OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigators in Omaha seized about 32,000 fake pills, some with lethal doses of fentanyl, over a two-day span in July.
"The reason they make these fake pills look like a regular prescription pill is people will think it's a normal pill that comes from a pharmacy prescribed by a doctor. That is the whole model, is to create something that maybe doesn't have as much stigma," said DEA Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Justin C. King.
More than 107,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in 2021. More than two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
"It is so concentrated that just a small amount of that fentanyl, which we're talking a few grains of salt, could be a lethal dose. When that's put into a pill form, somebody may get that and not know what they're actually getting," King said.
In the first six months of this year, investigators took more than 151,000 pills in Nebraska off the streets — 83% more than last year.
"It can be in a rural area, a small farming community, can be in Omaha or Lincoln, or Grand Island, but you're going to see it everywhere. As other drugs are trafficked, drug trafficking organizations, cartels what they want to do is create more demand by increasing supply," King said.
Over the past three to four years, Omaha Fire Battalion Chief Scott Fitzpatrick has seen more fentanyl than ever before. He lays out all the risks first responders endure when they go to the scene of a drug overdose.
"We make sure we have our gloves on, eye protection, so that way we know fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin and can be dangerous to first responders as well. So we know not to pick anything up," Fitzpatrick said.
So far this year, Fitzpatrick says, the department has used Narcan about 70 times throughout Omaha.
"So often we hear of a tragic story where someone went to a party or something; some kids tried this pill and, unfortunately, we have a death," Fitzpatrick said.
King stresses since fake prescription pills are often sold on social media or online that parents need to notice the apps their kids use or if their money is suddenly disappearing.
The DEA launched a campaign called "One Pill Can Kill" discussing the dangers of fake pills.