Stimulant Overdose

Cocaine Was Involved in Nearly 23% of Overdose Deaths in 2021

  • Powerful stimulant for the nervous system
  • Illegal drug
  • Highly addictive drug that can be snorted, smoked, or dissolved and injected into a vein

Over 5 million Americans reported current cocaine use in 2020, which is almost 2% of the population.1 

Cocaine-involved overdose death rates in the United States decreased from 2004 to 2012 but began increasing again in 2012. Non-Hispanic Black people experienced the highest death rate for overdoses involving cocaine in 2019.2 From 2020 to 2021, cocaine overdose death rates increased by nearly 22%, with more than 24,000 Americans dying in 2021 from an overdose involving cocaine.

Psychostimulant Overdose Deaths Increased By 37% from 2020 to 2021

  • Include illegal drugs such as methamphetamine or ecstasy
  • Also include prescription stimulants for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression
  • Most of these drugs can be misused and are considered addictive

Psychostimulants with abuse potential include both illicit drugs, such as methamphetamine and ecstasy, as well as prescription stimulants. Prescription stimulants, which are drugs used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression, can also be misused. Approximately 5 million Americans misused prescription stimulants in 2020, which is approximately 1.8% of the U.S. population aged 12 years and older.1 Cocaine is also a stimulant drug; however, estimates of cocaine use and the number of deaths involving cocaine are usually calculated separately from other psychostimulants with abuse potential.

Rates of overdose deaths from psychostimulants have been increasing since 2010. Nearly 33,000 Americans died from an overdose involving psychostimulants with abuse potential in 2021, which was a 37% increase from the previous year. Over 30% of all drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved psychostimulants.  Psychostimulant-involved overdose death rates were consistently highest for AI/AN persons compared to other racial and ethnic groups from 2004-2019.2

Millions of Adults Reported Using Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant.4 It is also categorized as a psychostimulant. Methamphetamine is commonly referred to as meth, ice, speed, and crystal, among many other terms.5 In addition to risking becoming addicted to methamphetamine, people who use methamphetamine long-term may experience a range of negative health outcomes, including damage to the heart and brain, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances, and violent behavior.5 In recent years, methamphetamine-involved overdoses have been increasing in the United States across many demographic groups.2

  • Highly addictive central nervous system psychostimulant
  • Man-made drug that can be smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested

In 2020, 2.5 million Americans aged 12 or older reported having used methamphetamine in the past year.1 From 2015-2018, an estimated 1.6 million U.S. adults aged ≥18 years per year on average, reported past-year methamphetamine use.5 Among adults who used methamphetamine during this time:

  • 53% met diagnostic criteria for methamphetamine use disorder. Less than 1 in 3 of those with methamphetamine use disorder received substance use treatment in the past year.
  • 3% reported injecting methamphetamine in the past year.
  • Co-occurring substance use and mental illness were common.

Identifying characteristics associated with past-year methamphetamine use provides insights into populations to prioritize for prevention and response efforts. Adults with limited income, those on Medicaid, people who are uninsured, those with lower education status, males, middle-aged adults, and people who live in rural areas are at increased risk for methamphetamine use.6

These data show the importance of recovery support services, such as vocational training and placement, and linkage to social service providers.

Treatment for Methamphetamine Use Has Been on the Rise

Methamphetamine use among people who were admitted to drug-related treatment has been increasing. For more information, see SAMHSA’s Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders, or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Learn more about methamphetamine use:

  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables: Prevalence Estimates, Standard Errors, and Sample Sizes. icon
  2. Kariisa M, Seth P, Scholl L, Wilson N, Davis N. Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine and Psychostimulants with Abuse Potential among Racial and Ethnic Groups – United States, 2004-2019. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2021; 227.
  3. Kariisa M, Seth P, Scholl L, Wilson N, Davis N. Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine and Psychostimulants with Abuse Potential among Racial and Ethnic Groups – United States, 2004-2019. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2021; 227.
  4. Barr AM, Panenka WJ, MacEwan GW, et al. The need for speed: an update on methamphetamine addiction [PDF]J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2006;31(5):301-313.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Know the Risks of Meth. Accessed 15 December 2020.
  6. Jones CM, Compton WM, Mustaquim D. Patterns and Characteristics of Methamphetamine Use Among Adults — United States, 2015–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep2020;69:317–323. DOI:
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