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Nevadans are known for their fierce independence, valuing freedom of individual choice and lack of government intervention, as evidenced in their embrace of widespread gambling and legalized prostitution. The state is perhaps best known for Las Vegas -dubbed "Sin City," where "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." But, despite Nevada's fierce independent streak, when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, it needs all the help it can possibly get.
Addiction isn't a problem one can often solve alone. It requires support, education, and consistent accountability to allow the user to break free of the ruthless -get-the-next-fix' cycle. The most sinister part of addiction may be that it doesn't simple take lives-it eats them from the inside-out. It causes people to draw away from friends, family, and society at large, until they look around and realize there's no one left. As a direct consequence of drug use, 515 people died in Nevada in 2007. This is compared to the number who died from motor vehicle accidents (407) and firearms (414) in the same year. Nevada drug-induced deaths (20.1/100,000 people) far exceeded the national rate (12.7/100,000).
Much like the rest of the United States, prescription painkiller (opioid) addiction has blown through Nevada like a wildfire, laying waste to whole communities, and decimating families. The root of the opioid problem stems from doctors over-prescribing these highly addictive drugs when, in many cases, Tylenol, Excedrin or Advil will do. These drugs may seem safe, especially when doctors prescribe them, but just one or two of few these prescription pain pills can get people hooked and send them off on a downward spiral into the throes of full-on dependency. These drugs are stealing our family members, our sons, our daughters, and our very future.
Unfortunately, prescription painkiller abuse can often send people down far darker paths. Opioids often lead to heroin addiction, (as heroin is cheaper than the pills, and usually far easier to obtain on the street) and so predictably, the heroin problem in Nevada has exploded. Recent data shows that the largest age demographic entering treatment for heroin dependence in Nevada was the 21-25 year-olds, in which 69.4% were male and 30.6% were female. And, the spiral downward doesn't stop there. When certain street drugs like heroin aren't available, drug abusers often then turn to incredibly powerful and dangerous synthetics like fentanyl, which sooner or later result in a body bag. In the United States, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are now the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths, responsible for 59% of all opioid-related decedents.
When we look at threats to Nevada public health, Methamphetamine is quickly gaining on the heels of heroine. In 2010, there were 1,896 people who entered drug treatment for amphetamines and stimulants, (47.6% male and 52.4% female) and amphetamines are the most commonly cited drug among drug treatment admissions in Nevada. Methamphetamine is identified by officials as the biggest threat to Nevada overall. During November 2010, the Clark County Gang Task force seized 17lbs of meth that was to be distributed in Clark County and the Northern Nevada Interdiction Task Force made a 19lbs methamphetamine seizure on the highway going into Reno, Nevada.
When we take a big step back and look at all forms of substance abuse across Nevada, the numbers certainly give cause for alarm, especially among the younger population. These youth statistics are particularly worrisome because young people's brains aren't done developing until they're well into their twenties, and substance abuse changes the way they grow and function overall. When substance abuse is allowed to permeate during the formative years, it has consequences that can last for life.
5% of Nevada high school students (grades 9-12) report they've used any form of cocaine (for example, powder, crack, or freebase) 1 or more times in their lifetime.
4% of Nevada youth (ages 12-17) say they've used pain relievers in any way not directed by a doctor within the past year.
The good news for those living in Nevada who may be struggling with drug or alcohol addiction is that help is only a few clicks away. We are now more connected than ever and all you have to do is reach out. The most difficult part is just deciding to start the journey. Despite Nevada's independent streak, it's well understood that addiction requires help, and Nevada is awash in resources, whether you need simple counseling, a larger community-based approach, or full-on detox services.
Nevada State Facts
Nevada Population: 1,994,505
Law Enforcement Officers in Nevada: 5,731
Nevada Prison Population: 16,500
Nevada Probation Population: 12,416
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 7
2004 Federal Drug Seizures in Nevada
Cocaine: 26.6 kgs.
Heroin: 0.5 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 51.5 kgs.
Marijuana: 243.1 kgs.
Ecstasy: 837 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 50 (DEA, state, and local)
Nevada Drug Situation: Methamphetamine, specifically crystal methamphetamine produced in Mexico and imported into the state, has become the principal drug of concern in Nevada. In addition, cocaine, particularly crack cocaine, is a significant problem in the urban areas of the state. "Club Drugs," specifically MDMA, are rising in popularity and availability in the southern section of the state. Due to its close proximity to California and its porous border, Nevada often serves as a transshipment point for various drugs to the central and eastern sections of the United States.
