More than 30 states have seen cocaine death rates rise since 2010, with Ohio leading the way. Overdoses from crack and powder cocaine in Ohio during 2017 killed seven times more than in 2010, says the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center.
Cocaine-related overdoses took the lives of nearly 14,000 Americans in 2017, up 34 percent in just a year, and they’re expected to soar even higher as cocaine’s popularity resurges, Kaiser Health News reports.
The powerful opioid fentanyl is often mixed into cocaine, turning the stimulant into a much bigger killer than the drug of the past.
Ohio’s rate of fatal ODs from cocaine is the nation’s highest. The state’s 2017 death rate from these overdoses was 14 per 100,000 residents, or 225 percent higher than the national rate. Ohio’s deaths were clustered in urban areas, such as Cleveland and Cuyahoga County as well as Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
The center’s Colin Planalp said deaths have risen steeply in rural and urban areas across America since 2000, and the increase is directly related to the national opioid crisis. Most of the time, fentanyl is the stealth culprit, posing a particular danger to longtime cocaine users who may be older, sicker and unaccustomed to the effects of opioids.
“Your whole system is kind of thrown a curveball,” said Katherine Engel, director of nursing at Cincinnati’s Center for Addiction Treatment. “You’re an opiate virgin, so to speak.” Police Chief Tom Synan of the the Cincinnati suburb of Newtown said the risk extends to cocaine users who also have used older opioids such as heroin because fentanyl is 50 times more potent.
“In the ’70s, a ‘speedball’ was a mix of cocaine and heroin. I call this ‘speedball 2.0.’ Fentanyl has made it much worse,” he said. “It’s made every drug people are addicted to into a crisis.”