The U.S. witnessed an increase in drug use during 2020, which has been attributed in part to stressors caused by COVID-19. And concerning accidental drug overdose, the state of Nevada has been hit especially hard.
According to data from the Electronic Death Registry System, the state of Nevada witnessed a 50% spike in opioid-related drug overdoses from the first to the second quarter of 2020. By now it’s no surprise that the driving force behind these overdoses is thought to be illicit fentanyl, whether taken knowingly or believed to be a legitimate prescription drug.
However, this is still an alarming rise in accidental drug overdose, which remained elevated throughout 2020. The prevalence of accidental overdose in times of stress sheds light on the need to understand drug addiction, how to recognize signs of drug use, and where to find resources for addiction treatment, especially in the state of Nevada.
COVID’s Effect on Accidental Drug Overdose
Without question, the coronavirus pandemic tested people in ways that never could have been predicted at the end of 2019. And for those with substance use disorders, this was especially true. Whether recently sober or steadfastly in rehabilitation, those in recovery watched as their support systems were forced to adapt as the nature of their support structure changed to something more distant.
As some returned to drug use, or began using for the first time, accidental overdoses rose in Nevada in 2020. In fact, the rate at which overdoses were recorded in the Silver State landed Nevada on the National Drug Helpline’s red alert list as recently as November 2020 (this list indicates which states are most at risk of death from overdose).
In Nevada, Opioid Overdoses Still Reign
Overdose deaths are still largely driven by opioid use in Nevada and in Las Vegas in particular. The main reason behind this is believed to be the availability of fentanyl to drug traffickers. Fentanyl is a dangerously powerful opioid, and it continues to be inexpensive and easily manufactured in illicit labs. This means that just about any other substance can be laced with fentanyl to maximize profits while still providing a high. Unfortunately, as drug death statistics show, this often results in accidental overdose.
Sadly, due to this unauthorized nature of drug production and trafficking, many of those who overdose on fentanyl may not even realize that they took the drug. Oftentimes, fentanyl is pressed into pills that resemble legitimate prescriptions. In these cases, accidental drug overdose may occur when the drug user believed they were using a less dangerous amount of a substance.
Nevada’s Opioid Settlement to Address the State Drug Crisis
Circulation of illegal fentanyl is a legitimate issue in Nevada. However, it does not undermine the damage that prescription opioids have on residents. In fact, Nevada was one of the hardest-hit states in the nation’s opioid crisis. As such, the state has received one of the largest settlements from McKinsey, one of the firms responsible for advising doctors to push opioid products preceding the opioid pandemic.
The state of Nevada plans to use the $45 million awarded by McKinsey to address the opioid crisis within the state. This is good news in a time when addiction treatment resources are so urgently needed.
How to Handle an Accidental Drug Overdose
Accidental drug overdoses can be frightening, in no small part because they’re inherently unexpected. They occur when too much of a substance has been taken and becomes toxic to the body. Because accidental overdoses often take place in residential atmospheres, they usually occur away from anyone with medical knowledge. If you find yourself somewhere where an accidental overdose may be happening, there are a few things you can do.
First, understanding how to recognize the signs of a drug overdose is helpful. Symptoms of a drug overdose will vary depending on the substance used but often include:
- Incoherent behavior
- Unconsciousness or inability to arouse
- Change in body temperature
- Skin color changes
- Irregular breathing or pulse rate (too fast or too slow)
In addition, opioid overdoses usually present with three symptoms: pinpoint pupils, unconsciousness, and slowed breathing.
If these symptoms are present and there is reason to believe it’s due to an overdose, call 911 immediately and stay with the person. If the individual is unconscious, roll them onto their side to minimize choking in case of vomiting. Report any known substances taken to medical workers. Often, knowing what kind of overdose to treat will greatly improve the chances of reviving someone from an accidental overdose.
You may be hesitant to tell emergency medical technicians (EMTs) about drug abuse, but know that this information could save the life of the person overdosing. Moreover, EMTs are not required to tell police about drug usage unless there is another type of abuse happening (like an adult forcing a minor to take drugs). Their focus is on the best interest of the patient rather than trying to get anyone in legal trouble.
While treatment for accidental drug overdoses can be life-saving, they do not address the root issue. Without clinical addiction treatment, accidental overdose may always be a danger.
Nevada Addiction Treatment Is Available, Even During COVID
The coronavirus pandemic emphasized two important truths: First, that addiction stops for nothing. And secondly, that addiction resources must remain accessible. At the Vance Johnson Recovery Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, we provide drug and alcohol addiction treatment in an accredited drug rehab center while adhering to CDC guidelines. We support a social detox method that monitors withdrawal symptoms around the clock to ensure that patients are as safe and comfortable as possible.
Following detox, we offer inpatient and residential treatment programs that encourage healing in a therapeutic environment. During this time, patients work with medical professionals to uncover both physical and behavioral reasons for their addiction. We specialize in addiction to any substance, including:
Regardless of the substance used, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) uses a holistic approach to addiction treatment, ensuring that patients are supported before, during, and after treatment at VJRC. Deciding to commit to drug or alcohol rehab is a huge first step in addiction treatment. To get started on your recovery, contact an admissions specialist at 888-828-2623 or use our confidential online contact form.
Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.