Recent Increases in Cocaine-Related Overdose Deaths and the Role of Opioids

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Abstract

Objectives

To assess trends in cocaine overdose deaths and examine the role opioids play in these deaths.

Methods

We used data on drug overdose deaths in the United States from 2000 to 2015 collected in the National Vital Statistics System to calculate annual rates and numbers of cocaine-related overdose deaths overall and deaths both involving and not involving opioids. We assessed statistically significant changes in trends with joinpoint regression.

Results

Rates of cocaine-related overdose deaths increased significantly from 1.26 to 2.50 per 100 000 population from 2000 to 2006, declined to 1.35 in 2010, and increased to 2.13 in 2015. Cocaine-related overdose deaths involving opioids increased from 0.37 to 0.91 from 2000 to 2006, declined to 0.57 in 2010, and then increased to 1.36 in 2015. Cocaine-related overdose deaths not involving opioids increased from 0.89 to 1.59 from 2000 to 2006 and then declined to 0.78 in 2015.

Conclusions

Opioids, primarily heroin and synthetic opioids, have been driving the recent increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths. This corresponds to the growing supply and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl in the United States.

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