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Impact of illegal drugs: Taylor Coroner gives grim statistics

Taylor County Coroner Dan Cook speaks to Campbellsville Middle School about the consequences of illegal drug use, a plague weighing down on the nation, state and South Central Kentucky, and our area. "Since January 2016, in the Taylor County community, there have been four homicides, eight suicides, 13 overdose deaths and many more of those who had drugs in their body at death. The suicide rate, grew rapidly last year." - TAYLOR COUNTY CORONER DAN COOK
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By Calen McKinney, Public Information Officer
Campbellsville Independent Schools (CIS)

Campbellsville Middle School students recently learned about the dangers of using illegal drugs.

Taylor County Coroner Daniel Cook spoke to students about how illegal drugs are addictive and come with lasting consequences.

Cook spoke to students about his job as a coroner, and how he investigates deaths.

Since January 2016, he said, in the Taylor County community, there have been four homicides, eight suicides, 13 overdose deaths and many more of those who had drugs in their body at death.

The suicide rate, Cook said, grew rapidly last year.

"All of us knows somebody who has been impacted by drugs," he said.

Cook said he and his employees work with local law enforcement to find out where the illegal drugs come from, and how they are getting to Taylor County.

"So this is where it starts," Cook said. "I want you to repeat after me. People make choices. And choices make people."

"Every morning you wake up, you make a decision. You make a decision which outfit to wear. Whether or not to brush your teeth. Whether or not to take a bath, put on deodorant. You make a choice on whether you're going to eat or not.

"Some of you made a choice on whether you're going to get in to trouble today, or you're not."

Cook said people of all ages make choices, some being good and others not.

"And some have lifelong consequences," he said. "If you're not careful, you'll make a choice, even at a young age, that will affect you for the rest of your life."

Right now, Cook said, emergency services personnel respond to, on average, one drug overdose per day.

It is estimated, he said, that about 75,000 people in the United States will die of an overdose this year. That number is equivalent to the population of Taylor, Green, Marion and Adair counties combined.

"Here's the scary part," he said. "Eighty percent of these people ... say it started with using a prescription drug to treat pain."

Alcohol abuse is also a problem, Cook said, with about 88,000 people dying every year of alcohol-related causes.

"It makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S."

Cook said some people say they can't fight alcohol addiction, because it's always been present in their family.

"You don't have to go down that route," he said. "You can make a choice to get away from it. But you have to make it."

The reality of life, he said, is that every student will likely see some of their classmates die of drug abuse after graduation. In his class, he said, four have died.

"The said reality is this," he said, "drugs are affecting everyone. It doesn't matter your social background. This is not just a poor people thing."

Cook said there are business owners even in Taylor County who are addicted to drugs.

"And eventually it's going to catch up with them and kill them," he said.

Cook said today's drugs are much more potent than in the past, and oftentimes drug dealers mix drugs together. That's why it's so important that people never begin using illegal drugs.

"This stuff is extremely deadly," he said.

Cook said fentanyl is one of the worst types of drugs a person can take, and it only takes about a Splenda packet full of the stuff to kill a person.

But some people might believe that, because they only use marijuana, they are safe.

"In all reality, how do you know that it doesn't have carfentanil in it?"

Two years ago, Cook said, in two and a half days, there were 18 drug overdoses in Campbellsville, resulting in two deaths.

A man brought the drugs to Campbellsville from Michigan, Cook said, and he told local police that it didn't matter to him that his customers were dying.

"The more people that die, the higher the price goes," he said.

Cook said drug users are people who have given up hope.

"They had made a choice and put their trust into something that was going to destroy their life."

It only takes one bad decision, Cook said, for someone to go down a road that they can't escape.

He said it's important that young people today have positive friendships, because friends influence a person's decisions.

And drugs can take away a person's money, health and relationships.

Cook said the hardest part of his job is telling someone that their child isn't coming home.

"The coroner doesn't make house visits that are good," he said.

Cook talked about the signs of drug use, and what to do when someone overdoses.

"You don't know what you're getting your hands on," he said.

"You may think it's just plain marijuana. But it could be laced. They're putting everything in the stuff.

"So be very careful of what you're putting in your body."

This story was posted on 2018-05-06 03:53:34
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Coroner Dan Cook: Toughest job is visit to parents

2018-05-06 - Campbellsville Middle School, Campbellsville, KY - Photo by Calen McKinney, Public Information Officer, Campbellsville Independent Schools.
Taylor County Coroner Daniel Cook talks to CMS students about the dangers of using illegal drugs. During the session, he also told them how a coroner's job is done. Cook said the hardest part of his job is telling someone that their child isn't coming home. - Calen McKinney

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