Mixing Coke, Meth With Opioids Driving Rise in Deaths

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY April 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Overdose deaths resulting from a dangerous combination of cocaine and opioids exceed deaths linked to cocaine abuse alone, a new report from the U.S. government warns.

“Much of the increase in the rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine in recent years is due to the co-occurrence of opioids,” said study author Dr. Holly Hedegaard.

A similar trend has started to take hold due to the combined abuse of methamphetamines and opioids. As of 2017, deaths attributed to this couple began to overtake deaths related to methamphetamine alone.

Yet the role of opioids in cocaine and methamphetamine overdoses has so far differed by degree. For example, 54% of all methamphetamine-related deaths in 2019 also involved opioids. In contrast, 75.5% of all cocaine-related deaths also involved one or more opioids in 2019.

The findings may explain why deaths from cocaine and methamphetamine have increased in recent years, suggested Hedegaard, an injury epidemiologist in the Division of Analysis and Epidemiology at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). the United States.

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The general trend observed in the analysis was significantly different across regions of the United States. For example, a couple of cocaine and opioids accounted for over 83% of all cocaine-related deaths in the Northeast, but only 63% in the West.

Likewise, deaths from a combination of methamphetamine and opioids accounted for nearly 80% of methamphetamine-related deaths in the northeast, but only 44% in the west.

The study team did not explore why these drug combinations are so deadly.

But given that “these opioids are very potent and deadly,” the results come as little surprise to Lindsey Vuolo, vice president of health law and policy at the Center on Addiction in New York. She reviewed the results and was not part of the study.

The figures, Vuolo said, “reflect past trends: Cocaine and psychostimulant-related overdose deaths have increased [and] overdose rates of synthetic opioids – such as fentanyl – have also increased. “

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In fact, she noted that the number of people dying from overdoses had actually reached record highs, citing recent data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that about 88,000 people have died from an overdose. drug overdose between August 2019 and August 2020.

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“This equates to over 240 people every day, and a 26.8% increase over the previous year,” Vuolo said.

And “access to treatment has not improved much for dependent people,” she added. “This is why we continue to see so many overdose deaths. People are dying because they cannot get effective care. These deaths are preventable because the addiction is treatable.

And while the latest study was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic, “the COVID pandemic is likely to be behind the increase in drug overdoses,” Vuolo said.

“Economic loss, grief, anxiety and social isolation lead to increased substance use and put recovering people at risk for relapse,” she said. “People are also increasingly using drugs alone due to their social distancing. And that means that in the event of an overdose, no one is there to administer naloxone – the anti-opioid overdose drug – or call 911, increasing the risk of a fatal overdose. “

COVID has also led to increased barriers to in-person care, Vuolo added, making treatment even more difficult to obtain.

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Hedegaard and colleagues reported on their findings in the April issue of Summary of NCHS data.

More information

There is more on the opioid epidemic at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Holly Hedegaard, MD, injury epidemiologist, division of analysis and epidemiology, US National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Hyattsville, Md .; Lindsey Vuolo, JD, MPH, vice president, health law and policy, Center on Addiction, New York; NCHS data sheet, April 2021

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