LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Las Vegas valley saw a record number of people who died from a fentanyl overdose in 2021 as dealers sell poisonous pills to unsuspecting customers, including children under the age of 18.
Drug cartels are manufacturing illicit fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50-to-100 times more potent than morphine, and combining it with other drugs. Just a few grains are deadly.
Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration launched its “One pill can kill” campaign as a warning. The pills are often blue and have “M” and “30” stamped on them.
In 2021, 226 people died from a fentanyl overdose in Clark County, according to data from the Southern Nevada Health District. Six of those deaths were children under the age of 18.
In 2020, SNHD recorded 209 deaths involving fentanyl. Nine children died from fentanyl overdoses that year.
The number of fentanyl deaths has skyrocketed since before the pandemic: In 2019, 81 people died. In 2012, the number was 14.
More than 107,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number marks one American dying from a drug overdose every 5 minutes.
U.S. overdose deaths have risen most years for more than two decades. The increase began in the 1990s with overdoses involving opioid painkillers, followed by waves of deaths led by other opioids like heroin and — most recently — illicit fentanyl.
Last year, overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surpassed 71,000, up 23% from the year before. There also was a 23% increase in deaths involving cocaine and a 34% increase in deaths involving meth and other stimulants.
Forty percent of counterfeit pills coming into the U.S. contain deadly amounts of fentanyl, according to the DEA.
In recent months, DEA agents have pulled thousands of suspected fentanyl pills off Las Vegas valley streets.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department launched a social media campaign on Monday about the dangers of counterfeit pills in response to a large increase in youth drug-overdose deaths.
Police and prosecutors have charged several young people over the past few months with second-degree murder charges in connection with the fentanyl poisoning deaths of other young people.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.