Stimulant Overdose

At a glance

  • Stimulants include methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine, and amphetamines, such as medications prescribed for the treatment of ADHD.
  • Stimulant-involved overdose deaths have risen in recent years.
  • View our Stimulant Guide to learn more about risks, how to identify a stimulant overdose, and how to access resources for further support or education.



-Include illegal drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, 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 are a subset of stimulants that have a higher likelihood of being abused due to their effects on the central nervous system. Psychostimulants with abuse potential include both illegal drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, as well as prescription stimulants. While all psychostimulants are stimulants, not all stimulants are considered psychostimulants.

  • Prescription stimulants, which are drugs used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or depression, can also be misused. While prescription stimulants do not tend to cause overdose, approximately 4.3 million people misused prescription stimulants in 2022.1
  • 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 American Indian and Alaska Native persons compared to other racial and ethnic groups from 2004-2019.2



-Powerful psychostimulant 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 2022, 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, the rate of overdose deaths involving cocaine increased by more than 12%, with more than 24,000 Americans dying in 2021 from an overdose involving cocaine.3



-Highly addictive central nervous system psychostimulant

-Man-made drug that can be smoked, snorted, injected, or orally ingested

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

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.

The Stimulant Guide

Stimulant-involved overdose deaths have risen in recent years; from 2013-2019, the psychostimulant-involved death rate increased 317%.7 These increases are taking place in the context of a national overdose crisis, in which stimulants are increasingly involved.89 It is important that community service providers and members of the public have access to information about stimulants to increase awareness of the risks stimulants may pose, how to identify a stimulant overdose, and what resources exist to provide further support or education.

Our Stimulant Guide will answer some common questions about stimulants, stimulant use, stimulant overdose, and stimulant overdose prevention strategies developed by harm reduction experts.

Stimulant Guide

image of the cover of the stimulant guide
Answers to emerging questions about stimulants in the context of the overdose epidemic in the U.S.
  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP23-07-01-006, NSDUH Series H-58). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  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. Spencer MR, Garnett MF, Miniño AM. Drug overdose deaths in the United States, 2002–2022. NCHS Data Brief, no 491. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2024. DOI:
  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:
  7. Mattson CL, Tanz LJ, Quinn K, Kariisa M, Patel P, Davis NL. Trends and Geographic Patterns in Drug and Synthetic Opioid Overdose Deaths – United States, 2013-2019. MMWR – Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report. 2021 2021;70(6):202-207.
  8. Kariisa M, Scholl L, Wilson N, Seth P, Hoots B. Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine and Psychostimulants with Abuse Potential — United States, 2003–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019/05/03 2019;68(17):388-395. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6817a3
  9. Hoots B, Vivolo-Kantor A, Seth P. The rise in non-fatal and fatal overdoses involving stimulants with and without opioids in the United States. Addiction. 2020/05 2020;115(5):946-958.