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Increase Seen in Co-Involvement of Opioids in Drug Overdose Deaths

FRIDAY, April 2, 2021 -- There have been recent increases in overdose deaths involving both cocaine and opioids and involving both psychostimulants and opioids, according to an April data brief published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics.

Holly Hedegaard, M.D., from the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, and colleagues present trends from 2009 through 2019 and differences by census region for drug overdose deaths using data from the National Vital Statistics System.

The researchers found that from 2009 through 2019, the pace of increase of overdose deaths involving both cocaine and opioids was faster than the pace of those involving cocaine but no opioids. Seventy-six percent of overdose deaths involving cocaine in 2019 also involved an opioid, and there was variation noted by region, from 63 to 83 percent in the West and Northeast, respectively. The rate of overdose deaths involving psychostimulants but no opioids was higher than the rate of deaths involving both drugs from 2009 to 2016; the pattern reversed from 2017 through 2019, with a higher rate for deaths involving both psychostimulants and opioids. Fifty-four percent of overdose deaths involving psychostimulants also involved an opioid in 2019; there was variation in the percentage by region from 44 to 80 percent in the West and Northeast, respectively.

"The findings highlight increases in the co-involvement of opioids in drug overdose deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants in recent years," the authors write.

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