New Cleveland billboards give caution that fentanyl mixed with cocaine can be deadly

Published: Oct. 29, 2019 at 3:26 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - More than a dozen new billboards in Cleveland are catching the attention of drivers.

They feature snacks like pretzels or nuts, but their message on drugs is serious.

The billboards warn cocaine users that fentanyl could be in their next batch.

Overdose deaths are going up with this deadly opioid mixture.

Most cocaine users don't even know the painkiller fentanyl is mixed in, and it can be a deadly mistake.

The people behind these billboards are trying to change that.

Campaign designed to raise awareness around the fact that cocaine is likely contaminated with...
Campaign designed to raise awareness around the fact that cocaine is likely contaminated with fentanyl and potentially fatal(Source: Department of Justice)

The U.S. Attorney's Office and Cuyahoga County funded the billboards as a part of a campaign with "Greater Than Heroin."

There have been a record number of overdose deaths involving cocaine in Cuyahoga County, whether on its own or mixed with fentanyl.

So far in 2019, nearly 60% of overdose deaths involved cocaine.

19 News got a hold of the numbers from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office. We found there have been 152 cocaine and fentanyl deaths through Oct. 1, already coming close to the total last year of 156 overdose deaths.

In 2017, 190 people died from cocaine and fentanyl mixed together.

In 2016, there were 161 deaths.

19 News discovered that’s where the jump in cocaine and fentanyl deaths began; back in 2016.

In 2015, there were only 24 overdose deaths from the deadly drug combination.

That’s more than a 570% increase.

Fentanyl on its own is still the No. 1 overdose killer of people in Cuyahoga County.

The billboards will be up through the end of the year.

They direct people to resources for addiction, including this 24-hour crisis and referral hotline: 216-623-6888.

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