Greg Walden Raises Concerns Over Increased Use of Stimulants

January 14, 2020
Press Release

Today, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River), Republican Leader of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent letters to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon regarding concerns over reports of increased use of stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, in the United States in recent years. The letters were signed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the committee in addition to Walden. In the letters, the Members requested a briefing from the three agencies.

The Members, while concerned with the opioid epidemic, are also worried that the growing epidemic involving stimulants is being ignored.

“We are concerned that while the nation, rightly so, is devoting much of its attention and resources to the opioid epidemic, another epidemic -- this one involving cocaine and methamphetamine -- is on the rise,” Members wrote in their letters.

The dangerous stimulant epidemic has hit Oregon especially hard. A 2017 survey ranked Oregon as 2nd in the nation for methamphetamine use. The Oregon-Idaho HIDTA Program's 2020 Drug Threat Assessment also found that in 2018, the number of deaths in the state related to methamphetamine use reached a historic 272, a number that nears the combined total of deaths related to opioid use. The number of methamphetamine deaths in Oregon since 2009 has increased 400 percent.

In 2012, cocaine-involved overdose death rates began increasing. Cocaine was involved in 14,948 drug overdose deaths in 2017, which accounted for one in five overall overdose deaths that year. Rates of overdose deaths from all psychostimulants, including methamphetamine, have been increasing since 2010. In 2017, more than 10,000 Americans died from an overdose involving psychostimulants with abuse potential, which was a 37 percent increase from 2016.

“We remain committed to advance treatment, improve prevention, protect communities, and bolster efforts to fight deadly illicit drugs like opioids and fentanyl. However, our country’s fight against illicit substances must be multi-faceted and we want to ensure that the appropriate attention and resources are devoted to combat these other substances as well. Accordingly, we seek to better understand how the relevant agencies are monitoring and combating this growing threat,” the Members continued in their letters.

Walden has also held multiple roundtable discussions throughout the Second District on both opioid and stimulant use. In August, he visited Community Counseling Solutions in John Day where he had a productive discussion with local public health, government, and law enforcement officials.  In October, Walden held another roundtable discussion on the issue in southern Oregon with La Clinica and Rogue Community Health officials.

Click here to learn more about Walden's work to combat illicit drug and substance use and additional efforts to improve rural health care for Oregonians.

Click here to read the letters.