April 25, 2021

Overdoses in Cleveland During Pandemic

Overdoses in Cleveland During Pandemic


The pandemic turned the world upside-down. Not only is catching the coronavirus itself a source of fear for many, but also for men and women struggling with addiction, the pandemic created a number of other challenges. As a result, the number of overdoses in Cleveland, Ohio during the pandemic rose to frightening numbers.

Overdose Statistics in Cleveland During the Pandemic

Over the past several years, many organizations have worked hard to reduce the number of overdoses in Cleveland and surrounding areas. Opioids especially have been a growing source of concern with the ongoing opioid epidemic and the continued need for opioid addiction treatment programs.

Even with these added efforts, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown drug users for a loop. According to a division of the Ohio Attorney General’s office, more people died in the spring of 2020 from opioid overdoses than ever before in the state. This timeline coincides with the beginning of the shutdown and the initial spike in fear over COVID-19. It also followed a significant drop in opioid-related deaths in Ohio over the previous two years.1

Cleveland drug overdoses during the pandemic specifically saw the most drastic spike in May 2020, but Cuyahoga County saw high numbers of overdoses throughout the year. Together, these numbers lead to a death toll for 2020 that was higher than in the last two years.2

Why Cleveland Overdoses Rose During the Pandemic

For families of those loved ones, there’s no simple way to rationalize what’s happened. Some local experts believe that the increase in overdoses in Cleveland during the pandemic was a result of several secondary and unforeseen effects of the coronavirus.

Border Closures

During the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, borders closed down. It became harder for people to gain access to drugs like fentanyl and heroin, much of which continues to be brought into the United State from other countries. In May 2020, exports from Mexico and China picked back up and likely including the smuggling of some of these illegal drugs. As a result, access to drugs grew once more and may have led to the spike in overdose deaths in Ohio during this point of the pandemic.

Lowered Tolerance

Because of limited drug supplies in the early pandemic, some casual users may have had to cut back on their drug use. Once restrictions were lifted and these drugs became more readily available, these same casual users may have gone immediately back to using their normal amount. By this time, their body no longer had such a high tolerance and was unable to handle their usual dose, resulting in an overdose.

Mental Health Problems

Another major reason for the rise in Cleveland overdoses during the coronavirus pandemic likely stemmed from the increase in mental health problems during this time. Addiction is often tied to poor mental health.  Isolation, anxiety, and stress from the pandemic made many people’s mental health worse. Without easy access to mental health treatment in Cleveland because of restrictions, some people turned to drugs and alcohol for support instead.

Cleveland Overdoses Post-Pandemic

As vaccines are administered and life starts to go back to normal, the impact of the coronavirus on overdose deaths in Ohio and across the country should start to wane. Unfortunately, there will likely still be some lingering effects as people need time to recover.

At Vertava Health, we are here to help you and your family get back on track. Whether someone is struggling with addiction or their mental health, our dedicated team of counselors in Rocky River are here to help people in the area find relief and control. Contact us today to take the first step toward healing.





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