According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse 52 million Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetimes. 5% of the American population uses more than 75% of the world’s prescription drugs. This includes 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone (Vicodin) consumption, 80% of the world’s oxycodone (Percocet and Oxycontin) consumption and 65% of the world’s hydromorphone (Dilaudid) consumption, according to the New York Times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have classified this problem as an epidemic.
A growing number of young people who began abusing expensive prescription drugs are switching to heroin, which is cheaper and easier to buy. A key driver behind the uptick in heroin abuse was the reformulation of two widely abused prescription pain drugs, making them harder to crush and snort. Drug manufacturers reformulated OxyContin in 2010 and Opana in 2011. The result is an increase in drug overdose deaths from 2010 to 2015, with the number reaching 47,000 deaths in 2014. In the same time period 34,000 deaths occurred due to car accidents. The issue is so pervasive and damaging to the commonwealth that Kentucky has brought a billion dollar law suit against the manufacturer of Oxycontin.
The despair I have felt watching this happen in my community, in my hometown in eastern Kentucky and across the country gave voice in the form of this quilt. There are 50 federally controlled and widely abused painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants arranged in a traditional patchwork quilt grid.
The history of quilting is intertwined with the history of women in Kentucky. Kentucky women have used quilts as a source of income, to make social commentary and/or for personal expression since the founding of the commonwealth. It is a tradition that continues to thrive. In eastern Kentucky, where I grew up, quilts sewn by a grandmother meant warmth and comfort on a chilly day home sick or sleeping away a cold winter’s night.
My own technique for creating my art quilts is nontraditional. It is a hybrid quilting and drawing. For this quilt I first quilted the images of the medications in white thread on a background of white fabric. Once this was finished I then used colored pencil to create the color and three dimensional modeling.
Each panel is approximately 4 inches by 7 inches.