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.