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. The little-noticed change is buried in a massive spending bill passed by Congress late last year, the AP reports. 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. "Meth and cocaine are making a comeback and they are more potent than they were during the last wave," says Mark Stringer, director of Missouri's Department of Mental Health.
"Where meth is much more prevalent than opioids, this will be a game-changer," Stringer says. 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. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat whose state has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic, says she was hearing from all quarters last year that the drug-addiction scourge is gradually changing. "They were seeing much more impact from meth and from cocaine, substances they couldn't address because of specific language in the law," says Shaheen, referring to previous restrictions in the federal grant program aimed at opioids.
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