Methamphetamine use and overdose deaths are on the rise in Nebraska, according to reports from the Lincoln Police Department.

The biggest rise was seen in July 2021, when the LPD reported 50 drug overdose cases in a 30-day period. LPD also found fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid mixed with narcotics including meth, heroin, cocaine and counterfeit oxycodone pills. Fentanyl can cause addiction, respiratory depression and arrest, coma or death. 

The UNL Police Department is offering tips for students on what they need to know about overdoses and what to do if they or someone shows signs of one.

UNLPD Assistant Chief Marty Fehringer said a drug overdose is when an individual has too much of a given substance to the point where it is a toxic or lethal amount. 

Some symptoms include, but are not limited to, clammy or cold skin, shallow breathing, blackouts or passing out, vomiting or seizures, according to Fehringer. People may also be less inhibited than they normally are or not aware of their surroundings.

Drug overdoses can also cause comas or death.

“That’s the dangerous part with what’s been happening in our community lately is the fact that numerous people have passed away,” Fehringer said.

If someone sees an unconscious or unresponsive person, Fehringer said to immediately call 911, even if someone has taken illegal drugs. Nebraska’s Good Samaritan law provides a protection from civil liability of certain violations to people who are experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose if they call the police or emergency services immediately.

“It’s all about saving lives,” Fehringer said. “If you’re really, truly a friend to somebody, you need to do what you can right now.”

Fehringer said it is always dangerous to experiment with drugs, but even more so now since many of the drugs that are being distributed contain fentanyl, which is leading to more accidental deaths. 

Every campus officer at UNLPD carries a life-saving drug called naloxone, which can be used to reverse an opioid overdose, Fehringer said. Not every LPD officer carries it, however, and it is not guaranteed to work every time it is administered.

“It’s a dangerous game, and our communities really suffered in the last couple of months as far as people who have overdosed,” Fehringer said.

Individuals might not know where the drugs they ingest are coming from, Fehringer said, and the suppliers might not know themselves. This means users might not know what is actually in the drugs before they use them. 

For students who want to receive help for their drug use or addiction, Fehringer said there are different avenues they can take. Students can receive an assessment for both alcohol and drug addiction through Counseling and Psychological Services, which will also help connect students with other resources. 

If students are uncomfortable seeking resources on campus, there are meetings and resources available across Lincoln that deal with substance abuse and addiction.

“Drug addictions are hard,” Fehringer said. “All addictions are hard, you know, and so, it’s hard to judge people you don’t know, you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes, you don’t know the things that they’re going through. There’s all kinds of resources on campus that really are set in place to try to help students be successful.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, CAPS can be reached at 402.472.7450 for additional resources.