Overdose Research

New research shows that opioids aren’t the only drug responsible for overdose deaths in America. A breaking report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzes trends in drug overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017. Over the course of their research, they looked for changes to previous numbers involving cocaine, meth, MDMA, and other substances as compared to data from years before. The results may surprise you.


Key Findings

In 2016, a total of 63,632 people died of drug overdoses in the United States. In 2017, that number rose to 70,237. Nearly two third of these deaths involved the use of opioids.

Across the board, death rates involving psychostimulants (like meth) and cocaine both increased by one-third. These increases affected all demographics, including racial/ethnic groups, county urbanization levels, and multiple states.

In each instance, these increases appear to be driven by the use of synthetic opioids. This is a new development; in data collected between 2010 to 2017, psychostimulant overdoses occurred largely independent of synthetic opioids. However, in 2017, opioids were involved in 72.7% of cocaine-involved overdoses and 50.4% of psychostimulant-involved overdoses. This marked increase indicates a growing area of concern for the medical community.

In 2017, 19.8% of drug overdose deaths involved cocaine. This is a 34.4% increase from 2016. As mentioned above, nearly ¾ of these overdoses also included synthetic opioids.

The highest cocaine overdose death rates by state belonged to Washington D.C. and Ohio, and Wisconsin and Maryland experienced the most dramatic increases year over year. For psychostimulants, death rates increased in 17 states, with the highest death rates in West Virginia and Alaska. The highest relative increases were in Ohio and West Virginia.

Drug overdose data continues to evolve along with changes in the drug supply, mixing of substances (with or without the user’s knowledge), emerging threats, and the use of multiple substances.

Additionally, the CDC associates the spike in psychostimulant overdoses with an increasing supply of these drugs – particularly methamphetamine – being made available to U.S. citizens. They attribute the increase in stimulant-involved deaths, specifically cocaine, to increasing levels of polysubstance use.

Preliminary data for 2018 indicates a continuation in these trends.


The Deadliest Drugs in America

As we’ve mentioned previously, synthetic opioids (also known as prescription painkillers) are some of the most addictive, fastest-rising factors in drug overdoses. Anyone who has kept up with the prescription drug epidemic – declared a national emergency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – is familiar with the insidious qualities of these medications.

Many people assume that these drugs are safe, simply because a doctor has prescribed them for the management of acute or chronic pain. In reality, synthetic opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone are responsible for over 38% of all fatal overdoses. This means that every day, over 130 people die of an opioid overdose in the United States. These numbers will soon be updated by the CDC, and we hope to see a decrease in opioid-related deaths overall.

However, opioids’ involvement with psychostimulant and cocaine overdoses dashed many professionals’ hopes of improved statistics for those affected by this substance use disorder. The CDC’s findings indicate that people are combining synthetic opioids with these drugs, resulting in an even more dangerous and unpredictable situation than the use of a single substance. This trend indicates a need for highly specific treatment. Those using more than one drug in an addictive fashion require a different level of care than those who stick with one substance.


Treatment for Multiple Substances

It’s not uncommon for those using one drug to begin using a second one at the same time. This phenomenon is called polysubstance use and can include both prescription and illicit drugs.

Polysubstance use, like standard drug use, ranges in its severity and health effects. Many people experience it without realizing that they’ve combined substances that shouldn’t be used concurrently. This often happens when someone drinks wine with a medication that shouldn’t be used with alcohol, or when two different doctors prescribe interacting medicines.

Others intentionally combine substances in an effort to experience greater effects from each of the drugs in question. For example, those who regularly use prescription painkillers may take them with benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) to amplify the medication’s sedative qualities. Unbeknownst to them, these increased sensations come at a cost – the negative side effects of each drug are multiplied as well. This vastly increases the likelihood of acute health problems, more complex addiction treatment, and fatal overdose.


Addiction Recovery is Possible

Luckily, some addiction treatment centers are uniquely equipped to treat polysubstance use. At Lakeside-Milam, our highly-trained staff specialize in the effective, affordable treatment of substance use disorders. By working with each patient individually, our staff members are able to craft customized treatment programs that account for one’s medical history, substance use history, and social history. You deserve lasting recovery. Call Lakeside-Milam today at 800-231-4303.