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Cocaine trends across Washington state

Insights from mortality, treatment, and crime lab data

Data are presented on cocaine deaths alone and in combination with methamphetamine and opioids (all with or without other drug classes or alcohol), state crime lab cases, and publicly funded treatment episodes for Washington state and for counties. Data are from state agencies, analyzed by staff at ADAI. For more information on data, see details at the end of the page.

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Drug-caused deaths

Deaths involving cocaine, methamphetamine, or all opioids

Data sources: Washington State Department of Health (deaths), state Office of Financial Management (population)

Cocaine deaths by year detailed

In the table below, demographic descriptors of drug poisonings involving cocaine are presented, and the subset of those deaths that also involved opioids. The ethnic group descriptors White, Black, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander are mutually exclusive categories designated by the state using National Center for Health Statistics categories to indicate the primary race of the deceased. Hispanic is from a different variable in the death certificate files and is not mutually exclusive with the other races listed.

Compared to drug-caused overdoses overall, those involving cocaine are more often male. Deaths are disproportionately African American throughout the entire period, increasingly so in later years as the rate of deaths declined.

Year Deaths Median age Female White Black Native American Asian/Pacific Islander Hispanic Number with opioids Percent with opioids Rate per 100,000 state residents
20031594330.2%74.8%13.2%5.7%1.9%6.3%9962.3%2.60
20041794530.2%74.9%15.1%5.0%0.6%6.1%11262.6%2.88
20051664422.9%69.9%16.9%9.0%0.6%5.4%9657.8%2.64
20062184425.2%71.6%20.2%2.8%2.3%5.0%12959.2%3.40
200716644.530.1%68.1%22.3%5.4%1.8%4.8%10060.2%2.54
20081274733.9%74.0%16.5%4.7%2.4%3.1%7760.6%1.92
20091184532.2%74.6%15.3%5.9%3.4%6.8%7261.0%1.77
20107646.528.9%67.1%22.4%3.9%3.9%3.9%4559.2%1.13
2011964933.3%68.8%18.8%10.4%1.0%2.1%5860.4%1.42
2012654836.9%69.2%15.4%4.6%1.5%12.3%3452.3%0.95
2013924825.0%65.2%25.0%2.2%4.3%8.7%4852.2%1.34
2014885127.3%70.5%26.1%0%2.3%3.4%6675.0%1.26
2015894729.2%68.5%23.6%5.6%2.2%4.5%5157.3%1.26
2016864622.1%60.5%23.3%5.8%2.3%8.1%4855.8%1.20

Deaths by drug combination

The figure below, when 'All drug poisonings' is selected, shows deaths involving cocaine (C), methamphetamine (M), and opioids (O) alone or in combination (ignoring all other substances). For each type of drug poisoning, the results are presented in a stacked chart to show how they contribute to the overall rate of drug poisonings.

If the 'Cocaine deaths detail' button is clicked, the chart switches to show (selected) subtypes of drug poisonings involving cocaine. Among those without methamphetamine or opioids, the chart details deaths with and without alcohol, barbiturates, or benzopiazepines (ABB), which all act as central nervous system depressants and are commonly involved with other drugs in drug poisonings.

Data sources: Washington State Department of Health (deaths), state Office of Financial Management (population)

Drug deaths involving cocaine by county, 2015-2016 versus 2003-2004

The map below shows the stark decline in cocaine-involved drug poisonings. In 2003-2004, 16 of Washington's 39 counties had a cocaine-involved drug poisoning rate above 1.5 per 100,000 residents,. In 2015-2016, only three counties--King, Klickitat, and Yakima--exceeded 1.5 deaths per 100,000. In the later period, most counties, especially more rural counties, had 0 cocaine deaths.

Data sources: Washington State Department of Health (deaths), state Office of Financial Management (population)

Crime lab cases, cocaine versus other major drugs

Police evidence testing positive for cocaine at the crime lab peaked in 2005 and remained elevated until 2008. It is believed that part of this decline is a change in police evidence gathering procedures resulting from a 2008 US Supreme Court case. More recent low levels of cocaine appear to be due to declines in cocaine availability broadly in the US. The overall numbers of cocaine evidence testing are relatively low in statewide data as much of the cocaine availability and use is in the Puget Sound area.

Data source: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol
Data source: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol

Publicly funded treatment admissions, cocaine as primary drug versus all admissions

Data source: Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

Data source: Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

Data notes

Drug-caused deaths are based on individual-level death certificate data from the state Department of Health. Analyses are limited to drug poisonings (based on ICD-10 codes X40-X44, X60-X64, X85, and Y10-Y14 as the underlying cause of death) involving Washington residents who died in Washington. This common definition excludes cases where alcohol poisoning or alcoholism, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc., was coded as the underlying cause of death. Identification of methamphetamine deaths is based on searching written information saved in the electronic death certificates for relevant words containing "meth" and/or "thamphet". This written information ("literals") is available back to 2003. Deaths involving any opioid are based on contributing cause of death coding (ICD codes T40.0-T40.4 or T40.6). Code T40.5 in the cause of death coding signifies cocaine. As of this writing, death data are available through 2016. (However, the state's review and confirmation process for potential opioid cases, conducted from 1999 through 2015, has been eliminated from defining opioid deaths. The opioid-involved deaths listed here are almost always an undercount as they miss cases caught previously in this review.) Many drug deaths involve multiple drugs, and medical examiners and coroners in Washington state do not attempt to identify the single drug out of many that caused the death. Thus, these deaths are best described as drug poisonings involving the type of drug specified.

Crime lab cases reflect drugs seized by state and local law enforcement and by federal and other multi-county agencies throughout the state and sent to a branch of the state crime lab for testing as potential evidence. A given case may have one or several pieces of evidence positive different drugs.

Treatment data from the Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery reflect publicly funded treatment via outpatient, intensive inpatient, recovery house, long-term residential, and opiate use disorder treatment medication modalities. Department of Corrections treatment excluded. "First admission" means no prior publicly funded treatment for any drug, regardless of modality, is found for the individual. Comparable records are available from 1999--2015.

Data on this page are presented as counts or (crude) rates, estimated as per 100,000 residents in the state.