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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019 May 3;68(17):388-395. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6817a3.

Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine and Psychostimulants with Abuse Potential - United States, 2003-2017.

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Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC.


In 2016, a total of 63,632 persons died from drug overdoses in the United States (1). Drug overdose deaths involving cocaine, psychostimulants with abuse potential (psychostimulants), or both substances combined increased 42.4% from 12,122 in 2015 to 17,258 in 2016.* Psychostimulants with abuse potential include drugs such as methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), dextroamphetamine, levoamphetamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), and caffeine. From 2015 to 2016, cocaine-involved and psychostimulant-involved death rates increased 52.4% and 33.3%, respectively (1). A total of 70,237 persons died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2017; approximately two thirds of these deaths involved an opioid (2). CDC analyzed 2016-2017 changes in age-adjusted death rates involving cocaine and psychostimulants by demographic characteristics, urbanization levels, U.S. Census region, 34 states, and the District of Columbia (DC). CDC also examined trends in age-adjusted cocaine-involved and psychostimulant-involved death rates from 2003 to 2017 overall, as well as with and without co-involvement of opioids. Among all 2017 drug overdose deaths, 13,942 (19.8%) involved cocaine, and 10,333 (14.7%) involved psychostimulants. Death rates increased from 2016 to 2017 for both drug categories across demographic characteristics, urbanization levels, Census regions, and states. In 2017, opioids were involved in 72.7% and 50.4% of cocaine-involved and psychostimulant-involved overdoses, respectively, and the data suggest that increases in cocaine-involved overdose deaths from 2012 to 2017 were driven primarily by synthetic opioids. Conversely, increases in psychostimulant-involved deaths from 2010 to 2017 occurred largely independent of opioids, with increased co-involvement of synthetic opioids in recent years. Provisional data from 2018 indicate that deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants are continuing to increase. Increases in stimulant-involved deaths are part of a growing polysubstance landscape. Increased surveillance and evidence-based multisectoral prevention and response strategies are needed to address deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants and opioids. Enhancing linkage to care, building state and local capacity, and public health/public safety collaborations are critical components of prevention efforts.

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