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Fentanyl a factor in 14 of 16 drug overdose deaths over recent five-day period in Cuyahoga County

August 9, 2018

Fentanyl a factor in 14 of 16 drug overdose deaths over recent five-day period in Cuyahoga County

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Fentanyl was a factor in at least 14 of the 16 drug overdose deaths from a recent five-day period in Cuyahoga County, according to preliminary test results released by the medical examiner’s office.

Fentanyl overdose deaths are still projected to significantly decrease this year compared to last year’s record total. But the continued prevalence of other opioids such as heroin, and an increase in deaths involving cocaine, has Cuyahoga County on pace to approach last year’s total of 727 fatal drug overdoses, according to statistics released by the medical examiner’s office.

Officials have not offered a cause of the recent increase in overdose deaths. The medical examiner’s office is still conducting tests, a spokesman said Thursday.

The recent increase in drug overdose deaths is the latest example of the danger that drugs -- and fentanyl in particular -- pose to the community, U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said.

“This most recent wave of fatalities demonstrate once again that there is no safe amount of drugs in the current climate,” Herdman said in a statement. “Whatever people think they’re buying on the street, whether it’s cocaine, heroin, or pills, they must assume that it contains fentanyl.  In other words, it will kill you.”

The medical examiner’s office reported earlier this week that 14 people died of overdoses from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6. Additional test results have since increased the number of deaths to 16, a spokesman said Thursday.

The test results also revealed:

Fourteen deaths involved fentanyl, 10 likely involved heroin, and seven involved cocaine. One case remains undetermined.The victims ranged in age from 27 years old to 72 years old. Seven victims were over the age of 60.The victims included 12 men and four women. Ten were white, five were black and once was Hispanic.Nine deaths happened in Cleveland, three in Euclid, two in Lakewood, and once each in Garfield Heights and Maple Heights.

Cuyahoga County in on pace for 406 fentanyl overdose deaths this year, which is still down from a record 472 last year. Heroin is a projected to be a factor in 217 deaths in 2018, a decrease from 240 in 2017, according to the medical examiner’s most recent monthly report through July 31.

Officials have seen a notable decrease in deaths involving carfentanil, an animal sedative that has been linked to the opioid epidemic. The drug has been a factor in 21 overdose deaths this year, putting Cuyahoga County on pace to see a significant drop from 191 last year.

Earlier this year, statistics suggested opioid overdose deaths might have leveled off after eight straights years of dramatic increases. But an increase in deaths involving other drugs, such as cocaine, have Cuyahoga County on pace for 702 drug overdose deaths this year, approaching last year’s record total of 727.

Cocaine is projected to be a factor in 372 overdose deaths this year, up from 290 last year, statistics say. It would be the fourth straight year cocaine-related deaths have increased in Cuyahoga County.

Officials have attributed the decrease in opioid deaths to the availability of naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug; Ohio doctors decreasing the number of opioids they are prescribing; and a law enforcement focus on arresting and prosecuting drug dealers, among other factors.

To comment on this story, visit Thursday’s crime and courts comments page.

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