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Fighting the fentanyl epidemic

You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but there is a dangerous drug killing about 150 people every day in the U.S.: fentanyl. Right here in Boulder City, three people died from fentanyl overdoses in 2022. This year, that number has nearly doubled – five deaths, and we still have two more months before the year ends.

Fentanyl is creating a national crisis, accounting for more than 600 overdose deaths in Clark County from January 2018 to July 2022. Prevention and awareness are critical to the fight against this potent killer.

Picture five to seven grains of salt. That small amount, just two milligrams, can kill an average-size adult.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that is about fifty times stronger than heroin and one hundred times stronger than morphine. This opioid was created for pain relief and to be used as an anesthetic. Unfortunately, what started as a medication has become a booming business for drug dealers.

Illegally-made fentanyl has been found at alarming rates in the illicit drug trade. It’s cheap, more powerful, and more addictive than heroin. Because illegal fentanyl is usually made into pills that look like common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, many people don’t know that they have taken it until it is too late. Dealers often lace other narcotics like heroin, cocaine, Adderall, Oxycontin, and methamphetamine with fentanyl. Some dealers add liquid fentanyl to nasal sprays and eye drops. These dealers are not pharmacists, and the amount of fentanyl will vary from pill to pill, drop to drop. This ultimately can cause fatal results.

The court staff in Boulder City is working with our regional partners to sound the alarm on this drug. The city of Henderson created the campaign, #RiskItAllWithFentanyl, looking to educate middle school and high school-age children. According to their campaign, “Youth at this age have a natural propensity to experiment, the same as every generation before them. However, the danger of this drug makes one choice potentially lethal.”

Using funds from the One Nevada settlements with opioid manufacturers, Boulder City Municipal Court is instituting outreach programs to educate the community and making Narcan/Naloxone available for free in various locations, including the Courthouse, Emergency Aid, City Hall and the Boulder City Fire Department. Narcan/Naloxone is a life-saving drug, available as a nasal spray, that can stall opioid effects if administered in time.

Signs of opioid overdose include:

■ Small, constricted “pinpoint” pupils

■ Falling asleep or losing consciousness

■ Slow, weak, or no breathing

■ Choking or gurgling sounds

■ Limp body

■ Cold and/or clammy skin

■ Discolored skin (especially in lips and nails)

Earlier this year, Boulder City Mayor Joe Hardy, who has been a medical doctor for five decades, created a video that shows how easy it is to administer Narcan/Naloxone to someone dying from opioid overdose. That and links to more information can be found at www.bcnv.org/ODprevention.

Drug and substance use need to be addressed on many different fronts. My hope is that — just like CPR classes and knowing how to use an AED — our community will learn the signs of overdose, know what to do and help get Boulder City past this epidemic without losing anyone else.

Victor Miller is the judge of the Boulder City Municipal Court.

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