Opioids Get the Headlines But Cocaine Still Kills Thousands Each Year

Man at a party uses cocaine despite the harm it is causing his life and his health.

Anyone involved in recovery from drug addiction knows that drugs in the opioid category are taking more lives than any other. What is not making headlines at this point is that cocaine is still taking thousands of lives each year. In 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6,784 people died from the effects of cocaine.

As an individual drug, cocaine is in second place after heroin, which killed nearly twice as many people. While most other classes of drugs have seen increases in use in the last several years (prescription opioids, prescription stimulants, benzodiazepines), cocaine use dropped slightly after it hit a peak in 2006. Deaths from cocaine were cut nearly in half by 2009. But by the time 2012 rolled around, numbers began to climb again.

What’s driving the increase? The popularity of mixing opioids like heroin with cocaine. If you eliminate those people who died from a mix of drugs like this, the number dying from cocaine alone has remained flat.

Why Does Cocaine Kill?

Cocaine is a very powerful stimulant, no matter how it is consumed. The user’s heart rate immediately goes up but at the same time, blood vessels constrict. This means that the pressure on one’s arteries becomes explosive. It’s enough to cause a heart attack or a dissection (a tear through the layers) of the aorta, the main artery leading away from the heart. If the tear affects all layers of the aorta, the individual will quickly lose massive amounts of blood into the chest cavity. One study reported that the mortality rate of an aortic dissection associated with cocaine use is 25% within the first 24 hours, 50% within the first week and 90% within the first year. This high rate of death may result from patients returning to the use of cocaine after their initial treatment.

Cocaine use can also cause faulty heartbeat, ruptured blood vessels in the brain and overheating to the point of severe organ damage. Any of these effects can result in the death of the drug user.

Recovery from Cocaine Addiction

When a person is addicted to cocaine, he (or she) can’t stop using the drug again and again, even if he is aware of the damage he is doing to his life and his health. He’s trapped by his cravings for more of this intense stimulant. But recovery is possible. At a Narconon drug rehab center, it takes getting all the residual drugs out of your body by way of a deep detoxification action, resulting in a fresh new outlook and, for many, reduced or even eliminated physical cravings. It then takes learning a whole new set of life skills that makes a new, productive life look possible and even enjoyable again.

The Narconon program has helped tens of thousands of individuals regain their health and happiness. This program can help anyone struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction. Please call Narconon International at 1-800-775-8750 today to learn more.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.