With the exception of 2018, the death toll from drug overdoses was higher each year than last year. This trend has continued since the turn of the century. Now the overdose crisis isn’t just being fueled by opioid drugs.
Cocaine and meth overdoses have risen sharply lately. Many of these overdoses have been fatal. Today people die from stimulants that are not known to cause death, at least not in the high number of deaths that occur today.
Overdose deaths are on the rise, over several periods Drug use sectors
Fatal overdoses are arguably the worst drug addiction-related tragedy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 81,000 people died from drug overdoses from May 2019 to May 2020, the highest drug death toll ever recorded in the past 12 months. The CDC reported that synthetic opioids (mostly illegal fentanyl) were the main driver behind the surge in deaths.
In just one year, fentanyl-related deaths rose 38%, with some geographic areas being hit much harder. For example, ten western states reported an increase in deaths from synthetic opioids of over 98%.
Fentanyl has played a key role in the recent surge in overdose deaths, but it wasn’t the only drug that killed thousands of people. At least not by itself. Cocaine overdoses also increased by 26%, with growing evidence suggesting that drug traffickers and cartels were adding illegal fentanyl to batches of cocaine and meth to increase potency and addiction.
The same phenomenon has occurred with psychostimulants, mainly methamphetamine. According to the CDC, deaths from psychostimulant overdose recently rose 34%. There is also a geographic factor in deaths from cocaine and meth. From 2018 to 2019, the northeast saw the largest increase in deaths from overdosing on psychostimulants such as meth (often spiked with fentanyl). Prior to 2018, the east coast had the highest rate of deaths from psychostimulants.
Cocaine and meth
During most of the crippling addiction crisis of the 21st century, opioids played a prominent role in causing most of the addiction, devastation, and death. That is changing now, especially as more and more addicts are using multiple drugs at the same time. If they use multiple drugs, they die from multiple drugs.
“An alarming increase in deaths from the stimulants methamphetamine and cocaine is a clear example of the fact that we are no longer just faced with an opioid crisis. We are facing a complex and constantly evolving addiction and overdose crisis characterized by the shift in the use and availability of different substances and the joint use of several drugs (and drug classes). “
Up to this point, NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow: “An alarming increase in deaths from the stimulants methamphetamine and cocaine is a clear example that we are no longer just faced with an opioid crisis. We are facing a complex and constantly evolving addiction and overdose crisis characterized by the shift in the use and availability of different substances and the joint use of multiple drugs (and drug classes). The number of deaths from methamphetamine overdose rose sharply in 2009, and preliminary figures from the CDC show that they had increased ten-fold to over 16,500 by 2019. A similar number of people die each year from cocaine overdoses (16,196), the increase almost as much over the same period. “America is no longer just having an opioid crisis, but a crisis with a crisis several Types of drugs.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aren’t the only public health organizations to see a surge in cocaine and meth deaths or the link to fentanyl that has driven the death rate up.
Research in Addiction magazine also discovered the same link and the fact that cocaine and meth overdoses have increased, particularly from the mixture of fentanyl with cocaine and meth. The authors cite, “While cocaine-related deaths increase in the United States that since 2006 it appears to have been driven by opioids, especially synthetic opioids, there has been an increase in non-fatal and fatal psychostimulant overdoses with and without opioids. ”Drug addiction becomes more complex and dangerous as addicts use multiple drugs at the same time.
Fatal Drug Overdoses – Summary of a Public Health Crisis
Even separating fentanyl, cocaine and meth from the picture, overdose deaths for all Other types of drugs are also on the rise. There is a drug overdose death crisis in this country, a national public health emergency that needs to be addressed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 841,000 people have died from drug overdoses since 1999, with the death toll each year higher than last year. In 2019, 70,630 people died from drug overdoses (a 4% increase from 2018). And while the numbers for 2020 are yet to be set, CDC experts predict the death toll in 2020 will be even higher than it was in 2019.
Opioids remain the leading cause of overdose deaths. Despite the surge in cocaine and meth deaths, opioids still account for nearly 73% of all fatal overdoses in the United States. That equates to 49,680 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2019.
Addiction Treatment – The Way Out of Addiction to Stimulants
A drug addiction is a matter of life or death, no matter what type of drug an addict uses. As the number of deaths from stimulants from cocaine and meth addiction increases, public health experts need to broaden their approach to help addicts. The national emergency decree in 2017, which was aimed exclusively at opioids, now needs to be extended to other drugs. The past few years have been a grim reminder that no addict is ever safe any Drug type.
Today more than ever, addiction treatment is a must for drug and alcohol users. Dr. Volkow seem particularly relevant here. She writes: “Efforts to combat stimulant use (cocaine and meth) should be integrated with ongoing initiatives to combat opioid addiction and mortality. The complex reality of multi-fuel use is already a research area funded by NIDA, but much more work is needed. The realization that we are facing a drug addiction and overdose crisis, not just an opioid crisis, should guide future research, prevention, and treatment efforts. ”Really, if we as Americans are to effectively tackle the addiction epidemic we need to focus expand to help all People who are addicted all Types of drugs, including those who use more than one type of drug.