Just as America has a problem with multiple types of drugs, Americans also need access to a variety of solutions.
Cocaine is the #2 killer among illicit drugs in the U.S., according to a new study from the Center for Disease Control. Cocaine was shown to claim more lives than heroin among non-Hispanic black men and women.
In the African-American population, cocaine has been a more significant problem than heroin for nearly 20 years. The opioid crisis gets the lion’s share of attention, and will potentially capture the majority of government funding to fight the drug epidemic. At the White House opioid summit last week, President Trump said his administration would be “rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it will be very, very strong.”
However, other substances are impacting Americans as well. A study by RAND found that cocaine consumption fell 50 percent between 2006 and 2010. But that’s changing. According to the New York Times, the cocaine supply from Colombia has climbed to a record high in the past few years, in part because of a peace settlement that includes payments to farmers who stop growing coca. To be in a position to qualify for those payments in the future, many farmers started growing it. More cocaine in the international market means that cocaine prices have fallen, leading to an increase in cocaine use in the United States and some European countries.
Cocaine use not only gets less attention but has fewer solutions than opioid use. Harm reduction strategies for heroin, for example, include sterile syringes, medications like methadone, and even a relapse-prevention shot. Those methods don’t necessarily work with cocaine. However, cognitive behavioral therapy and substance use treatment has been shown to be useful for some people.
Just as America has a problem with multiple types of drugs, Americans also need access to a variety of solutions. Limiting insurance care to opioid users only, requiring employment to get insurance, or eliminating coverage of substance use disorder would all have a devastating effect on recovery access for all.
Although cocaine is a leading killer for African-Americans, that doesn’t mean opioids aren’t also a problem. All types of opioids combined, including heroin, prescribed opioids, and fentanyl, claim more lives than any other drug from every racial group.
However, an opioid-centric solution to the crisis might limit recovery from other substances. In an epidemic of this magnitude, experts like Keith Humphreys, a professor at the Stanford University of Medicine, advise keeping an open mind. “We need to focus on more than one drug at a time,” Humphreys told the New York Times.