The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Cocaine overdose deaths jump in recent years, CDC reports

U.S. deaths from overdoses of cocaine, a powerfully addictive stimulant, numbered 14,666 in 2018, the most recent year tallied, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of overdose deaths remained stable from 2009 through 2013, the report found, but then headed upward at about 27 percent each year from 2013 through 2018. That rate increase represents about 2½ times more cocaine-related deaths in 2018 than in 2014. Although the report does not address potential causes of the increase in cocaine overdose deaths, the Drug Enforcement Administration has said increased availability of the drug, “in large part due to record levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia,” has led to increased usage in the United States. The CDC report says that the rate of overdose deaths from cocaine was higher among men than women and more common among middle-aged people (35 to 44 years old), those living in urban rather than rural areas, and people residing in the Northeast region. In addition, the rate of overdose deaths attributed to cocaine laced with a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl increased faster in recent years than did overdose deaths from purely cocaine. Cocaine overdoses can cause breathing problems, high blood pressure, hallucinations and extreme agitation, as well as seizures, heart attacks and strokes.

— Linda Searing

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