Lawmakers raise concerns over increased use of cocaine and methamphetamine
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers – led by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) – are raising concerns today about the increasing use of stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, among Americans in recent years.
In a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon, the lawmakers demanded to know what each agency was doing to curb Americans’ use of such drugs as the number of overdose deaths linked to such stimulants continues to rise.
“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,” the lawmakers wrote to the heads of the three agencies. “Our country’s fight against illicit substances must be multi-faceted and we want to ensure that the appropriate attention and resources are devoted to combat these other substances as well. Accordingly, we seek to better understand how the relevant agencies are monitoring and combating this growing threat.”
The move comes in response to reports that more than 10,000 Americans died from an overdose involving psychostimulants, including methamphetamine, in 2017 – a 37 percent increase from the year before. Meanwhile, overdose deaths involving the use of cocaine in 2017 reached nearly 15,000 and accounted for nearly one in five overdose deaths nationwide that year.
DeGette, chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations panel – which oversees the nation’s health care industry – first announced that the lawmakers were sending the letters during a hearing the panel held this morning on states’ efforts to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.
“In continuation of our bipartisan work looking at addiction and treatment issues today, the committee is sending a bipartisan letter signed by the ranking member, myself, and others to the DEA, DHS and HHS about the emergence of what this panel was talking about – methamphetamine and polysubstance use – and what the administration is doing about those,” DeGette said.
In addition to DeGette, the letters were signed by Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Greg Walden (R-OR), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Michael Burgess M.D. (R-TX) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY).
Video of DeGette’s remarks about the letters at today’s hearing is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slP1b8CDXHk&feature=youtu.be