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A case study for local data surveillance in opioid overdose fatalities in Cuyahoga County, OH 2016-2020

NCJ Number
Drug and Alcohol Dependence Volume: 8 Dated: September 2023
Date Published
September 2023
8 pages

This study of death investigation data from overdose fatalities found that local data surveillance can detect regional variations in overdose deaths.


This study found that local data of drug-related overdose deaths and drug seizures from a medical examiner's office and affiliated forensic laboratory lab can be used for timely public health surveillance, and informing prevention, and intervention at the county level. The authors examined carfentanil overdose deaths, other contributing Cause of Death (COD) drugs, and drug seizure trends from 2016 to 2020 in Northeast Ohio. The authors studied death investigation data from the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Medical Examiner's Office (CCMEO) of all fatal accidental opioid overdoses as well as drug seizure data from Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory (CCRFSL). The authors also compared decedents’ race, gender, age, residential locality, drugs contributing to the COD in opioid cases, and for carfentanil, fentanyl, and cocaine seizures in Cuyahoga County from 2016 to 2020 (N = 2948). Decedents’ had an average of three different drugs contributing to their COD. A bimodal carfentanil spike was observed in fatal accidental overdoses in Cuyahoga County for the years 2017 and 2019. Decedents in urban residency, who were Non-Hispanic, White, and younger, significantly predicted the presence of carfentanil contributing to the COD. In 2020, decedents who were Black and older were significantly associated with cocaine contributing to the COD. Carfentanil and carfentanil-related overdoses were significantly correlated. The pervasiveness of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analog (e.g., carfentanil) mixtures with other drugs are changing the demographics of persons who fatally overdose in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Significant trending shifts can also be observed for the presence of carfentanil in decedent and seizure county data. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: September 1, 2023