Clark County first responders are on high alert after the number of opioid-drug overdoses more than doubled in a 24-hour period.
County health officials say there were at least 16 known overdoses -- that’s at least one per hour. But that number is likely an undercount.
The county coroner suspects synthetic fentanyl, which often looks similar to heroin, is to blame in most of the overdose cases.
The high-potency narcotic is known to be up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and up to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Clark County health officials say most fentanyl reported by law enforcement in drug seizures results from illegally produced and trafficked fentanyl, not diverted prescription fentanyl.
Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson says the spike in overdoses represents a serious public health emergency.
“When we have an increase in automobile accidents or motorcycle accidents, we go on a big campaign to notify people and to tell them how they can buckle their seatbelts and how they can be safe and stop texting and driving, etc., so if I think if it was motor vehicle deaths, we’d be calling that a crisis," he says. "So I don’t see the difference in the situation we are in today.”
Patterson says more needs to be done to educate people about the symptoms of a drug overdose.
And Clark County health officials are urging the friends and family of known drug users to obtain naloxone. The opiate-reversal medication is available throughout the county without prescription.
County health officials are working on collecting and analyzing more drug-overdose data, and more information is expected to be released in coming weeks.
For more information on addiction services in Clark County, contact McKinley Hall at (937) 328-5300 or www.mhrb.org.