Gabapentin, a popular drug that has long been touted as a safe alternative to opioid painkillers, appeared in 31 percent of overdose deaths. This is more than the known cases of heroin, discovered in 22 percent, although some deaths attributed to morphine could be heroin, which metabolizes over time.

Gabapentin is not considered a cause – since stronger drugs like heroin, cocaine or fentanyl have also been discovered – but it may have made a contribution, said Rachel Vickers Smith, assistant professor at the University of Louisville's School of Nursing.

U of L released a press release on the drug in February, warning: "Under the opioid epidemic, the abuse of another prescription painkiller has largely gone unnoticed." The university is campaigning for more attention and research into the drug sold under the brand name Neurontin and others.

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Alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug that is deadly Coctail, when mixed with addictive substances such as buprenorphine, has been detected in about 36 percent of deaths.

Jefferson County had the highest death toll – and the largest increase from 364 deaths in 2016 to 426 last year, according to the State Report. Fayette, Campbell and Kenton counties also had significant spikes.

The report "highlights how much is at stake," Gov said. Matt Bevin in a written statement and vowed to use all available resources to restrict drug addiction.

"This is a struggle that we must win for our families, our communities, and the Commonwealth as a whole," he wrote.

If you are worried that you have become addicted, you can find a treatment on [19659010] Reporter Beth Warren: [email protected]; 502-582-7164; Twitter @BethWarrenCJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today:

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