From 2011-2015, poisoning was the leading cause of injury-related death among Clark County residents. There were more deaths due to poisoning than firearms and motor vehicle traffic accidents combined. Fatal poisonings occurred more frequently among men and adults between the ages of 25-64.
Nationally, poisoning deaths have been on the rise, primarily due to misuse (using other than as directed) or abuse of prescription drugs, including opioid pain relievers. In fact, the number of drug overdose deaths has never been higher, and the majority of these deaths (more than six out of ten in 2014) involved opioids.
Opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain.
Prescription opioids are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, however, these can have serious risks and side effects (common types include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone). There are synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, that are many times more powerful than other opioids and are used for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. There are also illegal opioids, like heroin, whose usage has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.
In Clark County, opioid use and misuse were involved in over 1,500 emergency visits and 1,700 inpatient hospitalizations annually. Opioid-related intoxications cost Southern Nevada’s health system about $9.3 million in ER service costs and $92.5 million in inpatient healthcare costs in 2013.
The best way to prevent opioid overdose deaths is to improve opioid prescribing to reduce exposure to opioids, prevent abuse, and stop addiction.
In 2012, Nevada had 94 painkiller prescriptions per every 100 people. In 2015, the Nevada legislature passed SB459 which requires all prescribers to register with state prescription drug monitoring program (PMP). It also grants immunity for those administering medications to reverse the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. Continued focus on responsible prescribing of opioids is essential for healthcare professionals. Learn more about the new CDC guidelines for responsible prescribing practices.
Patients can talk with their health care providers if they are concerned about using opioids to manage their pain. Visit the CDC website to learn more about non-opioid options to manage pain.