Powerful new drug affecting Nebraskans

University of Nebraska Health Center room

University of Nebraska Health Center room

A 26 year-old nurse’s aide is accused of stealing pain relieving narcotic patches at least 6 times from elderly patients at the Hooper Care Center.

Hooper Police Chief say they believe Racheal Newlon chewed on the patches to get the drug, Fentanyl, out of him. Newlon is charged with abuse of an elderly person, theft by unlawful taking and possession of a controlled substance.

Newlon worked at the nursing home for about two weeks when supervisors noticed patches missing.

“We called in all the employees and each one submitted to a drug, urine test,” Police Chief, Matt Schott said. “This incident was discovered so quickly and everyone did a really great job in reporting and investigating it.”

Fentanyl is an opiate drug, like oxycodone and heroin. It’s tied to 19 fatal overdoses in Nebraska between 2013 and 2015, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports. Abuse of the drug is becoming more widespread throughout the U.S. because of users discovering ways to synthesize it.

State Epidemiologist, Dr. Thomas Safranek says Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than Morphine and is very easy to overdose on, especially for first time users.

“The first time you use is it has an overwhelming effect,” Safranek says. “It could have a mixture of other drugs in it, creating a really big high users are seeking. It could be really scary.”

The narcotic is given to people with chronic pain and when used correctly with a prescription from a physician, it’s a great drug with great benefits, Safranek said.

“The problem is people have figured out a way to make it on their own,” he says. “It’s such a powerful synthetic drug, greatly affecting most of the brain and all of the respiratory system, that it’s driving opioid overdoses and deaths to an all-time high.”

The drug is so potent, officers and medical professionals are warned not to get any on their exposed skin.

Safranek says Nebraska is on the very low end of deaths and overdoses involving Fentanyl but the numbers are growing at an alarming rate.

“The public needs to understand how scary this drug is and the state needs to respond and address how to control this problem.”

There is an antidote called Naloxone that is a ‘life-saving reversal drug’ for any opioid drug, especially Fentanyl, Safranek says.

A bill in place trying to get all first responding agencies to carry and administer the antidote, as it needs to be injected as soon as possible in an overdose situation.

Lincoln Police aren’t authorized to dispense drugs, but Lincoln Fire and Rescue carry and distribute it.

The public can also get the antidote by getting a prescription. Safranek says most pharmacists should give it to patients who receive any kind of Fentanyl prescription, just as a precaution.

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