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 WaldenGOP lawmaker: US will see improvement on virus 'in a couple of weeks' Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing CARES Act delivers on our health care needs in a big way MORE (R-Ore.), Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooBottom line 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 House Democrats introduce bills to penalize census misinformation MORE (D-Calif.), Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Juul pitched products to Native American tribes | Vaping execs deny deliberately targeting young people | Republicans seek hearing on Medicaid block grants Overnight Health Care: Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat | House panel to examine federal marijuana policies | House GOP reopens investigation into opioid manufacturers Lawmakers express alarm over rise in cocaine overdose deaths MORE (R-Texas), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Trump names Pence to lead coronavirus response Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing MORE (D-Colo.) and Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieHillicon 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 Trump signs law banning use of federal funds to purchase Huawei equipment Hillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring 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.