UPDATE: RCPD investigates several suspected fentanyl-related deaths around Manhattan 

A Riley County Police badge rests on a Sergeant's uniform. (Andrea Klepper | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: The Riley County Police Department said it has arrested three individuals on Friday in connection to a suspected fentanyl-related death. You can read our updated article about the arrests here.

The Riley County Police Department is investigating eight suspected fentanyl-related deaths that occurred in 2023. 

“Usually when we see [fentanyl] in our community it’s not necessarily by itself,” Aaron Wintermote, RCPD public information officer, said. “It’s usually accompanied by other drugs. The most common way we see this is what’s commonly known as ‘dirty 30s’ — fake pressed pills that we continue to see around town. … As far as the common denominator [between the victims], ‘dirty 30s’ are probably the biggest similarity we do see.” 

Wintermote said RCPD is committed to detaining dealers who sell fentanyl and laced substances. 

“Our main goal is to find the people that brought these drugs in and sold these drugs to the people and make sure that they go to prison for selling these drugs that ended up killing somebody,” Wintermote said. 

Wintermote said individuals that have a history of drug use are more likely to buy and abuse fentanyl.

“Usually the people that we see overdosing are people who have overdosed multiple times before,” Wintermote said. “It’s hard to say who dealers are targeting, but known drug users are probably at the highest risk of overdosing and being victims of this because they’re in that world already.” 

Wintermote said fentanyl is especially dangerous in comparison to other drugs because of how little is needed to cause an overdose. 

“There’s not a great way to tell the difference between a real prescription pill and a fake pressed pill that has fentanyl in it,” Wintermote said. “You may think it’s just a tiny little pill and there can’t be much in it, but it takes such a small amount to kill you and that’s really what makes it so dangerous.” 

Wintermote said the best way to stay safe from fentanyl is to avoid recreational drugs altogether.

“The big thing is prescription pills, but we’ve seen [fentanyl] in marijuana, cocaine, xanax, percocets and adderall, which is popular with college students,” Wintermote said. “Just because you’re not into hard drugs and you think you’re taking something that’s safer doesn’t make you immune from this problem too. Those risks are there with any illegal substance that you’re taking. The best way to mitigate is to not engage.”

Wintermote said there are resources available to minimize harm for those struggling with addiction.

“The State of Kansas did just make fentanyl testing strips legal, so you can order those online to try and test for fentanyl beforehand,” Wintermote said. “Narcan [a medicine that can block opioid overdose symptoms] is also available online and at some doctor’s offices. There are those resources for people battling addiction to help themselves not suffer from this drug like some others have.” 

When asked about the status of RCPD’s investigation into the fentanyl dealers, Wintermote declined to comment.