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Lawmakers express alarm over rise in cocaine overdose deaths

Lawmakers express alarm over rise in cocaine overdose deaths
© Aaron Schwartz

The bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are raising alarm over an increase in overdose deaths from cocaine and methamphetamine. 

The lawmakers wrote to the Trump administration requesting a briefing on the fight against these drugs by Feb. 4. 

While much attention has been placed on the epidemic of deaths from opioids, the lawmakers point out that overdose deaths from other kinds of drugs have been increasing in recent years and should not fly under the radar. 

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“We are concerned that while the nation, rightly so, is devoting much of its attention and resources to the opioid epidemic, another epidemic—this one involving cocaine and methamphetamine—is on the rise,” wrote Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRace heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Hillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' MORE (R-Ore.), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHow to expand rural broadband, fast and affordably Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (D-Calif.), Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessRace heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it MORE (R-Texas), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGette20 years later, the FDA must lift restrictions on medication abortion care Overnight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training MORE (D-Colo.) and Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieVaccine development process is safe, claims of the contrary are baseless Ignore the misinformation: The FDA will ensure the safety of any COVID-19 vaccine House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (R-Ky.).

The number of cocaine overdose deaths declined from 2006 to 2012, but then began rising again, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2017, cocaine overdose deaths increased by more than 34 percent, to about 14,000 people dying from cocaine overdoses. 

The lawmakers also cite data showing more than 10,000 people died from an overdose involving psychostimulants, including methamphetamine, in 2017, marking a 37 percent increase from 2016.

The letters request briefings from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

The lawmakers write that while the opioid epidemic remains important, “we want to ensure that the appropriate attention and resources are devoted to combat these other substances as well.”

The increase in cocaine overdose deaths is due to an increase in cocaine production in Colombia as well as an increased presence of the deadly drug fentanyl in cocaine, according to the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, which the letter cites. 

Almost 5 million Americans used cocaine in 2016, according to the CDC.