Las Vegas Sun

June 17, 2019

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Painful Painkillers

Prescription drugs confiscated by the coroner's office in the past six weeks are displayed at the coroner's offices  Wednesday.

Photo by Tiffany Brown / Las Vegas Sun

Prescription drugs confiscated by the coroner's office in the past six weeks are displayed at the coroner's offices Wednesday.

A Sun investigation reveals a confounding crisis — Nevadans consume about twice the national average per capita of prescription narcotics.

Painkillers play a vital role in medicine, but experts struggle to explain why so many are consumed in Nevada.

Theories abound — the black market is thriving, tourists drive up the numbers and hurried doctors may too quickly write prescriptions.

One thing is sure: As the rate of painkiller use climbs, so too does abuse. And Clark County's overdose deaths from prescription narcotics now outnumber those from street drugs.

How we did it: Tracking Nevadans' Appetite for Painkillers

Archive highlights

When drugs bring harm not healing

Wed, Oct 15, 2008

Two days before their first wedding anniversary, Andrea Duncan woke up to find her husband, Clint, beside her, dead of a prescription drug overdose. Instead of celebrating their marriage, she ...

Her outlook darkened as her addiction deepened, journal details

Wed, Oct 15, 2008

Staci Voyda’s journal is a stark look into prescription narcotic addiction.

Patient's husband remembers her wry humor, last pain-filled weeks

Wed, Oct 15, 2008

Barbara Baile’s death was both agonizing and avoidable, leaving her husband of 50 years painfully lonely.

The painful truth about Nevada

Sun, Jul 6, 2008

The New Addiction: Part 1: Nevadans consume about twice the national average of several prescription painkillers, making us among the most narcotic-addled populations in the United States, a Sun analysis ...

All stories

Through their daughter’s dying wish, couple hopes to save kids’ lives

Sun, May 12, 2019

In their mourning, and in honor their daughter’s memory, David and Jackie Siegel have become advocates in the fight against America’s drug epidemic. Among their activities, they’ve participated in events ...

Nevada AG office posts documents on opioid lawsuit contract

Mon, May 6, 2019

Nevada's state attorney general has released documents about the hiring of his former legal firm for a potentially lucrative contract representing the state against the maker of the opioid OxyContin. ...

In Las Vegas, first lady prods media to cover opioids as much as 'gossip'

Tue, Mar 5, 2019

First lady Melania Trump prodded the news media on Tuesday to spend as much time highlighting the opioid epidemic as it devotes to "idle gossip or trivial stories." Mrs. Trump ...

Nevada AG’s office suing drugmaker over opioid claims

Tue, May 15, 2018

One of the country’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers knowingly exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of its drugs to mislead Nevada doctors to prescribe more ...

'This is an issue of rural prosperity': Nevada roundtable spotlights opioid epidemic in small communities

Sun, Mar 25, 2018

In the last few years, the opioid epidemic has battered every corner of the United States, and its victims come from all walks of life, but rural portions of the ...

Can this federal judge solve America's opioid crisis?

Tue, Mar 6, 2018

Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio has perhaps the most daunting legal challenge in the country: resolving more than 400 federal lawsuits brought by ...

New Nevada law to begin fast-track opioid data collection

Tue, Dec 26, 2017

Nevada is expanding provisions of a prescription medication registry designed to fast-track the collection of information about overdose deaths, flag excess dispensing of powerful painkillers, and help curb ...

Clark County to file opioid lawsuit against big pharma

Tue, Dec 5, 2017

Clark County commissioners voted unanimously today to sue major pharmaceutical companies for their role in creating the opioid epidemic. District Attorney Steve Wolfson will work with Las Vegas-based law firm ...

House Republicans aim to yank tax credits for orphan drugs

Sat, Nov 4, 2017

As part of a sweeping tax reform bill, House Republicans on Thursday proposed eliminating billions of dollars in corporate tax credits that have played a key role in the booming ...

Age of anxiety: Prozac nation is now the United States of Ativan

Mon, Jun 19, 2017

As depression was to the 1990s — summoned forth by Kurt Cobain, “Listening to Prozac,” Seattle fog and Temple of the Dog dirges on MTV, viewed from under a flannel ...

Bill allows pharmacists to dispense opioid overdose antidotes without prescription

Thu, Jun 1, 2017

Sprinkle said reforms from the 2015 session opened up access to Narcan for first responders and some others. Family members and friends of drug users ...

Health district, humanitarian crusaders make the case for local needle exchanges

Mon, Apr 24, 2017

Deaths from opioid overdose have quadrupled since 1999. The CDC points to the dramatic rise in doctors prescribing oxycodone, fentanyl and methadone to treat pain — legal substances that can ...

Pouches aim to take leftover prescription drugs out of valley homes

Sat, Dec 3, 2016

A student narrating the presentation explained the simple chemistry of the process: The drug contents bind to charcoal inside the pouch and are deactivated ...

Advocates hope shaming drugmakers discourages price spikes

Mon, Jul 11, 2016

Frustrated by the rising cost of prescription drugs, California health advocates hope sunlight and a dose of shame will discourage drugmakers from raising their prices too quickly or introducing new ...

We have a prescription pill problem

Mon, Sep 28, 2015

Fourteen years sober from drugs, Lin Michaels was written two prescriptions for narcotic painkillers by her doctor: one for hydrocodone, another for methadone. She was in pain. It was the ...


Dr. Buckwalter, In His Own Words
Dr. Buckwalter, In His Own Words
A Deposition of Dr. Buckwalter.
Prescriptions, Pain, and Profits
Prescriptions, Pain, and Profits
Highlights from the round table- Four experts in the fields of health and public safety ...
Pharmaceutical crisis round table (uncut)
Pharmaceutical crisis round table (uncut)
Four experts in the fields of health and public safety discuss the rise of prescription ...
Face to Face: Rx for Profit?
Face to Face: Rx for Profit?
The doctor convicted of murdering a patient by overprescribing pain killers was selling the drugs ...