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Medical Examiner: 69 Overdose Deaths in March


Contact: Christopher Harris, (216) 443-7157; cbharris@cuyahogacounty.us

At least 42 Deaths Over the Past 3 Weeks

– Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson, today issued a public health alert, stating that Cuyahoga County has suffered at least 69 suspected overdose deaths in the month of March. With only data from the 1st Quarter of 2021, it’s too early to project with certainty how fatal this year will be. However, if deaths continue at this pace, Cuyahoga County could again see over 700 overdose deaths. The last time Cuyahoga County suffered over 700 deaths was in 2017.

Additionally, 13 overdose deaths have occurred in the first 5 days of April. Toxicology testing has not yet confirmed which drug(s) have caused the recent spike. In 2017, fentanyl, cocaine, and carfentanil were the most common drugs found in our overdose deaths. Currently, fentanyl and cocaine appear to be the most common drugs found in overdose deaths.

“This is a serious development and the community should be aware of this spike in overdose deaths,” said Dr. Gilson. “Some preliminary data suggests minority communities may be more vulnerable in this outbreak. Risk reduction strategies like naloxone kits and fentanyl test strips are available at no cost and are effective at saving lives.”

Year Jan Feb Mar Total (Q1) Total (Year)
2017 54 67 39 160 729
2021 50 41 69 160 739*

*Projection at current rate as of 4/6/21

Short-term and long-term intervention is available. Naloxone and fentanyl test strips are effective ways to reduce the risk of a fatal overdose.

FREE fentanyl test strips are available at the following locations:

If you or anyone that you know is actively using or recovering from opioid addiction, contact Project DAWN for information at 216-778-5677. Eligible program participants, are given FREE Naloxone kits – the opioid reversing antidote.

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