Drug overdose deaths are an ongoing and growing problem across the country. The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that many of these deaths are due to use of heroin and other synthetic opiates, like fentanyl. In 2014, they reported that 18,893 occurred across the country involving opiate painkillers, an increase of 16 percent over 2013. Heroin-related deaths, too, increased between 2013 and 2014, up 28 percent.
Nevada has not been immune to the problem, and Las Vegas specifically has suffered greatly. USA Today reported that Nevada was among the top three states in the country for drug overdoses, and according to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), the number of drug overdose deaths in Las Vegas almost equaled the number of drug overdose deaths in every other city in the state put together in 2013. This is not a problem driven by tourists who visit Las Vegas and overindulge. DPBH also report that about 84 percent of overdoses occurred in private homes.
Is someone in your family struggling with heroin abuse or addiction?
Why Is Nevada in Crisis?
There are likely a number of factors contributing to the rise in deaths due to opiate use in Nevada, and many of them are the same factors that are hitting the rest of the country. These include:
- High rates of prescriptions for opiates: High rates of prescriptions for addictive drugs with little understanding about the potential risks contributed to many people inadvertently developing an addiction due to misuse of the pills. Though new regulations have limited supply, many began using heroin instead, an opiate drug that is equally deadly.
- Heroin laced with fentanyl: Mexican drug cartels are responsible for most of the heroin supply in Nevada, and they have been cutting the drug with a synthetic opiate called fentanyl that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Unknowingly, users may overdose without realizing that the drug is laced.
- Earlier age of first use: In March 2014, a report was released that noted that about 3 percent of high school-aged kids in Nevada were trying heroin, some of them as young as 14. Not only is use of the drug at any age extremely dangerous, but the earlier that someone experiments with drugs of any kind, the more likely they are to develop a lifelong struggle with substance abuse.
- Perception of harm: With every vote, Nevada eases restrictions on the use of marijuana, which may contribute to the perception that all drugs that are currently illegal may not be as harmful as previously thought.
Helping Las Vegas Overcome the Opioid Crisis
Whether the drug of choice is prescription painkillers, heroin, or fentanyl, the danger of overdose is present with every single use. Though it can be possible to reverse an overdose with the use of naloxone, a medication that essentially binds to opiate receptors and disrupts the effect of the opiate, it is only helpful if it is administered in time – and that is no guarantee. The only way to guarantee against drug overdose is to stop using the drugs that can cause it. Because both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms can be intense, it is recommended that people in this position seek professional treatment for the problem.
Opiate addiction is a medical disorder that impacts the brain as well as the body. Medical treatment, therefore, is essential, and for every person, the services used in treatment should be chosen based on individual need.
If your loved one is struggling with opiate addiction, it is important that a treatment program is chosen that has the resources to address their unique needs. Treatment services that may positively impact your loved one’s ability to thrive in recovery include:
- Medical detox and medical monitoring
- Treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
- Family therapy and support
- Traditional therapies, such as personal therapy, 12-Step meetings, and other support groups
- Alternative therapies, such as nutritional therapies, arts therapies, and/or sports and adventure therapies
- Holistic treatment options, such as acupuncture, bodywork and massage, yoga, and meditation
- Aftercare support and alumni groups