Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Nevada Facts, Statistics, and Trends
Recent government data shows more than 23 million Americans suffer from addictions to alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse has cost the United States billions of dollars in the past several decades; the overall cost is in the $600 billion range, with more going to Medicare and Medicaid efforts. However, the emotional and mental costs of substance abuse are much higher and more difficult to measure. Each state has a unique substance abuse story, and its residents have been affected in similar, yet distinctive ways.
Nevada has one such unique substance abuse story. When most people think about drug and alcohol abuse in conjunction with Nevada, they might think about Las Vegas. While Las Vegas is known as “Sin City” for good reason, substance abuse does not begin and end there. Substance Abuse USA reports the entire state is in the throes of a drug and alcohol epidemic. Alcohol, methamphetamines and prescription pills are three of the most commonly abused substances.
According to the most recent data, Nevada ranks in the top ten states for drug and alcohol abuse; they rank third out of the top five in the percentage of residents dependent on illegal substances. Nevada is also the second in the country for non-medical use of hydrocodone and oxycodone. Per capita sales of oxycodone have increased 366% in the last 10 years, while sales of hydrocodone have increased 233%.
Some victims of Nevada’s prescription drug abuse epidemic are addicted to multiple drugs. Besides hydrocodone and oxycodone, residents and their families have reported addictions to Oxycontin, Ambien, and a host of other painkillers. Some addicts families and friends have watched their loved ones overdose multiple times; some of Nevada’s prescription drug addicts end up committing suicide.
Besides prescription drugs, alcohol is commonly abused throughout Nevada. Alcohol abuse rates have remained at or above the national average for many years. Additionally, the percentage of Nevadans who report needing alcoholism treatment but do not receive it is above the national average. The state’s adolescents are arguably the most vulnerable to alcoholism.
Nevada Substance Abuse Care
Like most states, Nevada attempts to curtail substance abuse but falls short in many areas. The state is home to many drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, but addicts and their families often struggle to find which one is best for them. Reports from Substance Abuse USA indicate these facilities may be trying to incorporate many new methods at once. New and creative methods of addiction treatment are good, but too many too fast can overwhelm clients and compromise recovery.
Access to drugs and alcohol is another big problem for Nevadans, especially among preteens and teens. In a story for Las Vegas Now, Dr. Stuart Ghertner of the Las Vegas Recovery Center explained many teens become addicted to prescription drugs because they see them in their parents’ drug cabinets. Ghertner also stated Nevadan doctors over-prescribe dangerous painkillers, making it more difficult for addicts to recognize their problems and begin recovery. Physicians often lack knowledge concerning alternatives to strong painkillers, or exit strategies once their patients have been prescribed oxycodone, hydrocodone, or another potentially dangerous drug.
The demographics of Nevada pose another unique problem. As you might expect, substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse, goes hand in hand with gambling in this state. Physiological and psychological research has not yet uncovered the exact links between gambling addiction and other addictions. However, Nevada treatment professionals can’t deny a link exists. Problem gamblers are some of the most likely to develop other addictions, especially alcoholism. Often, gambling losses or gains lead to binge drinking episodes, exacerbating existing problems. Yet treatment professionals often find dealing with gambling and other addictions at the same time to be difficult. Many treatment centers are not designed to handle multiple addictions, leaving Nevadans with incomplete treatment and increasing the risk of relapse.
Sometimes, a state falls short in substance abuse care because much of its resources are focused in one area. This is certainly true for Nevada, where Las Vegas takes up plenty of resources. According to the most recent data from National Geographic, Las Vegas crime rate is 120% higher than the national average, and many of these crimes can be traced back to substance abuse. Drug trafficking from Mexican cartels is rampant in the city, with marijuana and black tar heroin being the most popular substances. Methamphetamine, also known as the number one drug in Nevada, is commonly smuggled into Las Vegas, as well, and is widely available throughout the city. Naturally, law enforcement and substance abuse experts must devote plenty of attention to Las Vegas. However, that often leaves Nevadans outside of the city with few resources.
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