DEA Warns Mass Fentanyl Overdoses Could be Deadly for Nebraskans

April 7, 2022, 5 p.m. ·

Drugs in clear bags piled on top of one another.
A mass overdose is defined as three or more overdoses at the same time and place. (Nebraska Public Media News file photo)

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The Drug Enforcement Administration sent a letter earlier this week to law enforcement at all levels, warning them of the rise in fentanyl mass overdoses. One of those overdoses happened in Omaha.

DEA agents can’t say much about the Omaha mass overdose that happened in recent months. A mass overdose is defined as three or more overdoses at the same time and place.

Steve Bell, an assistant special agent in the DEA's Omaha office, said two people died and two others survived. Agents believe some cocaine was laced with fentanyl. The DEA and Omaha Police Department are investigating.

The rising problem to Bell and other drug experts is jarring. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, of the 105,000 overdose deaths in the America, 66% can be traced to fentanyl.

"Typically we didn't see a whole lot of fentanyl in Nebraska," Bell said. "But, so far this year, we have over 100,000 tablets containing fentanyl here in Omaha alone."

And those are just the ones the DEA is testing, Bell said, adding there are two common ways people unknowingly take the highly addictive opioid.

First: People use illegal drugs that are laced with fentanyl. Agents believe drug dealers use fentanyl to drive addiction and, therefore, attract repeat buyers. Law enforcement, of course, warns everyone to not take cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs.

Second: People buy pharmaceutical pills online, which could also be laced with fentanyl.

“They absolutely have no idea what they are getting," Bell said. "And they're truly playing Russian Roulette.”

Bell and other law enforcement officials strongly recommend buying medication from trusted pharmacies.

Until the demand drops, Bell said, the supply of overdoses will likely follow.