Increase in Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine

Often overlooked because of all the attention generated by the increase in opioid overdose deaths over the years is that fact that deaths due to other drugs have been on the rise as well.  On October 7, 2020, NCHS released a new study looking at trends in deaths for one of those drugs.  “Increase in Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine, United States, 2009–2018documents a staggering increase in death rates from cocaine overdoses, going back a decade. 

From 2013 to 2018, for example, the cocaine overdose death rate tripled in America.  During that period and even more recently, the numbers of cocaine-related deaths have also risen dramatically.  In 2015, there were 6,789 overdose deaths in the U.S. related to cocaine.  According to provisional data for the one-year period ending in February 2020, that number has more than doubled, to 16,920 deaths.  In 2015, there were nearly twice as many heroin overdose deaths than cocaine deaths; in March 2019 to February 2020, there were over 2,500 more cocaine deaths than heroin deaths. 

Some other findings from the October 7 report, using final data from the National Vital Statistics System, include:

  • The rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine was stable between 2009 and 2013, then nearly tripled from 1.6 per 100,000 in 2013 to 4.5 in 2018.
  • In 2018, rates were highest for adults aged 35–44 and lowest for those aged 65 and over.
  • In 2018, the rate for the non-Hispanic black population (9.0) was nearly twice that for the non-Hispanic white (4.6) and three times that for the Hispanic (3.0) populations.
  • From 2014 through 2018, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine with opioids increased at a faster pace than the rate of cocaine deaths without opioids.
  • In 2018, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine was highest in urban counties in the Northeast and lowest in rural counties in the West.

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