Dr. Tom Gilson, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner

In this episode of the Cover2 Podcast, Greg interviews Dr. Tom Gilson, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner. Dr. Gilson has worked as a medical examiner for 22 years, the last 5 in Cuyahoga County. In that short span of time, he has seen an opioid epidemic emerge in Northeast Ohio.

“In Cuyahoga County, in the last 5 years, we’ve seen a big rise in illegal narcotics like heroin and fentanyl,” he says. In 2006, there were around 40 deaths in Cuyahoga County from heroin overdose. In 2012, that number had risen to over 100. The last few years, it has grown to almost 200 annually. “This problem took a very different turn in 2016,” Dr. Gilson says. “We’ve had consistently higher overdose death rates every month of 2016—to the point where now, we’ve seen as many drug overdose deaths in the first half of 2016 as we saw in all of 2015.”

Greg asks Dr. Gilson why a recovering user will suddenly relapse into a fatal overdose. Dr. Gilson explains that when a person relapses, they’ve lost their tolerance in the time that they were clean. It only takes a few weeks of being clean for that tolerance to reset. When the user takes the same large dosage that they used to take, they can’t tolerate it, and an overdose occurs.

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