Much of the nation has become fixated on the opioid epidemic that kills 115 Americans each day, and for good reason. Countless families are grappling with the devastating effects of loved ones struggling with opioid addiction. Accountability is rightly being demanded in the form of lawsuits against deceitful pharmaceutical companies and prescribing doctors operating “pill mills.” Unfortunately, while the country is focused on opioids, another, potentially larger and more dangerous threat is surfacing, according to Deni Carise, Ph.D.
“Data show drastic increases in the number of people addicted to and dying from overdoses involving cocaine and methamphetamine use, with a direct correlation to both drugs being increasingly available on our streets due to rising international production and trafficking,” says Dr. Carise, the chief scientific officer for Recovery Centers of America and adjunct clinical assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “While the attention being paid to the opioid epidemic is most definitely worthy and I commend all efforts at awareness, prevention and treatment, we must be careful not to ignore signs of other looming drug threats that will likely have similar catastrophic consequences.”
- Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that cocaine overdose deaths have more than tripled and meth overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2012.
- A UN report shows Colombian coca production more than tripled between 2012 and 2016; over the same period, prices fell 23 percent while purity increased nearly 20 percent. Lower prices and more purity helped contribute to an 81 percent increase in the number of first-time cocaine users in the United States since 2013.
- The United States High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, run from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, recently stated that cocaine made up 83 percent of drug seizures and meth 14 percent in 2017. Meth seizures more than doubled within three years in the southwestern states.
“We’re seeing rising numbers of cocaine and meth initiates, or first-time users, and increased use among young adults in this country, which is very alarming,” says Dr. Carise. “Cocaine is increasingly accessible and less expensive than it has been; meth serves as a more attainable and affordable substitute to opioids.”
Marked increases in overdose deaths involving combination drug use are driving this new problem, says Dr. Carise, with opioid/meth rates doubling since 2012 and opioid/cocaine more than tripling.
“Widespread seizures of contaminated cocaine indicate that drug dealers are commonly mixing in the synthetic opioid fentanyl. In some cases, this is done purposefully to increase the drug’s potency or profitability. In other cases, fentanyl is inadvertently mixed into cocaine by dealers using the same blending equipment to cut various types of drugs. Regardless, the contamination often occurs without the end users’ awareness, which can lead to overdose incidents and even death.”
Dr. Carise says, “The bottom line is that attention has been too narrowly focused on opioids. Multiple drug trafficking is rampant, and current drug prevention strategies are ineffective, all of which hamper our nation’s ability to respond to emerging trends. We must open our eyes to the fact that there are other drug threats and support tactics for reducing supply, raising awareness to help control demand and provide effective treatment. Unlike effective medications to assist with treatment for opioids or alcohol, there are no effective medications to control cravings or block the effects of cocaine or amphetamines. How we accomplish this as a country should be our number one priority given the high stakes.”
About Recovery Centers of America
Recovery Centers of America provides a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to addiction treatment. The company is in-network with most major insurance providers, which improves access to affordable care and reduces out-of-pocket expenses for individuals and families seeking help for drug and alcohol use disorders.
RCA’s centers for addiction medicine are located in patients’ neighborhoods providing easy access for families to participate in the treatment process and to access care 24/7. Being in patients’ neighborhoods allows the company to provide continuity across all levels of care, from detox and residential to outpatient and recovery support meetings, right in the neighborhoods where patients and their families live and work. RCA has six in-patient facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts treating those in active addiction in the Northeast/mid-Atlantic region with an additional center planned near NYC.
For more information, visit www.RecoveryCentersofAmerica.com or call 1-800-RECOVERY.