There have been increased numbers of cocaine-related deaths reported in some European countries since the early 1990s. There are indications that cocaine deaths are more difficult to define, detect and record as such in mortality registries, and more particularly in some countries’ General Mortality Registries (GMRs) due to coding practices. Also, the characteristics of cocaine deaths are multi-factorial (socio-demographics, toxicology, circumstances and mechanism of death), and are often different from opiate deaths and may not be collected by GMRs. In many cases, it is difficult to ascertain if a death was primarily due to cocaine poisoning, a combination of substances, or the result of a pre-existing health condition precipitated by cocaine use. It remains unclear how cocaine deaths are identified in Europe. In particular, it is possible that deaths occurring shortly after, and induced by, cocaine use, but which are not poisonings in the strict sense, are not identified or reported as induced by cocaine. The EMCDDA decided to undertake a project aimed at providing better information on this phenomenon.
This study was prepared for the EMCDDA under contract code CC.11.EPI.14.