Federal Opioid Grants Can Be Used for Cocaine and Meth Addiction

A selection of meth seized by the Pennington County Sheriff's Office's narcotics enforcement team in South Dakota.

A selection of meth seized by the Pennington County Sheriff's Office's narcotics enforcement team in South Dakota. Pennington County Sheriff's Office/AP

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State drug treatment agencies can now use an opioid grant program to treat people with addictions to cocaine and methamphetamine.

This article originally appeared on Stateline.

The Trump administration has agreed to allow state drug treatment agencies to expand a $1.5 billion opioid grant program to also treat people with addictions to cocaine and methamphetamine, according to the Associated Press.

The new flexibility in the previously opioid-targeted grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration was written into a major spending bill passed by Congress at the end of last year and comes in response to pressure from state officials, AP reported.

Nationwide, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths is declining slightly. But addiction and overdose deaths from cocaine and methamphetamine are rising, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compared with the old variety of meth cooked in backyard labs, the current version of the drug is cheaper, stronger and far more plentiful. Cocaine also has become cheaper and more plentiful. Meth is primarily trafficked from Mexico and cocaine is smuggled from Colombia, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In California and most Western states, the number of people addicted to stimulants has been and continues to be greater than those addicted to opioids.

Roughly 14,000 cocaine users and 10,000 meth users died in the United States in 2017, an increase of more than a third compared with 2016 and triple the number of deaths in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That puts both stimulants — a class of drugs that speeds up physiological and nervous system activity — on par with heroin, which was involved in 15,000 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the CDC.

By most accounts, meth and cocaine are harder to quit than opioids, in part because no medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to stop cravings for the stimulants, whereas three effective drugs are available to help people recover from opioid addiction. 

Earlier this month, bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee expressed alarm over rising cocaine and meth overdose deaths in a letter to the Trump administration asking for a briefing by Feb. 4 on what the administration is doing to fight the rising stimulant addiction crisis.

Christine Vestal is a staff writer for Stateline.

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