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 WaldenRepublicans are working to close the digital divide Fauci gives Congress COVID-19 warning Fauci: We need more testing, not less MORE (R-Ore.), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Why drug costs for older Americans should be capped in pandemic's wake Senate panel advances bill targeting online child sexual abuse MORE (D-Calif.), Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessTechnical difficulties mar several remote House hearings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Moniz says U.S. needs energy jobs coalition and Manchin says Congress is pushing Wall Street solutions that don't work for Main Street; Burr to step aside The Hill's 12:30 Report: House returns to DC for coronavirus relief MORE (R-Texas), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHillicon Valley: Facebook civil rights audit finds 'serious setbacks' | Facebook takes down Roger Stone-affiliated accounts, pages | State and local officials beg Congress for more elections funds House Democrats press Twitter, Facebook, Google for reports on coronavirus disinformation Short-term health plans leave consumers on the hook for massive medical costs, investigation finds MORE (D-Colo.) and Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieHillicon Valley: Tech giants poised to weather coronavirus damage | Record Facebook-FTC deal approved | Bipartisan 5G bill introduced Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost American 5G efforts Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment 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.