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As Fentanyl Spreads, Dealers Now Targeting African-Americans

New Hampshire State Forensic Lab
A lethal dose of fentanyl compared to heroin and carfentanil.

Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson says the mixing of deadly synthetic heroin with cocaine is spreading the opioid crisis to the African American community.


In testimony to a U.S. Senate subcommittee, which is chaired by Senator Rob Portman, Gilson said the epidemic has been largely a problem in the white communities – especially rural areas of Ohio, West Virginia and the mid-Atlantic states.

“That used to be largely a Caucasian majority, with upwards of 85 percent of victims," Gilson said. "However, this is changing now and it seems -- almost with purposeful intent -- cocaine is now being mixed into the fentanyl distribution and the analogs of fentanyl in an effort to introduce these drugs into the African-American community.”

Gilson called the crisis “a slow-moving, mass fatality event.” He says local communities need more help in treatment, prevention and in finding enough pathologists to adequately measure the death toll to track where the epidemic is spreading and what measures are most likely to stem it.

Gilson also gave the final 2016 death report for Cuyahoga County, which saw 666 overdose deaths, with heroin, fentanyl and the re-emergence of cocaine contributing to 90 percent of those.