CLEVELAND, Ohio – Law enforcement officials believe a recent spike in overdose deaths in the Cleveland area is linked to cocaine laced with more powerful opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon said.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office said 19 people died in January after overdosing on cocaine mixed with heroin or fentanyl. Officials also believe that many of the 14 overdose deaths that happened last weekend in Cuyahoga County are linked to the same drug mixture, Rendon said.
“If someone is using cocaine, they might not be expecting it to be mixed with fentanyl,” Rendon said. “It’s very dangerous.”
Drug dealers may be adding heroin and fentanyl to cocaine to create more opioid addicts, Rendon said. Opioids affect brain chemistry, so just one dose could lead to an addiction, she said.
“If you use [heroin or fentanyl] unknowingly, you could become addicted in relatively short order,” she said.
Officials have also seen other drugs, such as marijuana, being mixed with heroin and fentanyl for the same reason. Painesville Township Police Department issued a warning on its Facebook page Wednesday after three people overdosed on opioid-laced marijuana.
Overdose deaths soared last year in Cuyahoga County, primarily due to an increase in cases involving fentanyl. But cocaine was also responsible for a slew of fatalities.
Through the first nine months of 2016, 46 people died in Cuyahoga County after overdosing on cocaine. In addition, 136 people died after overdosing on cocaine mixed with heroin, fentanyl or other opioids, statistics provided by the medical examiner’s office showed.
Statistics for the full year 2016 are not yet available.
The 19 people who died last month after overdosing on cocaine mixed with fentanyl put Cuyahoga County on pace to nearly double 2016’s total.
Law enforcement officials have seen an influx of