Cocaine Users’ Overdose Deaths in ‘Historic Surge’

While most states keep a close eye on opioid overdose deaths, they may need to start focusing on cocaine and other stimulants as well, Stateline reports. The same lethal drug that has been driving the spiraling opioid epidemic is also causing an historic surge in overdose deaths among cocaine users. That’s according to an analysis of death certificate data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that fentanyl — a cheap synthetic opioid one hundred times more potent than morphine — and other opioids were involved in nearly three-fourths of cocaine overdose deaths and an increasing number of methamphetamine deaths. In an overdose epidemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans since 1999, state and local officials have been concentrating on opioids, which were involved in nearly 70 percent of overdose deaths in 2017. The CDC’s new analysis indicates that public health and law enforcement officials should be just as vigilant when it comes to cocaine, meth and other prescription and illicit drugs of abuse.

John Eadie of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s National Emerging Threats Initiative is working with communities in Ohio, Vermont and Virginia to create a model drug surveillance system that can be used to design appropriate interdiction, prevention and treatment programs. At least seven other states also have signed up. Roughly 14,000 cocaine users and 10,000 meth users died in the U.S. in 2017, an increase of more than a third compared with 2016 and triple the number of deaths in 2012. That puts both stimulants — a class of drugs that speeds up physiological and nervous system activity — on par with the opioid depressant heroin, which was involved in 15,000 overdose deaths in 2017.

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