The focus in the media has been on opiate drugs and the shocking spike in drug overdose deaths caused by heroin and fentanyl across the country in the past few years – and for good reason. More and more people are dying due to use of these substances. Even with a concerted and focused effort on the part of legislators and the medical community, the numbers are still continuing to climb.
However, it turns out that opiate drugs are only part of the drug problem that is negatively impacting some parts of the south, including Texas. Though few reports highlight its use, cocaine is being identified as the cause of overdose death more and more frequently.
In fact, every day, Texas officials are intercepting cocaine shipments from Mexico as drug dealers try to smuggle the substance into the country. For example, at the end of last month, almost $400,000 worth of cocaine was seized during a traffic stop in Rankin County, or 14 kilograms of the drug.
Additionally, a recent report noted that in Harris County, cocaine took more lives than any other single drug last year. Specifically, cocaine in one of its many forms was the cause of 200 deaths in 2016, up by 71 percent from 2014.
This is not to say that other illicit and legal substances were not also heavy contributors to the number of lives lost to overdose across the county in 2016. In total, 233 deaths were caused by opiate drugs – 61 caused by Vicodin, 18 by oxycodone, 19 by codeine, 72 by heroin, 29 by methadone, 15 by tramadol, and 19 by fentanyl. But the fact that cocaine caused close to the same number of deaths as all opiate drugs shows that cocaine is a major player when it comes to the harm caused by drug use and abuse, and that we need to turn our attention to measures that will help to manage the problem.
Research and Medication
There are currently no medications that have been shown to be effective in the treatment of cocaine addiction – not for the treatment of withdrawal, nor for help in sustaining sobriety or even in overturning an overdose. Comparatively, methadone and buprenorphine have been demonstrated to be incredibly effective maintenance medications for people going through opiate detox, and naloxone is a staple for all first responders because it immediately stops an opiate overdose. Some medications that are approved for other uses are being investigated for their efficacy in helping people to overcome cravings and avoid relapse in recovery from cocaine addiction, but more research is needed to identify solid options.
Therapy Is Essential
What we do know is that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, motivational incentives, and a strong support system in recovery have been shown to be effective in helping people to stick to their recovery principles and avoid relapse. When used in combination and with the support of other holistic and alternative therapies, these therapies form the foundation for a comprehensive treatment program that can help people to make a strong start in a new life without addiction.
Avoiding Cocaine Overdose
Cocaine overdose can occur with first use of the drug, immediately upon using a high dose, or anytime thereafter. When cocaine use is mixed with alcohol use or use of other drugs, like heroin or sedatives, the risk of overdose is even higher. A cocaine overdose can cause an irregular heart rhythm, heart attack, seizure, and/or stroke.
Emergency medical treatment can help to arrest a cocaine overdose, but if treatment does not come fast enough, it can be fatal. There is no medication that can stop the effects of a cocaine overdose in its tracks. In fact, the only way to ensure against experiencing a cocaine overdose is to avoid the drug completely – even casual use – and to undergo comprehensive addiction treatment if it is impossible to stop using the drug despite these extreme risks.
Is Now the Time for Treatment?
Because so many people are focusing on the risks associated with opiate drugs, the risks associated with cocaine may be flying under the radar. Across the country, rates of cocaine overdose are jumping every year, with a 1.6-fold increase between 2010 and 2015. Is it time for you or someone you love to consider the option of comprehensive treatment?