LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Southern Nevada Health District is alerting the community about the ongoing risk of fentanyl after Las Vegas police reported five suspected overdose deaths that occurred in a 24-hour period last week.

Fentanyl is an illicit, man-made opioid that is highly potent, and about 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is often illegally manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S.

The health district says deaths involving illicit fentanyl have been increasing, with 92 deaths among Clark County residents occurring between January and May of this year. That’s a 39% increase over the same period last year with 66 deaths. In 2020, there were a total of 193 fentanyl deaths and 72 deaths were reported in 2019.

Fentanyl can be mixed with other illegal substances to look like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. More commonly, the health district says that “fentanyl is being pressed into counterfeit pills and sold on the street as Percocet, Xanax, or Oxycodone, which is contributing factor in the increase of fatal overdose.”

Since 2018, 412 Clark County residents have died from fentanyl, and 67% of them were male. The racial breakdowns are below:

  • White: 52%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 25%
  • Black: 16%
  • Asian: 2%

“It is important that Southern Nevadans are aware of the continued public health risk that fentanyl poses in our community,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, District Health Officer, SNHD. “We continue to see the toll fentanyl takes. It can be fatal and it can be found in other drugs as well.”

The health district and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend people who are at risk of opioid overdose, as well as family members, friends or other individuals who can assist a person at risk, should carry naloxone, also known as Narcan®, an opioid antagonist that can be administered to help reverse opioid overdoses.

“We have a tool at hand to help prevent opioid or fentanyl overdoses. Naloxone can help save a life,” Leguen said.

SNHD’s main public health center offers free naloxone at its pharmacy, located at 280 South Decatur Boulevard. Other naloxone access points can be found at Nevada State Opioid Response Naloxone Finder.