Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2022

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Sun editorial:

Unanswered cries for help

Addictions on the rise, overwhelming Nevada’s system for offering treatment

Instances are growing in which certain prescription drugs do a lot more than kill the pain — they kill the user.

In articles published this month, Las Vegas Sun reporters Marshall Allen and Alex Richards reported that this tragic trend is national and particularly acute in Nevada.

Their research revealed that 258 people in Clark County died last year — as opposed to 57 in 1997 — from conditions related to overdoses of prescription drugs.

They also documented that Nevadans consume about twice the national average of several prescription painkillers — a statistic that is probably more than coincidental to the rising numbers of fatal overdoses.

To add perspective, Allen and Richards did some comparisons of last year’s in-state deaths. There were more from prescription drug overdoses than from auto accidents. And from firearms. And from overdoses of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined.

On Monday Allen reported that the number of Nevadans who are addicted to prescription drugs has reached crisis proportions. The result is that the state’s inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, already overwhelmed by tens of thousands of people addicted to alcohol and street drugs, are increasingly not meeting the need.

Thousands of Nevadans who are succumbing to addiction and want help are being told to wait, when waiting can be perilous to their health.

Inpatient treatment programs are considered best for addicts, but in Clark County there is a total of 375 beds for this service.

Addicts who have money or who have good health insurance have little problem getting treated in Nevada, but the numbers of addicts without these attributes are legion.

Rising fatalities are not the only cost. Addiction often leads to domestic violence and other crimes that take a human toll and overcrowd our courts, jails and prisons. It fills emergency rooms and beds at our public hospitals. It leads to traffic accidents, unemployment and homelessness. These consequences add up to a much greater public cost than an expanded treatment system.

The lack of adequate assistance for addicted Nevadans who lack the means to help themselves is a grave problem that should be addressed by the 2009 Legislature.

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