FRANKFORT (Greg Stotelmyer) – As Kentucky pins its hopes of combating heroin use on a new law, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that abuse of the drug is rising in the U.S. among most age groups and income levels. Usage has risen the fastest, more than doubling, for young adults. The reasons behind the rise are complicated, says CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. But one thing is clear there’s a connection to opioid prescription painkiller addiction. “The chemical is essentially the same,” Frieden says. “So, when heroin is five times cheaper and much more widely available, it becomes something that’s driving this trend of rapid increase in heroin use.” Frieden says it may be a case of unintended consequences after limits were imposed on prescription painkillers. The CDC report says 45 percent of those who have used heroin had been dependent on prescription painkillers. There’s also been an uptick in heroin overdose deaths, more than 8,000 in 2013. Frieden says quality and potency varies on the street, and overdose-reverse medications aren’t always readily available in emergency rooms, although he says that needs to change. He underscores the need to keep opioid painkillers as medical treatment options despite the heroin connection, with pros and cons weighed carefully. “If someone has excruciating pain from a surgical procedure, or a car crash, or a severe, terminal pain from cancer, you absolutely want to provide all palliation,” says Frieden. “For chronic non-cancer pain, you really have to look at the risks and the benefits.” Kentucky’s new law (Senate Bill 192) increases access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose. The law also puts more money into drug treatment, allows needle exchanges and imposes tougher penalties on drug traffickers.