Cuyahoga County Continuing to See Spike in Drug Overdose Deaths, ER Visits as Ohio Reopens


  • Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
As the state of Ohio eased its COVID-19 restrictions and as bars and restaurants re-opened last week, Cuyahoga County saw nine overdose deaths in only 48 hours. All but one were in Cleveland.

The county medical examiner, Thomas Gilson, told that the spike was attributable to multiple factors, including the increased social interaction and the lower drug tolerance of users after weeks of quarantine. A possible influx of dangerous local designer drugs due to fewer substances arriving from China and Mexico might also have contributed.

Ideastream reported that local hospitals and nonprofits also had to cut back or reshape many of their addiction services in an effort to limit physical interactions with patients and slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Since alerts went out last week, the county has continued to see both overdose deaths and drug-related emergency room visits at rates higher than normal. The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County (ADAMHS) reported a 17 percent increase in emergency department visits in May as compared to this point in April.

Both the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and ADAMHS are encouraging the use of fentanyl test strips, which can detect fentanyl in other drugs. Fentanyl is an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and has been detected in huge numbers of overdose deaths in recent years.

"Anyone using illicit drugs – heroin, cocaine, crack – can use these strips to see if the drugs they bought contain fentanyl and make an informed decision about using that drug," wrote ADAMHS in a recent update.

Free fentanyl test strips are available at the following locations:
  • Circle Health Services (12201 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106 | 216.721.4010)
  • Care Alliance Clinic (2916 Central Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115 | 216.535.9100)
  • Care Alliance Clinic (1530 St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland OH 44114 | 216.781.6724)
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.