Cocaine in Nevada: Cocaine HCL is moderately available in northern Nevada and readily available throughout southern Nevada. Cocaine HCL is transported into Nevada primarily from California via ground transportation. Southern Nevada, specifically Las Vegas, serves as a transshipment point for cocaine HCL with distribution points across the nation. Crack cocaine is readily available in the urban areas of Nevada. African American street gangs predominantly control the distribution market for crack cocaine and base their operations in inexpensive motel rooms and apartments located in impoverished areas throughout Nevada's larger cities.
Heroin in Nevada: Mexican black tar heroin remains the most prevalent heroin available in Nevada. Mexican poly-drug trafficking organizations control the heroin trafficking in the state. These trafficking organizations continue to recruit Mexican nationals to live in the urban areas of Nevada to distribute heroin for the organization. User amounts of low-purity black tar heroin remain readily available from these low-level suppliers and are most often distributed in open air-markets.
Methamphetamine in Nevada: Meth is the most frequently encountered drug in Nevada and remains available in both personal use and distribution quantities. Nevada is both a point of importation and a transshipment location for methamphetamine. The manufacture of methamphetamine in Nevada occurs on a limited basis. The meth imported into the state is produced primarily in "super labs" (producing 10 pounds or more in a 24-hour period) by ethnic Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating in Mexico and California. Meth is transported to Nevada primarily via ground transportation. Organized Mexican poly-drug trafficking groups monopolize the large-scale meth trade in Nevada. Distributor levels of imported methamphetamine average in pound quantities or greater. Mexican-produced, crystal methamphetamine is the most readily available in Nevada and ranges in purity levels from 90-99%. Local meth manufacturing entrepreneurs continue to manufacture meth in small quantities, usually under one ounce per cook. Laboratories seized this quarter utilized the pseudoephedrine, red phosphorus, and iodine method to manufacture methamphetamine. Locally produced meth often contains a higher purity level that frequently averages 90 percent.
Club Drugs in Nevada: The availability of "club drugs" in Nevada ranges from sporadic in the northern urban areas to readily available in cities located in the southern section ofthe state, particularly Las Vegas. Club Drugs, specifically MDMA, GHB, and LSD,are trafficked and abused in local nightclubs, adult entertainment clubs, and atraves. The trafficking of these drugs ranges from hand-to-hand sales within clubs orraves to larger sales between locals and out-of-town distributors. Las Vegas serves as a point of importation and a transshipment area for MDMA. Most MDMA that passes through or is destined for Las Vegas continues to come primarily from Southern California and New York.
Marijuana in Nevada: Domestically cultivated and Mexican-grown marijuana remains readily available in Nevada. Mexican poly-drug trafficking organizations are still the primary source of marijuana smuggled into the area, primarily from California via ground transport. There has been an increased prevalence of indoor marijuana cultivation inthe Las Vegas area during the past year. Growers are using elaborate hydroponicequipment to cultivate high-grade marijuana. Marijuana Legislation: In June 2001,Assembly Bill 453 was signed into law and made Nevada the ninth state in the U.S. where patients can use marijuana for medicinal purposes. In addition, the new state law which went into effect October 1, 2001, decriminalizes possession of small amounts (ounce quantity or less) of marijuana, which previously was a state felony.
Other Drugs in Nevada: The pharmaceutical controlled substances of choice in Nevada include hydrocodone, Xanax, codeine, diazepam, Ketamine, Lortab, and oxycodone. Drug combinations which are abused in the state of Nevada are Lortab and Soma and Lortab and benzodiazepines. Non-controlled substances which appear to be abused in Nevada are Soma Compound and Ultram. The primary method of diversion in Nevada is the illegal purchase of controlled substances via Internet pharmacies. In addition, prescription fraud is on the rise in both the Las Vegas and Reno areas. Pseudoephedrine sales are reported down since the new law which added pseudoephedrine to the Nevada Controlled Substance list passed in December 2001.
DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. There have been 409 deployments completed resulting in 16,763 arrests of violent drug criminals as of February 2004. There have been two MET deployments in the State of Nevada since the inception of the program: Reno and Carson City.
DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement. This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States. Nationwide, there have been 22 deployments completed resulting in 608 arrests of drug trafficking criminals as of February 2004. There have been no RET deployments in the State of Nevada.
DEA Special Topics: The Clark County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) was established by the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2001 to combat the influx of drug trafficking in southern Nevada. In order to alleviate the meth problem in southern Nevada, a HIDTA initiative, the Southern Nevada Joint Methamphetamine Task Force was created to address domestic trafficking organizations and career criminal enterprises which are involved in the manufacture of methamphetamine and the transport and distribution of meth and precursor chemicals within and through the HIDTA area of operation. The primary focus of this Task Force will be the dismantlement and Federal prosecution of such organized drug and precursor chemical trafficking groups.