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Opioids are driving increase in cocaine overdose deaths

Science Spotlight

February 09, 2017

photo of a bag of cocainePhoto ©iStock/sb-borg/

An examination of national trend data shows that heroin and synthetic opioids are driving a recent increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths. The assessment was conducted by scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (CDC), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report showed that cocaine-related overdose deaths increased between 2000 and 2006, and declined between 2006 and 2010 (consistent with a reduction in supply and an increase in street prices). However, cocaine-related overdose deaths increased after 2010, despite decreased cocaine use. The scientists found that this latest increase was related to cocaine-related overdose deaths involving opioids, primarily heroin or synthetic opioids. This also corresponds to the growing supply and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl in the United States. Data on drug overdose deaths were collected from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System.

These findings underscore the importance of public health strategies, such as broader access to naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses, including providing naloxone to people using cocaine, and expansion of  medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders.

For a copy of the paper — “Recent Increases in Cocaine-Related Overdose Deaths and the Role of Opioids”— published in the American Journal of Public Health, go to: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303627.

For information about prescription opioid misuse and heroin use, go to: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-abuse-heroin-use/introduction.

For information about cocaine, go to: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine.

Contact:
NIDA Press Office
301-443-6245
media@nida.nih.gov

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA. (2017, February 9). Opioids are driving increase in cocaine overdose deaths. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2017/02/opioids-are-driving-increase-in-cocaine-overdose-deaths

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