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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 WaldenHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy issues rule allowing companies to develop own efficiency tests for products | GOP lawmakers push back on Federal Reserve's climate risk efforts Bipartisan fix for 'surprise' medical bills hits roadblock MORE (R-Ore.), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooBottom line Laptop stolen from Pelosi's office during Capitol riots Hillicon Valley: Federal agencies warn of hackers targeting online K-12 classes | California seeks to join DOJ antitrust case against Google | Senate approves defense bill establishing cyber czar position MORE (D-Calif.), Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce MORE (R-Texas), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGette'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research MORE (D-Colo.) and Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg and Dorsey return for another hearing | House passes 5G funding bill | Twitter introduces 'fleets' House approves legislation providing 0 million to boost US 5G efforts 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.