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Southern Nevada Health District issues advisory on fentanyl

FILE: Fentanyl
FILE: Fentanyl
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The Southern Nevada Health District issued a public advisory Tuesday warning Clark County residents about the growing dangers of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be up to 100-times more powerful than morphine.

According to the SNHD release, “Between January and May, there were 92 (fentanyl) deaths among Clark County residents, a 39 percent increase over the same period in 2020 with 66 deaths. In 2020, there were a total of 193 fentanyl deaths; 72 deaths were reported in 2019.”

“We send out alerts when we notice an uptick in overdose deaths, especially with fentanyl deaths,” said SNHD epidemiologist Brandon Delise. “During a 24 hour period on August 12,” he added, “the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reported five suspected fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Clark County. So, it's important for people to be aware of the growing public health risks fentanyl poses to our community.”

One ongoing problem, according to Krystal Riccio, an associate professor at the Roseman University College of Pharmacy, is drug labs are now able to make counterfeit prescription pills with fentanyl, which have the potential of being deadly.

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“They think they’re buying oxycontin or oxycodone,” said Riccio. “They're actually laced with fentanyl, and so they have just a much higher chance of having a fatal overdose from that one pill, one time.”

Dan Neill, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Las Vegas office, says the counterfeits made in drug labs are impossible to distinguish from a legitimate prescription pill.

“You can put two pills up next to each other, and you cannot tell the difference,” Neill said. “Unfortunately, you don't really know until you either have them analyzed or it's too late.”

Neill says illicit drug labs can mass-produce potentially deadly counterfeits. “They get the compounds, they get the mixture, they lace it with fentanyl. They'll have a pill press machine, and they'll, they'll make them up and they can make thousands within an hour, and just pump them out like it's candy.”

As the overdose threat of fentanyl continues to grow, experts say there’s a growing need for the general public to learn about Naloxone, also known as Narcan, carried by first responders to immediately administer to someone having an overdose.

“Narcan is a nasal spray that will reverse an overdose for fentanyl, or any other opioid medication, even if they're overdosing on any other drug,” said Riccio. “You can still give the Naloxone (Narcan) without any harm to the patient or the person who's using, so even if you're not sure that it's an opioid overdose, they can use it one spray each nostril and call EMS because it might take 10 of these (doses) to get a full reversal from fentanyl.”

Narcan is available for free at various locations around Clark County. “Naloxone can be obtained at the Health District for free,” said Delise, “so all they have to do is stop at our pharmacy there. And so people who use opioids, or people who have friends or family that use opioids should carry Naloxone,” he added.

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Riccio says free Narcan is also available at the Center for Behavioral Health, and online at

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