Prescription bottled filled with pills surrounded by more of the same tablets
Opioid Crisis Concept: High angle view of a prescription bottled filled with pills surrounded by more of the same tablets.

The unrelenting crisis

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the spring 2022 edition of Jack, Joseph Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences’ Action magazine. We’re sharing it in The Daily now in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day this week (Aug. 31).

Last fall, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner issued two public health alerts unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic: The first came when 12 people in the northeast Ohio county died of opioid overdoses in two days, and the second when eight died in a single day of the same cause. 

By the end of 2021, drug overdose deaths in the county, which has consistently seen among the worst overdose fatality rates in the state and the U.S., surged to near record-breaking highs—approximately 700 in total. The numbers surpassed 2017’s statistics, which previously marked the worst year in the county’s history. 

But this time, carfentanil—a synthetic opioid used as an elephant tranquilizer that is 100 times more potent than fentanyl—was not the culprit as it was in 2017. Instead, it was fentanyl, which is cheaper to produce in smaller quantities, leading to higher profits for traffickers, according to Ryan McMaster, research data manager at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. 
McMaster is just one member of the Mandel School community taking an active role tackling the surging crisis in Cleveland and beyond.

Read more about what our faculty, staff and alumni are doing in Action (story begins on page 17).