Feds allow use of opioid funds to stem meth, cocaine surge

    In this Aug. 29, 2019, file photo, members of the Coast Guard stand near seized cocaine in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, file)

    The little-noticed change is buried in a massive spending bill passed by Congress late last year.

    Alarmed by a deadly new twist in the nation’s drug addiction crisis, the government will allow states to use federal money earmarked for the opioid epidemic to help growing numbers of people struggling with meth and cocaine. Pressed by constituents and state officials, lawmakers of both parties and the Trump administration agreed to broaden the scope of a $1.5 billion grant program previously restricted to the opioid crisis. Starting this year states can also use those federal dollars to counter addiction to “stimulants,” a term the government uses for methamphetamine and cocaine.

    About 68,000 people died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2018, with opioids involved in about two-thirds of the cases. Opioids are a drug class that includes fentanyl, heroin, certain prescription painkillers, and various chemical combinations concocted for street sales. But the national numbers also hide dramatic differences in the deadliest drugs across the land.

    In most states west of the Mississippi meth is the biggest killer, according to government data for 2017. Meanwhile, the highly lethal opioid fentanyl maintains its grip on the East and Midwest. Cocaine ranks third overall nationally in drug-involved deaths.

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