Cocaine & Meth Use Rising In Massachusetts

Like the rest of the country, Massachusetts has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. Recently, the state has also seen a surge in stimulant use, especially cocaine and methamphetamine use, and these controlled substances pose a high risk of addiction.

To address their rise in popularity, the commonwealth must adopt special harm reduction and addiction treatment methods.

The Rise Of Cocaine & Meth In Massachusetts

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 31% of overdose deaths in the first half of 2020 involved cocaine, while 6% involved amphetamines (including methamphetamine).

In the first half of 2021, about 52% of overdose deaths involved cocaine, while 10% involved amphetamines.

Fentanyl Plays A Role

Most of these deaths also involved fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic (human-made) opioid that’s up to 50 times stronger than heroin. Many drug trafficking organizations lace it in other substances, including cocaine and meth.

Thus, any Massachusetts resident who misuses stimulants or other street drugs could unknowingly ingest fentanyl and overdose.

Overamping & ER Visits

The state has also experienced an increase in emergency room visits for residents who overdose on stimulants (also called “overamping”) without the presence of opioids. Overamping can cause dangerous symptoms such as paranoia, trouble breathing, and seizures.


The most common types of stimulant misuse vary among different demographics.

Cocaine use (both powder cocaine and crack cocaine) is higher among the state’s African-American and Latinx residents. Also, 28.8% of cocaine-related deaths between 2020 and 2022 occurred among people who worked in the construction or trade industry, while 18.9% occurred among homemakers, students, and people who are unemployed.

In contrast, methamphetamine use is higher among white, non-Hispanic residents, especially those in the Boston area. In addition, men who have sex with men are ten times more likely to use meth than other Massachusetts residents.

The State Can Respond With Increased Harm Reduction

In 2022, the Massachusetts Commission on Methamphetamine Use released a list of recommendations to stop the rise in stimulant addiction and overdose, including advocating for increased harm reduction.

Harm reduction refers to practices that aim to decrease overdoses, infectious diseases, and other health risks among people who misuse drugs.

For example, one of the most common harm reduction tools for opioid misuse is naloxone (brand name Narcan). This medication can quickly reverse an opioid overdose. It’s often carried by law enforcement and other first responders.

While there aren’t any medications that reverse stimulant overdoses, the state can provide stimulant-focused harm reduction in other ways.

Single-Use Pipes

For example, community health centers and hospitals can stock single-use pipes and pipe holders. These items help people who use cocaine and meth avoid infections from sharing drug paraphernalia.

“Cool Down” Centers

The report also recommends that the state establish “cool down” centers where people can safely come down from a stimulant high and access 24/7 recovery services.

Insurance Coverage For Recovery Coaches & Specialists

In addition, the commissioners have asked insurance providers to pay for recovery coaches and other harm reduction specialists.

These specialists often work in emergency rooms and substance abuse treatment programs. According to the report, they can greatly improve treatment outcomes for people recovering from stimulant abuse and addiction.

Community Drug Testing Programs

Finally, the commissioners recommend increased use of community drug testing programs. These programs can help people avoid overdoses by offering up-to-date information on local drug supplies and overdose trends.

The State Can Respond With Better Access To Evidence-Based Treatment

With the rise in stimulant use, more Massachusetts residents are seeking treatment for stimulant addiction (also called stimulant use disorder). That’s why the Massachusetts Commission on Methamphetamine Use is urging the state to increase access to evidence-based treatments.

The most common evidence-based treatments for stimulant use disorder are cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and the Matrix model.

Behavioral Therapy

In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), patients learn to change unhealthy behaviors and beliefs that contribute to their substance use. In contingency management (CM), patients receive rewards (such as cash or gift cards) for avoiding stimulant drug use.

The Matrix Model

The Matrix model is a 16-week treatment program designed specifically for stimulant use disorder. It includes individual therapy, relapse prevention groups, education groups, and social support groups.

According to commissioners, the state should ensure these treatments are accessible to residents with the highest risk of stimulant use disorder, which includes those who:

  • are LGBTQIA+
  • are experiencing homelessness
  • are African-American or Latinx
  • work in the construction or trade industry

In addition, the report urges researchers to investigate potential medications to help treat stimulant use disorder.

Research Medications For Stimulant Use Disorder

Medications like buprenorphine and methadone play an essential role in many treatment plans for opioid use disorder. If similar medications existed for stimulant use disorder, Massachusetts residents could have a much easier time quitting cocaine and meth.

To learn more about stimulant drug abuse and addiction treatment, please reach out to a Spring Hill specialist. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer personalized, residential care to help you or your loved one stay sober.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Fentanyl Facts
  2. Commonwealth of Massachusetts — Commission on Methamphetamine Use Report
  3. Massachusetts Department of Public Health — Data Brief: Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths among Massachusetts Residents 2020
  4. Massachusetts Department of Public Health — Data Brief: Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths among Massachusetts Residents 2021

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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