Dmitri N. Shalin

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The Social Health of Nevada: Leading Indicators and Quality of Life in the Silver State


UNLV: Center for Democratic Culture Publications

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Substance abuse is an issue with serious health and societal consequences in Nevada and throughout the nation. In 2016, drug overdoses were responsible for approximately 64,000 deaths in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle deaths by 60 percent (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). Recent attention has been focused on the spike in opioid use and its implications for public health. Nationally, deaths from opioid overdoses increased from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 19.8 per 100,000 in 2016. Nevada’s experience has mirrored national trends, with the drug overdose death rate in the state increasing from 11.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 21.7 per 100,000 people in 2016 (Trust for America’s Heath, 2013; Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017b). In comparison, the three states with the highest rate of death due to drug overdose in 2016 were West Virginia (52.0 per 100,000), Ohio (39.1 per 100,000) and New Hampshire (39.0 per 100,000) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017b).

The three main substances of use in Nevada are alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. The recent crisis in opioid use has overshadowed some of the successes in lowering rates of alcohol and tobacco use both nationally and in the Silver State across age groups. Use of marijuana has stayed relatively consistent since 2008-2009, and the effects of the legalization of recreational marijuana will be seen in future years. Of illicit drug consumption, the most commonly used substance is opioids. Much focus in Nevada has been on opioid use and ways to decrease the number of deaths as a result, but more emphasis needs to be placed on the increase in fentanyl and heroin addiction that has resulted from tighter regulation on the prescribing of opioids.

The criminalization of substance abuse is shown to be ineffective, as it has created a revolving door in the criminal justice system. Evidence-based practice should guide treatment as well as policy development to reduce the negative consequences of substance use and improve the quality of life for Nevada.


Substance abuse in Nevada; Alcohol use; Tobacco use; Cigarette Use; Marijuana use; Illicit drug use; Drug policy


Community-Based Research | Health Policy | Medicine and Health

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Andrea Blin. 2017. “Addiction and Substance Abuse in Nevada.” In The Social Health of Nevada: Leading Indicators and Quality of Life in the Silver State, edited by Dmitri N. Shalin. Las Vegas, NV: UNLV Center for Democratic Culture, http://cdclv.unlv.edu.