Nevadans Heavy on Painkillers


The Las Vegas Sun reported a disquieting article analyzing Nevadans consumption of prescription painkillers. The article reported that in Nevada, residents consume roughly twice the national average of numerous painkillers.

The article including several alarming statistics:
-- More people in Clark County die of prescription narcotics overdoses than of overdoses of illicit drugs or from vehicle accidents.
-- In 2006, Nevadans were the No. 1 users per capita of hydrocodone -- better-known as Vicodin or Lortab.
-- Nevadans consumed enough of the drug to equal 48 Vicodin pills for every man, woman and child in the state for a year.

What's behind the heavy use? That depends on whom you ask. "Law enforcement complains about the illegal activity, addiction specialists decry that more people are becoming hooked on drugs, and pain management specialists talk about the benefits of narcotics."

In response to the discovery that some patients were "doctor shopping," or illegally visiting and receiving drugs from multiple providers, the Nevada Pharmacy Board developed a database listing every prescription written in Nevada for certain medications. The listing included the provider and the patient, and was designed to prevent "doctor shopping." According to theSun, the database was used 65,372 times in 2007.

In addition to the database, there are other precautions available to prevent abuse: "Among the precautions pain specialists can take to guard against abuse are requiring contracts with patients that discourage doctor shopping, urine tests to verify drug use and monthly visits to track prescriptions and lessen the number of pills a patient has at a given time."

In addition to prescription painkillers, Nevadans are turning towards narcotic painkillers as well. According to the Sun's analysis, Nevadans rank fourth nationally for methadone, morphine and oxycodone use per person.