Public health alert: Cuyahoga County coroner says COVID-19 pandemic may be factor in recent spike of overdose deaths

Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 12:21 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County medical examiner issued a public health alert on Tuesday after seeing a startling spike in drug overdose deaths within the last 48 hours.

Dr. Thomas Gilson said nine people died from suspected drug overdoses in a 48-hour time span, with at least 45 suspected fatal overdoses reported this month in Cuyahoga County through May 18.

“The medical examiner’s office has seen nine fatalities in last 48 hours, which is measurably higher than what we have been seeing for the first four months of 2020," Dr. Gilson said.

CCMEO overdose deaths data
CCMEO overdose deaths data(Source: CCMEO)

Dr. Gilson said COVID-19 may be a factor in the increase in overdose deaths.

"The interruption of drug use due to COVID-19 may mean users’ tolerance has dropped and, therefore, they are at higher risk of overdose and fatality,” added Dr. Gilson. “Additionally, any disruption of the illicit drug supply due to COVID-19 may mean that users are subject to a wide variety of other dangerous substances being substituted without their knowledge.”

Free strips to test for the potentially lethal drug fentanyl are offered at two locations in Cleveland:

The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, or ADAMHS, Board of Cuyahoga County provides a 24-hour crisis hotline at 216-623-6888.

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