For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Ulibarri
775.328.2414 or 775.772.1659
An epidemic of opioid-related deaths is sweeping across the U.S. Over 50,000 Americans die from drug overdose annually—more than die in car crashes, and more than all gun-related deaths. Northern Nevada has had its share of deaths as well, with some small clusters of deaths in the Reno/Carson City area in early 2017. A joint effort to educate the community about the antidote naloxone is now underway to stem the tide of opioid overdose deaths.
According to Dr. Laura Knight, Chief Medical Examiner at the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, about 15% of the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office’s current autopsy and examination caseload is drug-related. “Increasing drug overdose death rates are creating a significant burden on the already over-taxed system of medicolegal death investigation. And, the pain, suffering and sense of loss for the families and friends of those afflicted by or who die because of addiction can be heart-wrenching,” said Knight. According to Knight and other substance abuse prevention advocates, having the drug naloxone available, as well as friends or family members knowledgeable in administering naloxone, could be lifesaving.
A new Naloxone Guide for Patients and Caregivers is now available on line and at pharmacies around the community, and efforts are underway to have more area pharmacies carry the lifesaving drug. Jennifer DeLett-Snyder, Executive Director of Join Together Norther Nevada (JTNN), co-sponsor of the community awareness campaign, hopes more pharmacies will be supportive. “JTNN will get flyers to all the pharmacies who are interested. Pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS have led the efforts in Nevada to train staff members and provide standing orders for naloxone. We hope others will join the effort,” said DeLett-Snyder.
The Medical Examiner and public health officials report that heroin may be on track to out-pace methamphetamine, which has traditionally been the illicit drug most commonly encountered in our community. While heroin abuse is on the rise, most deaths are from prescribed opioids, like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Deaths from new designer drugs, such as illicit fentanyl, carfentanil, and other fentanyl analogues are on the steepest rise across the country. The East Coast and Midwest have been hit the hardest. Locally, the Medical Examiner’s Office has investigated two deaths associated with probable fentanyl-laced heroin, five deaths due to U-47700, and one death associated with a fentanyl analogue (furanyl fentanyl).
The Naloxone Guide for Patients and Caregivers was a joint effort of Join Together Northern Nevada (JTNN), the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Washoe County Health District. To download the Naloxone Guide for Patients and Caregivers go to www.washoecounty.us/health. A video on how to administer naloxone is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sN9ezno3B8.