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Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner issues alert after 5 people die of suspected overdoses in a 12-hour period

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid developed to treat pain in cancer patients, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. It is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
David Smith
Reporting On Addiction
Test strips will indicate if a drug includes fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson has issued a public health alert after five people died of suspected drug overdoses within a 12-hour period Thursday.

The dead included two women and three men between the ages of 32 and 70, according to a press release from the medical examiner's office.

“Drug overdoses continue to be a problem in our community with periodic clusters of deaths like yesterday,” Gilson warned. “Individuals should avoid using illicit drugs or use a harm reduction plan in the event they are unable to stop using. Treatment can help with long-term sobriety.”  

The medical examiner's office recommended the following to reduce the risk of harm.

  • Keep the overdose reversal drug Naloxone and fentanyl test strips on hand. Fentanyl test strips will also detect fentanyl analogs. Information on how to test is available here. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is available through Project Dawn at MetroHealth.
  • Don’t use alone. The risk of fatally overdosing is much lower if another person is monitoring.
  • Sit upright when using. Sitting upright can reduce the chances of slumping forward, which can cause airway obstruction.
  • Call 911. The Good Samaritan Law provides immunity for minor drug possession or drug paraphernalia offenses for both the person who overdosed and the person who called 911 for help.
  • Seek help. Addiction is treatable like other chronic diseases. Treatment might vary but recovery is possible. The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County provides a 24-hour crisis hotline at 216-623-6888.  

Recovery from addiction is possible. For help, please call the free and confidential treatment referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP), or visit findtreatment.gov

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.