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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 17, 2018

Ohio opioid crisis is real, but this headline is misleading

An alarming headline stated there was a sudden massive death wave in Ohio, but the facts show there was no one-day wipeout.

"BREAKING: 60 people just found dead in Ohio," said the May 13 headline on True American, a website with a lot of clickbait headlines. The story is a ripoff of the same misleading stories that appeared in June 2017 on multiple websites.

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The headline could lead viewers to believe there was a sudden one-day death toll in Ohio, but the story actually refers to ongoing deaths from opioids in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located.

"The death toll in one Ohio town continues to rise as 60 people were just found dead overnight and emergency crews can’t keep up with the calls that continue to pour in," the story stated.

But later in the story, it said that the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner confirmed that 60 people died in February "from the same alarming cause." The story quoted a news report by FOX - 8 WJW (Cleveland, Ohio) about the overdose deaths.

While the True American story has a May 2018 dateline, the TV report was from March 2017 and refers to February 2017 data released by the medical examiner. The TV station reported that "at least 60 died from heroin, fentanyl or a combination of the two, bringing this year's total to 109." The report said that the number could rise as toxicology results were received in additional cases, but the 60 deaths outpaced the previous one-month record of 57 drug fatalities in September 2016.

The data came from information released by the medical examiner to the media.

Christopher Harris, a spokesman for the medical examiner, told PolitiFact that the final number for February 2017 for opioid-related deaths was 65. For all of 2017, there were 727 total drug deaths; 553 opioid related.

In 2018 so far, there have been at least 137 suspected opioid related deaths:

Ohio is one of the hardest hit states in the nation by the opioid epidemic. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has pointed to the opioid crisis as a factor in the increase in homicides in Ohio.

Our ruling

A headline said, "BREAKING: 60 people just found dead in Ohio." The scare-tactic headline creates a false impression that something catastrophic happened to cause 60 people to suddenly drop dead. In reality, the Cuyahoga Medical Examiner initially found that 60 died from overdoses in February 2017, and later reported the final number was 65. So the number is also incomplete and outdated. We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

True American, "BREAKING: 60 people just found dead in Ohio," May 13, 2018

Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, "Heroin/Fentanyl/Cocaine Related Deaths in Cuyahoga County," May 15, 2018

Cuyahoga County, "60 Fatal Heroin/Fentanyl Overdoses in February," March 3, 2017

FOX - 8 WJW, "February was highest month for deadly heroin, fentanyl overdoses in Cuyahoga County history," March 3, 2017

Dayton Daily News, "Cuyahoga County opioid-related overdose deaths hit record in Feb.," March 4, 2017

Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Fatal opioid overdoses set record in February Cuyahoga County," March 4, 2017

PolitiFact, "Sherrod Brown credits Obamacare for helping pay for opioid treatment," April 20, 2018

PolitiFact, "Cordray on point about increase in firearm deaths in Ohio," April 12, 2018

Interview, Christopher Harris, Cuyahoga Medical Examiner's Office spokesman, May 17, 2018

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Ohio opioid crisis is real, but this headline is misleading

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