Eight Dead in Four Days: Heroin, Fentanyl Overdoses in Cuyahoga County


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We report once again this week on a common and tragic theme these days: the rising number of opiate overdose deaths in Cuyahoga County. 

From March 17 to March 20, eight county residents have died from a heroin- or fentanyl-related overdose, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office. Often, the two drugs are used in conjunction, with fentanyl being used to "cut" heroin. The resulting high comes faster and stronger. 

"What happens is that people stop breathing on it," J.P. Abenstein, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, told NPR last year. "The more narcotic you take, the less your body has an urge to breathe. And it makes sense that a lot of people are overdosing on it because they aren't sure how much to take."

From March 10 to March 14, 13 Cuyahoga County residents died from an overdose

The medical examiner's office warned earlier this year that the fentanyl-related death total for 2015 nearly tripled from 2014, with 89 ruled cases (41 of those cases involving both heroin and fentanyl. Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson has reported that, locally, it's becoming clear that "fentanyl in pill form is being sold as Oxycodone." (See photo.)

“This is all the more alarming because this is a much more lethal drug, being dressed up as another popular drug abused by the same population,” Gilson said in a public statement.

The March 23 edition of Scene will feature a longform story on the growing pains of Northeast Ohio drug courts, which present an alternative form of justice — and, ultimately, sobriety — for addicts facing low-level felony charges. 

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