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Silent Crisis: Cocaine and Meth Overdoses Among Veterans

There is an epidemic of cocaine and meth overdoses among veterans that has grown alongside the opioid crisis. Combination overdoses involving both methamphetamine and cocaine often turn deadly. Deaths involving the two stimulants have nearly tripled among the veteran population, becoming another epidemic in the shadow of a widening opioid crisis.

Research shows that cocaine and meth overdoses weren’t always singular. Fifty percent of the time, individuals would have more than one drug in their system at the time of the overdose death. In addition, the most common drug seen in overdose deaths such as these were varying forms of opioids.

Is Substance Use Overlooked and Under-Treated in Veterans?

Nearly seventy percent of the veterans who were overdose victims had never sought help for their substance use—many people who died with opioids in their blood had sought help in the past.  Yet many of the fallen had multiple substances in their system, which indicates that they had been mis-using substances regularly.

Veterans often struggle with mental health disorders and other disparities that go untreated. For example, chronic homelessness is often an issue for veterans with untreated mental health or physical health issues.

There is still a perception of stigma surrounding substance use. However, times are changing, and most medical science accepts that addiction is a treatable disorder that causes changes in a person’s brain. Opioids, however, are not the only highly addictive drug that people are dying from.

“We have been so focused on opioids that we are missing the tremendous increase in people who are using multiple substances, as well as those using stimulants only when we know that many people don’t stick to just one substance,”  Lara Coughlin, Ph.D., a psychologist an assistant professor in the U-M Department of Psychiatry, says of the data in the study. “The fact that so many of those who died of an overdose had not received substance use disorder treatment is especially concerning.”

Help is Available For All Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders can cause significant obstacles in life no matter who you are, where you are from, or what substances you use. If you or somebody you love has a problem with addiction, there’s help available. Many people who use opioids benefit from Medication-Assisted Treatment alongside therapy and support networks.

If you or somebody you love is addicted to one or multiple substances, help is available. You deserve a chance to reclaim your life! Let us help you take the first step – reach out!



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Scott H. Silverman
CEO / Founder
Scott found himself "hitting bottom" in 1984 and accepted that he needed help for his problem and pursued treatment and long-term recovery. After pursuing his own recovery, Scott dedicated his life to helping others who struggle with the same mental health and addiction issues that caused him so much pain. Scott has made an indelible mark on the lives of many in San Diego. He has been on KUSI dozens of times to raise awareness about the dangers that we face, and to speak a message of recovery.