April 19, 2024

When political leaders talk about America’s current drug crisis, they are typically referring to opioids like painkillers, heroin and fentanyl. And when they have passed laws to deal with the problem in the past decade, those policies have centered on opioids. They have, for example, focused on boosting access to medications that treat only opioid addiction or reverse only opioid overdoses.

That narrow focus has neglected the rise of other drugs, as my colleague Jan Hoffman reports today. In the last five years, overdose deaths involving methamphetamine have tripled. Those linked to cocaine have doubled. People addicted to opioids increasingly use other substances, including meth, cocaine and prescription medications like Valium and Xanax.

Meth use, in particular, has also made it difficult to stabilize patients and keep them in treatment for any drug, as one addiction doctor explained to Jan:

The paranoia and hallucinations caused by meth disorient them, he said. One patient threw himself in a river to escape nonexistent people who were chasing him. Others insisted that dumpsters were talking to them, that color-coded cars were sending them messages.

These types of problems are why experts have long urged policymakers to take a comprehensive approach to drug addiction. More support for opioid addiction medications is important, but so is funding underused treatments that address meth and cocaine addiction (such as paying people to stop using drugs).

The changing nature of the drug crisis was predictable, because drug use is historically faddish. In the 1970s, America struggled with heroin. In the ’80s, it was cocaine. In the ’90s and early 2000s, meth. Since then, opioids have taken off.

One explanation for this is what’s known as generational forgetting: Young people tend to avoid the drug that is currently causing a crisis. But because they don’t have personal experiences with the drugs that caused harm before their time, they are more willing to use those substances.

Different drugs can also complement each other, and so their popularity can rise simultaneously. Opioids, for example, often cause users to doze off, which can leave those who live on the streets vulnerable to theft or rape. So opioid users sometimes use stimulants, like meth and cocaine, to stay awake. And if they receive treatment for opioid addiction, they may continue using stimulants.

All of this leads to a revolving door for different kinds of drug crises. It has happened before, and it is happening again.

Read Jan’s full story, which includes details about the rise of a kind of meth so pure that some are calling it “super meth.”

Related: Arizona rehab centers provided shoddy or nonexistent addiction treatment to Native Americans that cost the state as much as $1 billion, officials say.

  • Israeli forces are closing in on Al Shifa, a major Gaza hospital. Israel accuses Hamas of building a command center underneath it. Hamas and hospital officials deny this claim and say Israel is risking innocent lives.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against the idea that the Palestinian Authority, the Western-backed government in the occupied West Bank, could run Gaza after the war.

  • “It’s only going to get worse”: As fighting rages on in Gaza, Israeli military raids and violent protests are on the rise in the West Bank.

  • More than 100,000 people marched in cities across France to support Jewish citizens and protest antisemitism.

Less than charming: Meet the people whose job is to find and euthanize invasive pythons in Florida.

Treasure: Billions in gold and jewels sank in 1708. Colombia’s government wants them found.

A morning listen: One Tennessee county arrested and illegally jailed children. Listen to the four-part story, “The Kids of Rutherford County,” from “Serial.”

Metropolitan Diary: I have a strange request.”

Lives Lived: Karen Davis was a fierce animal-rights activist who led campaigns to recognize the dignity of chickens, turkeys and other farmyard fowl. She died at 79.

Sunday Night Football: The New York Jets failed to score a touchdown for the second straight game in a 16-12 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Recent history: Most of Netflix’s “The Crown” has felt quaint and far away in its dramatization of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. But the latest season — the first part of which arrives on Thursday — will tackle one of the most analyzed eras in recent British history: the final days of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the fallout from her death.

The show’s depiction of the period has already set off conversations about accuracy and sensitivity. “People who lived through Diana’s death feel a sense of ownership over that history,” Annie Sulzberger, the head of research for the show, said.

  • Programs teaching children how to be YouTubers are popping up everywhere, The Washington Post reports.

Make-ahead recipes are key to a stress-free meal. This year Melissa Clark created a truly delicious make-ahead turkey that travels well, too.

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