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October 12, 1984

Death Caused by Recreational Cocaine Use: An Update

Author Affiliations

From the Dade County Medical Examiner Department and the Department of Pathology, University of Miami School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1984;252(14):1889-1893. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350140035021

The epidemiologic, pathological, and toxicological findings of 60 cocaine-related overdose deaths from middle 1978 through 1982 were studied and compared with a previous publication by this office. In addition, 180 deaths where cocaine was an incidental toxicological finding are also discussed. Currently, the average street cocaine fatality victim is 29 years old, and 42% of the victims are female. Blacks comprise 39% of the cases. The blood cocaine concentration in "street cocaine" fatality victims averaged 6.2 mg/L with a wide range, necessitating careful interpretation of the toxicological results in conjunction with terminal events. Although autopsy findings were generally nonspecific, multiple needle-puncture marks with surrounding ecchymoses are typical of IV cocaine abuse. An increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths is anticipated because of its popularity, increasing availability, and, currently, the increased purity of street cocaine.

(JAMA 1984;252:1889-1893)