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Cocaine Users More Likely to Overdose in Warmer Weather

posted 02:12 AM EST, Thu March 04, 2010

Researchers say that after 75 degrees Fahrenheit, cocaine overdoses start to increase – and as the mercury rises, so do the risks.

Researchers at the University of Michigan say that as warmer weather approaches, cocaine overdoses are likely to increase.

They looked at overdose statistics for New York City and compared these to temperature statistics by date and found that fatal cocaine overdoses start to increase as the temperature passes 75 Farenheit (24 Celsius) – and that as the temperature continues to climb, the rate of overdoses continues to rise.

The scientists say that cocaine becomes more dangerous on hotter days, because:

  • It interferes with the body’s ability to cool itself
  • It interferes with a person’s ability to accurately perceive an elevated body temperature (and thus take measures to reduce it)
  • Overheated cocaine users require less cocaine to overdose, as their bodies are already under duress

The researchers say that below 24 Celsius, changes in temperature do not affect a person’s risk of overdose.

In New York City as the summer months approach, they predict that each week with a temperature over 24 C will see 2 additional overdoses per each 2 degree C increase in temp. For example, an average weekly temperature of 26 C would lead to 2 additional overdoses over cooler week averages – while an average weekly temperature of 32 would cause an additional 8 cocaine overdoses per week compared to the average numbers of deaths per week in cooler periods.

Lead researcher Dr. Amy Bohnert, wants more people to know about the risks of cocaine use on hot days, saying, “My sense is that not many people who use cocaine think about this as a risk.” She says that information campaigns need to target 2 groups of people, addicts and recreational users, and that although overdose prevention interventions should be introduced into high drug use areas, that addicts are not the main consumers of cocaine, saying, “The vast majority of drug users are people who have jobs and who contribute to society.”

The full research findings can be read in the March edition of the journal, Addiction.

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  • Higher: Temperatures cause cocaine overdoses to increase.
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