Powerful Pain Killer is Deadliest Drug in Clark County - 8 News NOW

Powerful Pain Killer is Deadliest Drug in Clark County

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Rachel Branch Rachel Branch

LAS VEGAS -- The Clark County Coroner's Office says oxycodone is now the deadliest drug in Clark County. It claims more lives than heroin, methamphetamine, or cocaine and it recently knocked methadone, another prescription pain killer, off the top of the list.

Last year methadone was ruled either a contributing or primary factor in 63 deaths in Clark County, but oxycodone contributed to 146 deaths. So far, this year, 89 people have lost there lives because of the drug.

The two killers are not so-called street drugs. They are drugs prescribed by doctors. Oxycodone is used to treat severe pain. But since the drug hit the market, it's been a target for abuse. Crushed, snorted or injected, it can be addictive and deadly.

"I know from experience, it is a killer," said Rachel Branch who is recovering from opiate addiction. "People think they're passing out, but really they're slowly OD'ing and it's scary, it's scary because there's a lot of people who have died too soon."

She said she just wanted to feel numb but she could no longer ignore the pain of losing several friends.

"I've had friends die that have passed out in their car and died from heat exhaustion, they mix other substances forgetting they took that pill or whatever," Branch said.

The coroners office reports oxycodone has eclipsed methadone as the deadliest drug in Clark County. Methadone is a different kind of pain killer often prescribed to recovering heroin addicts.

"Prescribing practices have shifted more to oxycodone which is an equally dangerous drug," said Dr. Mel Pohl, medical director of the Las Vegas Recovery Center.

He says there's just too many of the powerful pills available.

"If young people end up abusing them, they're getting them from parents' medicine cabinets 70 percent of the time. This is an epidemic of pain pill prescribing," Dr. Pohl said.

Branch had no idea what she was getting into.

"I didn't realize how pain pills were, if I would've known, what I know now, I wouldn't even have messed with it," Branch said.

Dr. Pohl says many overdoses from oxycodone aren't the result of drug addicts illegally obtaining it. He says it is often patients mixing up the dosage on their prescribed medication.

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