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Rising Deaths from Mixing Cocaine with Opioids

Cocaine overdose deaths are rising as users are mixing cocaine with opioids, according to a recent government report.


At the same time as this disturbing uptick in co-occurring use of cocaine and opioids, study authors also report a similar spike in the use of opioids and methamphetamine.


Although the effects of the pandemic that swept the United States last year also contributed toward drug overdoses, it was the opioid epidemic that started things moving down this track. 


When pharmaceutical companies deceived the medical community into widely prescribing opioid painkillers on the assumption they were not addictive, thousands of Americans developed an addiction to these powerful pills. Even worse, between 1999 and 2019, opioid overdoses claimed almost 500,000 lives in the US.


While opioids are remarkably effective when used for short-term pain relief, tolerance and dependence quickly build. In the event of opioid abuse, overdose is potentially deadly.


Opioid Overdose

Almost 50,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids in 2019.


This class of drugs includes prescription painkillers and heroin, as well as synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a lethal substance over 50 times more potent than morphine.


The CDC estimates the overall cost of opioid misuse at nudging $80 billion annually.


On an individual basis, opioid overdose can be life-threatening. This is because opioids work on the part of the brain responsible for regulating breathing.


There are three telltale signs of an opioid overdose:


  1. Difficulties breathing
  2. Pinpoint pupils
  3. Unconsciousness


Non-fatal opioid overdoses are more common than fatal overdoses.


Two-thirds of opioid overdoses in 2018 involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fentanyl is not only mixed with heroin to increase potency but also increasingly found in counterfeit prescription painkillers.


How about cocaine, though?


Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine overdose causes serious adverse reactions within your body. Toxic levels are not entirely dictated by dosage either. A few hundred milligrams of coke is enough to trigger overdose in some users, while others can snort several grams without overdosing. A University of Arizona study shows that overdose toxicity depends mainly on the end user and their susceptibility to the toxins present in cocaine.


Like with all drugs, dealers frequently cut cocaine with bulking agents and other substances that can increase the risk of cocaine overdose.


In the event of overdose, the user’s heart rate dramatically increases, leading to potential heart complications. 


In addition to increased heart rate and blood pressure, you can expect the following symptoms in the event of cocaine overdose:


  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • delirium
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Nausea 
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting


Time is of the essence in the event of cocaine overdose. Seizure, stroke, heart attack, and death can follow if you don’t take prompt action. If opioids are also in the bloodstream, the danger is heightened further.


There were almost 16,000 cocaine overdose deaths in 2019, but many more also involving opioids.


More Opioid Overdoses Also Involving Other Drugs

Rates of death by drug overdose have reached record levels, according to recent CDC data. 88,000 Americans died from drug overdose from August 2019 to August 2020, more than a 25% increase over the previous year.


We are seeing a continuation of an unsavory trend, then. Synthetic opioids overdoses are increasing, and so are cocaine overdoses.


To fuel the fire, the coronavirus pandemic and the financial hardship, fear, and anxiety it has triggered are leading more people to abuse drugs. The more people there are using drugs, the more will inevitably overdose.


Beyond this, the way the pandemic has impacted people through lockdown measures and social distancing has led to many opioid users overdosing without anyone able to administer naloxone, the overdose reversal medication.


Access to treatment has also been problematic over the past months, causing some people misusing opioids to stray into dependence and addiction before getting treated.


The government report into polysubstance abuse and overdose shows that 75% of all cocaine-related fatalities also involved at least one opioid in 2019. The pattern of abuse differed from region to region. While the study threw up these findings, the team didn’t probe the reasons for these combinations of drugs exerting such deadly effects.


What Comes Next

If you’re abusing opioids, cocaine, meth, or any combination of these drugs, we’re here to help when you’re ready to take action. 


Leaving the problem untreated won’t necessarily result in cocaine overdose or opioid overdose, but you’ll run that risk.


We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment tailored to your co-occurring substance use disorders to let you fight back. Through medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy, we’ll help you leave opioids and cocaine behind. All you need to do first is call 888-448-0302.

About the Author


Landmark Recovery Staff

This post was written by a Landmark Recovery staff member. If you have any questions, please contact us at 888-448-0302.

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