- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Roughly 1-in-20 young adults in America reported using cocaine in the past year, according to an Obama administration report Tuesday that says 16 states saw an uptick while use in other states stayed flat, with no decreases reported in any state or region.

Cocaine use ranged from less than 2 percent of residents aged 18-25 in Mississippi to more than 1-in-10 in New Hampshire, according to the substance abuse arm of the Health and Human Services Department.

And 968,000 people over age 12 reported they started using cocaine in 2015, a 26 percent increase over 2014 and a higher total than in each of the prior six years.

Taken together, the results indicate that a drug associated with the 1980s party scene is making a comeback, even as the U.S. grapples with a prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic.

“Recent findings suggest that cocaine use may be reemerging as a public health concern in the United States,” the report said.

The government warns that cocaine, made from leaves of the coca plant native to South America, is a “powerfully addictive” stimulant that can lead to fatal heart attacks and strokes.

Use among young adults aged 18-25 was particularly prevalent in the six New England states and in a trio of western states — Arizona, Colorado and Oregon. Delaware rounded out the top 10, with more than 6 percent of its young adults reporting use.

The report does not indicate why use is increasing, yet it says that by highlighting habits at the state level, it “may help policymakers plan for and allocate resources to provide effective preventive interventions and increase access to substance use treatment.”

For now, the states and Congress are trying to catch up with an opioid crisis that is only getting worse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week reported that more than 52,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2015. About 63 percent of those overdose deaths — more than 33,000 — involved a prescription painkiller or “illicit” opioid, such as heroin or powerful synthetics like fentanyl.

That’s an increase from 2014, when about 61 percent of drug overdose deaths — roughly 28,650 of 47,000 — involved an opioid.

Since 2000, more than 300,000 Americans have died from an opioid-related overdose, the CDC said.

Earlier this month, President Obama signed a sweeping medical innovation bill that includes $1 billion in state grants to improve treatment and awareness of opioid addiction.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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