Health Department Issues Overdose Health Alert
Published on August 19, 2021
Lincoln Police report 50 overdose cases in the past month
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today issued a Health Alert regarding a spike in accidental drug overdoses.
The Lincoln Police Department (LPD) reports that it has responded to 50 overdose cases within the past 30 days. LPD investigations have uncovered that narcotics such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and counterfeit oxycodone pills have been found to contain the prescription pain killer fentanyl. When mixed with an illegal drug, an amount of fentanyl as small as a grain of salt can cause an overdose.
About half of the 50 cases required officers to administer the life-saving drug naloxone, sometimes using multiple doses, in addition to CPR or other life-saving measures to revive the victims. Four of the people died.
LPD investigated multiple overdoses related to fentanyl mixed with cocaine in July, and at least 26 overdoses in the past three weeks have been caused by this potentially deadly combination.
LPD reports that the overdose spike is a significant increase from previous years. LPD documented an increase from 2019 to 2020 in fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses. In that same time, there was also an increase in the number of opioid-related deaths and the number of fentanyl-related deaths. Ten opioid-related deaths were documented by LPD in 2019; three were fentanyl related. Twenty opioid-related deaths were documented by LPD in 2020; 13 were fentanyl related.
The LLCHD urges the public to be aware of the signs, symptoms, and treatments for overdose victims. During an overdose, breathing can be dangerously slowed or stopped, causing brain damage or death. Signs include:
- Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
- Falling asleep or loss of consciousness
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Limp body
- Pale, blue, or cold skin
It may be hard to tell if a person is high or experiencing an overdose. If you aren’t sure, treat the situation like an overdose and follow these steps:
- Call 911 immediately.
- Administer naloxone, if available.
- Try to keep the person awake and breathing.
- Lay the person on their side to prevent choking.
- Stay with them until emergency workers arrive.
Local hotline numbers include:
OpiRescue is also a free overdose support tool to recognize, reverse and report an overdose.
The LLCHD urges the public to find out more about naloxone, a life-saving drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Nebraska law allows bystanders to administer naloxone to save a life. An open statewide prescription in Nebraska allows friends and family of those facing addiction to use naloxone in emergencies.
Several locations in Lincoln and Lancaster County provide naloxone for free to family and friends of people who are facing addiction. Locations include: Kohl’s Rx, 808 North 27th Street, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, 5010 “O” St. and U-Save Pharmacy, 13851 Guildford St., in Waverly.
The Opioid Overdose Prevention Coalition provides consumer and provider education and advocacy through collaborations in treatment, reducing stigma and prevention education. Residents can learn more about life saving measures and treatment options at lincoln.ne.gov/OD. The coalition is a group led by the LLCHD that includes community members and more than 20 Lincoln organizations.
Community health partners include: Bryan Health, CHI Health, CenterPointe, Emergency Medical Services Oversight Authority, Innovative Pain and Spine Specialists, Lancaster County Medical Society, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln Fire and Rescue, Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, Lincoln Police Department, Lincoln Treatment Center, MD Pain, Mental Health Association of Nebraska, Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, Nebraska Medical Association, Nebraska Pharmacists Association, Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln, Region V Systems, The Bridge, and Wellbeing Initiative, Inc.
Anyone with information about people distributing illegal drugs, especially in cases that led to overdoses, to call the LPD non-emergency number at 402-441-6000, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Narcotics Task Force at 402-441-8181 or Crime Stoppers at 402-475-3600.