Brightly lit and full of vibrant energy, Las Vegas, Nevada is known as “the city that never sleeps” and for good reason. Flashing billboards, ritzy hotels, and over a hundred casinos keep the city buzzing day and night. However, the city also harbors a darker side: addiction runs rampant in the U.S, affecting millions of citizens each year. In a city like Las Vegas, where the spirit of adventure is high, and inhibitions are low, it can be especially easy to fall prey to the snares of addiction. Here are some of the most commonly reported addictions in Vegas.
The U.S. is facing an opioid epidemic, prescription pain medications are all fairly easy to obtain and even easier to become addicted to. One highly sought-after drug is Oxycodone, a prescription painkiller. Over the last 10 years, per capita sales of Oxycodone have increased by 366 percent in Nevada.
Las Vegas pharmacies have had to adopt rigorous strategies, receiving help from the DEA and adopting a drug monitoring program to track patients and their prescriptions. Sadly, Vegas, like the rest of the country, has seen its teenagers be pulled into the snares of addiction as well.
Between 2010 and 2018, heroin-related deaths in Las Vegas alone have nearly tripled. With over 400,000 users in the U.S.—and that number is steadily climbing—heroin addiction is undoubtedly one of the biggest drug-related concerns in the country. One reason for the rise in heroin abuse is that prescription opioid users are developing an increased tolerance to the effects of their medications and switching to heroin.
Heroin addicts commonly practice unsafe behaviors, such as needle sharing, which leads to the spread of disease amongst users. In 2015, 45 percent of young users contracted Hepatitis C, which is most commonly spread through blood contamination. The situation has become so desperate that Las Vegas became the first city in the U.S. to implement clean needle vending machines in an effort to end needle sharing and contamination.
While the rest of the country is busy battling an opioid epidemic, the substance that is taking Nevada by storm is methamphetamine, the second most used drug in southern Nevada. In 2015, meth was responsible for over 200 deaths in Las Vegas alone and more than twice as many Nevadans checked into rehab for meth than for heroin. In fact, earlier this year the North Las Vegas Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration seized over 70 pounds of meth from a Las Vegas home. and arrested multiple people in connection to the drugs. The DEA asserts that it is likely Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the influx of methamphetamine into the western United States.
An addiction to a behavior is known as a behavioral or process addiction; one such addiction that is prevalent in Vegas is gambling. People addicted to gambling get high through a dopamine reaction in the brain. Compulsive gamblers often have a co-existing personality disorder, such as borderline personality disorder, along with their addiction and are at a higher risk of attempted suicide.
The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that one out of every five problem gamblers attempt suicide, higher than that of any other addictive disorder, and, according to Business Insider, Las Vegas has the highest suicide rate in the U.S., statistics show that alcoholism in Vegas actually occurs as a co-occurring disorder alongside gambling addiction, and vice versa, rather than occurring on its own.
It may seem strange to think of something as natural as sex as an addiction, but sex addiction is another process addiction that extends far beyond the normal realm of sexual activity. Vegas, aptly nicknamed Sin City, is heavily peppered with prostitution, adult establishments, and other sexual services, so it’s no surprise that sex addiction is a common struggle there.
Las Vegas therapist Alexandra Hieb explained in an interview with Las Vegas Now that, “A sex addict is someone who uses sex like an alcoholic would use alcohol.” Research shows that addiction in adulthood is often the result of childhood trauma. A child who experiences significant emotional turmoil but doesn’t possess the tools to properly deal with said turmoil will often turn to alcohol, drugs or risky behavior to find an escape from lingering trauma. One such risky behavior is compulsive sexual activity, which can lead to full on sex addiction.
Bright Lights Can Be Deceiving
It’s easy for one to see the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas and imagine that the city is all happiness, excitement, and adventure, but behind the scenes, there’s a very dark and scary situation unfolding. From teenagers to senior citizens, no one is immune to the temptation of addiction. Fortunately, Vegas is also home to hundreds of top-notch addiction rehabilitation and treatment centers that are well-equipped to handle any addiction. It’s easy to learn more about addiction help in the city that never sleeps, all you have to do is ask.