LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — State officials received mixed news from public health officials at Nevada’s Opioid Response Summit Wednesday. Overdose deaths are going down, but fentanyl is becoming more of an issue in the state.
For the past decade, an average of more than 400 Nevadans a year died after overdosing on opioids. But things seem to be getting better because, after a myriad of changes on a number of fronts, that rate dropped to 356 in 2018.
However, fentanyl is becoming more prevalent. Seventy-seven percent of overdoses include more than one drug.
“Now what we’re seeing is it’s being blended with opioid drugs, fentanyl drugs generally speaking,” said Keith Carter, the director of Nevada High Intensity Drug Traficking Area program.
While methamphetamine continues to be the number one deadly street drug, prescription drugs, including opioids, were the most common causes of death among accidental overdoses.
Over an 18-month period — from January of 2017 to June of 2018 — 384 people died from accidental overdoses of various substances. Prescription drugs accounted for nearly two-thirds. Since then, officials say opioid prescriptions are down from 88 per 100 people, among the highest in the country, to 56 per 100 people, which is something they call “unprecendented.”
“What we have seen is that — the providers have really carried the water on this, and have altered the way that they have been prescribing,” said Stephanie Woodard, Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.”
The state continues to focus on prescription drugs. Attorney General Aaron Ford filed suit against more than 40 manufacturers, distributors, executives, and pharmacies.
“We are actively serving these defendants, and we anticipate in short order that case going full-steam ahead,” said Ford, D-Nev.
But the crackdown has had some unintended consequences. Legitimate pain patients have had a tough time filling prescriptions.
State officials say they are seeing some progress addressing that.
“We are hopeful that some of the clarification that were done this session will help ease some of the burden for implementation, said Stephanie Woodard, Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
The summit follows one in 2016, under then-Governor Brian Sandoval led to changes in state law the following year. Information from this one could inspire new laws in 2021.
A total of 56 first responder agencies now carry Naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of opioids in the event of an overdose. Since 2016, state officials say Naloxone has been successful in saving 277 people.