Overdose deaths aren’t just a symptom of the current opioid crisis, but we have seen an increase in drug overdoses due to drugs like cocaine and meth. The trend is not only exclusive to drug users who used an opiate alongside the cocaine or meth, these two drugs in particular have been the cause of a rising death rate for users.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “From 2016 to 2017, death rates involving cocaine and psychostimulants each increased by approximately one-third, and increases occurred across all demographic groups…” (Newman).
We saw a 20% increase in cocaine-involved deaths— deaths that did not involve an opioid, deaths that were strictly caused by cocaine. Meth also proved to show heightened overdose death numbers, as overdose deaths from meth alone increased by about 24% (Newman). These figures are nearly doubled when you include the addition of opioid-involved overdoses with the same substances.
Of course fentanyl plays a massive role in overdose deaths, as we know, but fentanyl is not only being used exclusively to cut other opiates. In fact, many overdose deaths from cocaine and meth are attributed to the drugs containing fentanyl. The drugs are being “cut” with the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, to increase the substance’s strength, despite it being absolutely lethal in small amounts. In a study, “…researchers analyzed data on one million urine drug tests taken in various medical settings. The investigators found that between January 2013 and September 2018, the presence of fentanyl in urine drug tests that were also positive for cocaine or methamphetamine rose 1,850% and 798%, respectively” (Preidt). Many drug users have no idea that the drugs they are using, like cocaine and meth, also have fentanyl added into them. This easily contributes to overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is so deadly that the Department of Homeland Security is allegedly considering declaring fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. In an internal memo, “…prepared by James McDonnell, the assistant secretary for countering weapons of mass destruction…It states that the drug’s ‘high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking non conventional materials for a chemical weapons attack'” (Lardieri). This memo was dated February 22nd, 2019, showing the fentanyl has been on the government’s radar for quite some time now.
Surging Overdose Deaths for Cocaine and Meth
Apart from the obvious and widespread impact of opioids on death rates in the U.S., cocaine and meth overdoses are surging. From national statistics data on causes of death, “…in 2017, 1 in 5 drug overdose deaths involved cocaine” (Mundell). Additionally, psychostimulants— including meth, MDMA, and amphetamines were responsible for “…nearly 15% of all fatal drug ODs for 2017” (Mundell).
These overdose deaths seem to be represented largely in certain regions of the United States, for example, “Cocaine-related deaths were most common in the Midwest, while the West had the highest rate of fatal overdoses involving psychostimulants,..” according to researchers from the CDC (Mundell).
Cocaine Use Disorder
Cocaine use disorder, which is a substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, with the certain criteria. If you answer yes to two or more of the following criteria, within a 12-month period, you may have a cocaine use disorder and should reach out to us for help:
In the past year, have you…
- Used more cocaine or for longer than intended?
- attempted to stop or control cocaine use but were unsuccessful in your efforts?
- Spent a great deal of time in obtaining cocaine, using it, or recovering from its effects?
- Had a craving, or a strong desire or urge to use cocaine?
- Continued to use cocaine resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home?
- Continued to use of cocaine despite having persistent social problems that it caused or made worse?
- Given up or reduced important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of use of cocaine?
- Continued to use cocaine, despite it causing you to be in physically hazardous situations (i.e. driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, etc.)
- Continued to use cocaine, even when you know a physical or psychological problem was likely caused or exacerbated by cocaine?
- Developed a tolerance to cocaine?
- Developed withdrawal symptoms to cocaine?
Answering yes to two or more of the above criteria means that you have a substance use disorder. For help, please reach out to us.
Meth Use Disorder
Meth use disorder, another form of substance use disorder, is also listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The criteria for a meth use disorder is as follows:
In the past year, have you…
- Used more meth than intended or for longer period than intended?
- attempted to stop or control meth use, but were unsuccessful in your efforts?
- Spent a great deal of time in obtaining meth, using it, or recovering from its effects?
- Had a craving, or a strong desire or urge to use meth?
- Continued to use meth resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home?
- Continued to use of meth despite having persistent social problems that it caused or made worse?
- Given up or reduced important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of meth use?
- Continued to use meth, despite it causing you to be in physically hazardous situations (i.e. driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, etc.)
- Continued to use meth, even when you know a physical or psychological problem was likely caused or exacerbated by your meth use?
- Developed a tolerance to meth?
- Developed withdrawal symptoms to meth?
If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions, then you likely have a meth use disorder and should reach out to us for help immediately. The more questions you could identify with, the more severe the disorder.
Drug overdoses account for far too many deaths in the United States, and the statistics are growing to a scary number. With the inclusion of life-threatening synthetic counterparts, like fentanyl, substance abusers are at a much higher risk of death. What we can do is continue to provide comprehensive addiction treatment, to help those who struggle from substance abuse and addiction to overcome their problem. We are dedicated to lessening the impact of addiction and save as many lives as we can in the process. “Drug overdoses continue to evolve along with emerging threats, changes in the drug supply, mixing of substances with or without the user’s knowledge, and poly-substance abuse…More can and must be done to provide addicts with tailored and effective prevention and response strategies to help curb these trends” (Mundell).
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to us at (877)-RECOVERY or (888) 716-4070. Our team of addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.
Lardieri, Alexa. “DHS Considering Classifying Fentanyl as Weapon of Mass Destruction.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report L.P., 16 Apr. 2019, www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2019-04-16/report-dhs-considering-classifying-fentanyl-as-weapon-of-mass-destruction
Mundell, E.J. “Not Just Opioids: Deaths Tied to Cocaine, Meth Are Soaring, Too.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report L.P., 2 May 2019, www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-05-02/not-just-opioids-deaths-tied-to-cocaine-meth-are-soaring-too
Newman, Katelyn. “The Evolving Nature of the U.S. Drug Epidemic.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report L.P., 2 May 2019, www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2019-05-02/overdose-deaths-involving-cocaine-drugs-like-meth-rise-in-us
Preidt, Robert. “Fentanyl Becoming a Deadly Accomplice in Cocaine, Meth Abuse.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report L.P., 6 May 2019, www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-05-06/fentanyl-becoming-a-deadly-accomplice-in-cocaine-meth-abuse