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Nevada Drug Overdoses During COVID-19

Last updated: 12 August 2022

In November of 2020, Nevada was placed on red alert by the National Drug Helpline as one of 28 different states for an increased risk of death from a drug overdose. The increase in drug overdose deaths resulted from reduced access to treatment programs, including emergency department, lost health care capacities due to staff falling sick, increased social, economic stress, increased suicide, and people struggling with opioid addiction. Based on local data, there has been a 50% increase in opioid and fentanyl-involved drug overdose deaths from the first to the second quarter of 2020.

At the time of this report, the preliminary data showed 98 deaths from January through March and 147 deaths from April through June. The COVID-19 pandemic in Nevada amplified the current opioid crisis. The number of drug overdoses increased, people addicted to opioids were unable to get help, and those in recovery struggled with relapse. The Department of Health and Human Services reported that accidental drug overdose deaths increased 37% from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020.

Additionally, fentanyl overdoses nearly tripled in the first part of 2020. Most problems were connected to people with a prescription for pain medication. Like most other states, the problems attributed to opioids carried over from 2019 and were made worse by the pandemic. According to a 2020 report, from 2010 to 2018, emergency department encounters in Nevada increased by 97%, and inpatient admissions increased by 97%.

The rate of emergency department encounters per 100,000 residents increased from 109.5 to 215.4, and inpatient admissions increased from 161.2 to 317.2. The number of opioid-related hospitalization visits during that time increased by 119%. Approximately 73% of opioid poisoning were White non-Hispanic. Heroin was included in 47% of emergency department encounters. However, from 2010 to 2018, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths decreased, yet it began to increase in 2019.

Between 2010 and 2018, roughly 85% of all benzodiazepine-related overdose deaths involved opioids, and 30% of opioid-related deaths involved benzodiazepines. Overdose deaths in 2019 were more prevalent among men, and 75% were among White non-Hispanic aged 45 to 54.

Counterfeit Drugs and Fentanyl Drive-Up Number of Overdose Deaths in Nevada

Fake pills containing fentanyl are contributing to the increased number of overdose deaths in the state. Overall, opioid-related deaths in Nevada have been on the rise. From January to May 2020, the state saw a 23% increase in opioid-related overdose deaths compared to 2019. Opioid-related overdose deaths peaked in Nevada in 2011 and have been on a decline since then. However, rates began to rise in 2019 and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Data released by the Nevada Overdose Data to Action Program found there have been 197 opioid-involved rug overdose deaths in 2020 as of May 31, 2020.

Compared to the first five months of 2019, this was a 23% increase. April and May of 2020 had the highest rates of overdose-related emergency room visits, with a 25% increase over the three months prior. Healthcare providers in Nevada link these problems to the increased stress and isolation and fentanyl. Opioid-related deaths have impacted every region of the state. A report from the Southern Nevada Health District stated there were 63 deaths involving fentanyl from the beginning of the year through the end of May 2020. Compared to 2019, this was a 125% increase.

However, deaths associated with prescription opioids have been decreasing in the state. Yet, deaths involving non-prescribed synthetic opioids are on the rise. From January to June 2020, there were 197 overdose deaths in the state, and 102 of those involved fentanyl. According to the Nevada Opioid Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, there were 11 opioid-involved deaths per 100k in 2018. In addition, there were 12.5 opioid emergency department visits per 100k in 2018 and 11.1 opioid hospitalizations per 100k in 2018.

Most deaths are linked to non-pharmaceutical opioids. Between 2016 and 2018, opioid prescribing rates in Nevada declined by more than 40%, from an average of 87.5 opioid painkiller prescriptions per every 100 state residents to an average of 52. Between 2014 and 2018, the use of the Prescription Monitoring Program in the state increased 390%--the number of doctor shoppers in the state decreased by 95%. The drug overdose-related problems in Nevada during 2020 and the pandemic were a result of illegal drugs and the mental health impact and isolation caused by the pandemic.


Marcel Gemme, DATS

Marcel Gemme, DATS


on August 12, 2022

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Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.