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Cocaine trends across Washington state

Insights from mortality, treatment, and crime lab data

What you will find on this page

Data are presented on cocaine deaths alone and in combination with methamphetamine and opioids (all with or without other drug classes or alcohol), and state crime lab cases positive for cocaine, 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.

Many of the charts on this page are interactive. Move the pointer over or click on a data point to see the count or rate, or on an item in the legend to highlight that data series. This does not apply to downloaded charts.

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 (American Indian or Alaska Native), Asian, (Native Hawaiian or other) Pacific Islander, and Multiple races are mutually exclusive categories designated by the state to align with the US Census to indicate the race of the deceased. This coding is available beginning 2004. Hispanic is from a different variable in the death certificate files and is not mutually exclusive with the other races listed. Race and ethnicity are based on what is reported on the death certificate by the certifier, usually the coroner or medical examiner's office, and may not align with the person's identity.

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, at least until 2017. Cocaine deaths have increased recently, and in the past two years over 70% of cocaine deaths involved an opioid.

YearDeathsMedian ageFemaleWhiteBlackNative AmericanAsianPacific IslanderMultiple racesHispanicNumber with opioidsPercent with opioidsRate per 100,000 state residents

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, 2021-2022 versus 2003-2004

The map below shows the stark decline in cocaine-involved drug poisonings (although the rate has rebounded in recent years). In 2003-2004, 14 of Washington's 39 counties had a cocaine-involved drug poisoning rate above 2.0 per 100,000 residents. In 2020-2021, nine counties exceeded 2.0 deaths per 100,000. In the later period, 12 mostly rural counties had 0 cocaine deaths. Rural counties are not, however, immune to cocaine deaths.

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

Drug deaths involving cocaine by Accountable Community of Health, 2021-2022 versus 2003-2004

To smooth out the effects of small numbers and to correspond to the Department of Health's management of some public health programming through grouping counties into Accountable Communities of Health, we present death rates by ACH.

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. Before 2021, 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 historically relatively low in statewide data as much of the cocaine availability and use is in the Puget Sound area. (You can click on more common series, such as methamphetamine, to turn them off and better see the cocaine trends.)

Data source: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol. 2021 counts and onward are impacted by the 2/25/2021 Washington State v Blake decision.
Data source: Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau, Washington State Patrol. 2021 counts and onward are impacted by the 2/25/2021 Washington State v Blake decision.

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 2022. (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.

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