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Cocaine And Stimulant Overdoses Have Nearly Doubled Since The Pandemic Started

The epidemic no one's talking about.

Photo by Ahmose Athena

The pandemic was one of the most challenging years for modern society, which was unfortunately reflected in the skyrocketing number of fatal drug overdoses. 

Quartz reported that between April 2020 and April 2021, 100,000 Americans passed away due to drug overdoses. This marks a devastating new record for the highest number of overdoses recorded in one year, and it was also a 29% increase from April 2019 to April 2020.

The drugs responsible for the deaths of over 74,000 people are opioids, primarily synthetic ones like fentanyl. However, drugs that aren’t as associated with overdoses like cocaine and methamphetamine have been drastically increasing.

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Since April 2020, roughly 28,000 people passed away taking psychostimulants (methamphetamines), and 21,000 had taken cocaine. We must note that the total of all drugs linked to overdoses is greater than the actual cases because there’s often more than one drug present in the victim’s system.

Cocaine overdoses had increased by 36% since before the pandemic struck, and overdoses from stimulants increased by a terrifying 105%. Similarly, opioid overdoses have increased by 60% during the same period. Although overdoses from cocaine and stimulants aren’t nearly as much as those from opioids, experts are concerned about the increasing trend, especially regarding stimulants.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kenneth Morford, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale who specializes in opioid addiction treatment, said the increase in overdoses doesn’t necessarily mean individuals are using more drugs, but the drugs they’re using have been laced.

He told Quartz that about “50% of stimulant overdoses, including both cocaine and methamphetamine, involve contamination with fentanyl.” Researchers can’t pinpoint if victims had intentionally combined these drugs or not. He added that another issue with stimulants is how there aren’t enough resources to treat addiction than there are for opioid use.

“Most harm reduction and treatment efforts have focused primarily on opioids,” said Morford. He explained how clinics don’t have overdose reversal medications for stimulants like there are for opioids. Apparently, we also don’t have any FDA-approved medications to treat stimulant use disorder.

Photo by Anna Shvets / Pexels

What’s even more tragic is how these fatal overdoses from cocaine and stimulants are disproportionately prevalent within racial and ethnic minority groups, which is an utter cry for help from these specific communities that we must act on. Morford says cocaine overdoses have severely impacted Black communities, while methamphetamine overdoses have targeted Indigenous populations. 

An organization focusing on reducing the harm from drugs called the Drug Policy Alliance released a PDF of suggestions that would help minimize the risk of stimulants. Their suggestions include creating initiatives in the communities most affected, decriminalizing drug use, and funding pharmacological and behavioral treatment research. View the entire PDF here

December 03, 2021
Written by BuzzMusic
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December 03, 2021
Written by BuzzMusic
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