Public Safety Announcement: Fentanyl-Related Deaths Spike in Recent Weeks

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Rich Luchette, (216) 797-0931
Christopher Harris, (216) 694-0063 

CLEVELAND - County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson issued the following public safety announcement related to the recent surge in deaths linked to the use of the drug fentanyl.

In total, since November 13, 11 fatal and at least 12 non-fatal cases have been identified as being fentanyl-related. Previously, in March of 2014, three deaths and 10 non-fatal overdoses were attributed to fentanyl being substituted and presented or sold as heroin.

Fentanyl, a powerful opiate up to 25 times more potent than heroin, has recently been substituted for what was thought to be heroin or mixed with heroin.

As before, the Medical Examiner and the Regional Forensic Science Laboratory are on high alert, expediting testing to identify fentanyl and working with local law enforcement and County Sheriff's office to provide data for their investigations.

To be clear, there is absolutely no safe use of illicit drugs, period. However, anyone using this powerful drug, thinking it to be heroin and using at their normal dose, places themselves at greatly increased risk of overdose and/or death.

Since September 2012, the Cuyahoga County Heroin Initiative has coordinated countywide efforts to raise awareness regarding the toll of this epidemic through medical and law enforcement partnerships. Cuyahoga County has taken several actions to curb this trend, including implementing a prescription drug drop box and making naloxone available to reverse the effects of an overdose.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Regional Forensic Science Laboratory will remain available to provide assistance collecting and analyzing evidence from a crime scene, such as packets, syringes, and drug residue, in order to ensure suspected heroin dealers are brought to justice.

For more information, Cuyahoga County residents can contact the Sheriff’s Department at (216) 443-6000, or the Medical Examiner’s Office at (216) 721-5610.