Fentanyl-Related Overdoses Spike in Omaha


Grace Bellinghausen

Omaha has seen a sudden rise in fentanyl-related overdoses in recent months, and officials are trying to figure out how to prevent more. Photo by Grace Bellinghausen/The Gateway.

Fentanyl caused 21 overdoses and eight deaths in Lincoln and Omaha in the span of six days in August, and continues to claim more lives in the metro area.

Omaha Police Department Sgt. Dave Bianchi, a narcotics detective, said they are finding traces of the deadly substance being laced in a variety of street drugs that have been circulating.

“We have a fentanyl problem in Omaha and it is affecting the youth at a higher rate than other scheduled drugs,” Bianchi said. “The more the youth gets educated on this and talk about the dangers of fentanyl, the greater chance that the powers that be will recognize this growing issue.”

Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and can easily cause an overdose even when taken in minuscule amounts. Just 0.25 grams can be lethal.

Taylor Riecken lost one of her best friends, Duol Gatdit, earlier this year to an overdose of fentanyl-laced narcotics. Riecken wants others in the area to destigmatize and be on the lookout to prevent further fatalities.

“We found out later that day that it was a Percocet laced with fentanyl,” Riecken said. “It was one day that changed my life forever, the way I go about life now is completely different, he was an amazing person.”

The Good Samaritan law in Nebraska allows you to report an overdose with immunity from drug or paraphernalia charges when law enforcement arrives. 

Sgt. Bianchi said the first thing you should do if someone is overdosing is call 911 and have them guide you through life-saving measures like CPR if you do not have Narcan. 

Narcan is a life-saving agent administered through nasal passages. The drug is expensive in the United States, but the Nebraska Pharmacist Association has partnered with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Service to make Narcan more accessible in Omaha

“Something as simple as supplying and training UNO’s RA’s on how to use Narcan and look for signs of opioid abuse could be life-saving,” said Sgt. Bianchi.

The period between calling the paramedics and their arrival is crucial because in many cases the heart has stopped, and time is of the essence. 

Much of the fentanyl supply in Omaha is coming from Mexico and California. Drug traffickers are adding fentanyl to their drug supplies because it’s a cheaper way to increase potency and profitability. 

Fentanyl is about $4,000 a kilogram compared to $14,000 a kilogram for cocaine. The difference is in the severity of the drug’s path of destruction. One kilo of Fentanyl has the potential to kill half a million people.

According to the Omaha Police Department website, the main cause of overdose is small pills that range in color from blue to green, have an “M” imprint on one side, and a “30” imprint on the other side.