Cocaine overdoses are increasing in the United States, and opioids are largely to blame. Learn more about a recent CDC study revealing the dangers of cocaine use. 

Deaths due to cocaine overdoses steadily rose since 2012, with a large surge in recent years. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, between 2016 and 2017, cocaine-related deaths increased by 34%. Cocaine now accounts for approximately 20% of all drug overdose deaths, making it nearly as deadly as heroin.

Rates of Overdoses

While rates of cocaine overdose with and without opioid use increased, almost three-fourths of all cocaine overdose deaths involve opioids. Synthetic opioids are largely to blame. These manufactured compounds mimic naturally occurring opioids and are extremely potent. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is one-hundred times more potent than morphine.

Why Are Cocaine and Opioids Linked?

Synthetic opioids are often readily available and cheaper than cocaine or other opioids, which is why they are sometimes cut in with cocaine. This addition can lead to people unknowingly consuming an unknown drug, and because fentanyl is so potent, minimal amounts can cause an overdose.

Cocaine Overdose Statistics

Cocaine overdose rates increased across multiple races, geographic locations, and sex. However, according to the CDC report, “Among racial/ethnic groups, the highest rate of cocaine-involved deaths in 2017 occurred in blacks (8.3 per 100,000), who also experienced the largest relative rate change (36.1%) compared with 2016.” Additionally, men were twice as likely as women to die from a stimulant overdose. The Midwest, Northeast, and Southern states have been harmed the most.

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By – Nathan Jakowski, PharmD
Nate Jakowski is a clinical pharmacist specializing in drug information and managed care. He completed his Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of Wisconsin. Read more

Mbabazi, K., et al. “Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine a[…] States, 2003–2017.” Published May 3, 2019. Accessed May 24, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.