Heroin And Fentanyl Have Caused Overdose Deaths To Triple In Nevada

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Nevada officials are seeing a massive increase in the number of residents dying from heroin and fentanyl, despite a slight decline in overall overdose deaths from opioids, local health workers said.

Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) data released Thursday shows heroin deaths have nearly tripled throughout the state since 2010. Of particular concern is a roughly 56 percent increase in deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl — a painkiller roughly 30 to 50 times more powerful than an average dose of heroin — the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Officials warn fentanyl is rapidly infiltrating drug supplies in the state. Deaths linked to synthetic opioids spiked, despite little change in heroin deaths between 2015 and 2016 and a slight drop in overall overdose fatalities. “The data is definitely evidence that there’s a shift,” from prescription opioids to more potent street drugs, DHHS Chief Biostatistician Krya Morgan said Thursday.

The data was released at the first meeting of the Statewide Partnership on the Opioid Crisis, a group lead by state Attorney General Adam Laxalt aimed at increasing information sharing between towns and counties in Nevada.

“What we’re trying to address here is how as a state we can come together from an information-gathering perspective,” Laxalt said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If we had a spike in scarlet fever in Carson City, we’d know that very quickly, and the state can coordinate and come up with a response. We don’t have anything like that in the state for opioids.”

Deaths from fentanyl are rapidly increasing in states throughout the country. The Vermont Department of Health’s annual report on drug use to state lawmakers shows fentanyl is now the primary fuel behind overdose deaths in the state. Fentanyl deaths jumped by a third, claiming 68 lives in 2017, while heroin deaths experienced a nearly 20 percent decline in 2017, killing 41 people.

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All drug overdoses claimed 104 lives in Vermont in 2017 — more than double the lives lost to overdoses in 2012. Authorities are increasingly finding fentanyl in non-opioid drugs like cocaine, which is contributing to the increase in fatalities, law enforcement warn.

Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drug overdoses are nationally the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.

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