The opioid epidemic shows no sign of abating, but opioids are not America’s only significant drug problem. Among illicit drugs, cocaine is the number 2 killer and claims the lives of more African-Americans than heroin does.

For the most recent years of analysis (2012-15), the study found that deaths of men from heroin exceeded those from any other type of opioid, such as those found in pain medications. For women, deaths related to opioid medications were the most common.

But among non-Hispanic black Americans, cocaine has been a larger problem than heroin for nearly 20 years. For example, over 2012-15, cocaine overdoses claimed 7.6 per 100,000 black men. In contrast, heroin overdoses claimed 5.45 per 100,000 black men. Black women use both drugs at lower rates than men, but cocaine overdoses exceed those from heroin for them as well.

Why the Comeback and What are the Treatment Options?


According to the NC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, cocaine was a factor in more drug poisoning overdose deaths in 2016 than any other drug (followed by fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl analogues).

See “Tracking and Measuring the Opioid Epidemic: NC’s OCME” for more information