Facts about Cocaine use in the United States


Brasília - If you don't have a pipe, do it wit...

Image via Wikipedia

Cocaine use in the United States has an extremely broad range of characteristics. Cocaine hydrochloride was historically used for medicinal purposes. However, in the early 20th century and again in the 1970s through the 1980s it regained broad popularity for recreational use.

 The Country Profile (CP) notes that current use is largely non-medicinal, mostly in the form of cocaine hydrochloride [powder] and smokable [crack] cocaine. Hydrochloride is generally inhaled or injected. Cocaine can be smoked as crack, or hydrochloride may be mixed with tobacco or marijuana. An estimated 90% of US users inhale hydrochloride and approximately one-third smoke it.

Surveys reviewed in the CP indicate that use rose drastically in the 1970s and peaked in the middle 1980s. Use has continued to decline. The number of “occasional cocaine users” for the raid to late 1980s totaled 5.9 million and [monthly users] numbered about 2.9 minion. Users in 1992 comprised approximately 3.4 million “occasional” and 1.1 million “monthly” users. However, the total number of “frequent users” remained stable at 650 000 between 1988 and 1992. Use predominates in impoverished inner city neighbor-hoods among people between the ages of 15 and 34. Similar patterns appear for all ethnic groups although male users outnumber female users. Use declined by 63% for adolescents.

The profile reports that cocaine availability has increased and prices have substantially decreased over the last two decades. Reports indicate that high quality cocaine is now available at a lower cost than during peak use in 1985.

Consequences of Cocaine Use

 The US CP reports several areas of impact on user health. Major negative effects among heavy and chronic users were higher suicide rates, heart and lung problems and difficulty with concentration and memory. Increased sexual stimulation and sexual dysfunction were identified but research in this area is limited. The CP points out complications, caused by cocaine use during pregnancy has been exaggerated by the media. Research generally fails to support cocaine as the source of prenatal problems relative to other social factors such as poverty or poor prenatal care.

One consequence of use cited was a dramatic increase in emergency room and private physician referrals for cocaine-related health problems. This was most notable in major metropolitan areas. Most emergency room admissions were for “detoxification, unexpected drug reactions and chronic negative health effects.” Of note, 44 times the number of cocaine-related deaths occurred in 1989 (2332 reported cases) in comparison to 1975 (53 reported cases).

A social consequence reported in the CP is the connection between crime and cocaine use. It notes that two-thirds of all females and one-half of all males arrested test positive for cocaine. Increased criminal activity was noted for males with heavy use of cocaine. Crack users may also experience more violent or psychotic events.

One of the most significant health consequences posed by cocaine use is its association with increased risk for transmission of HIV/AIDS. Of concern is needle sharing among cocaine and polydrug injectors and an enhanced potential for unsafe sex, fostered by the disinhibiting effects of cocaine and by cases where sex is offered in exchange for cocaine. Harm reduction strategies, particularly needle exchanges, condom distribution and prevention campaigns, are essential to stem HIV spread through all cocaine-using populations. Cocaine use in the United States has an extremely broad range of characteristics. Cocaine hydrochloride was historically used for medicinal purposes. However, in the early 20th century and again in the 1970s through the 1980s it regained broad popularity for recreational use.

The CP notes that current use is largely non-medicinal, mostly in the form of cocaine hydrochloride “powder” and smokable “crack” cocaine. Hydrochloride is generally inhaled intranasally or injected. Smokable cocaine can be smoked as crack, or hydrochloride may be mixed with tobacco or marijuana. An estimated 90% of US users inhale hydrochloride and approximately one-third smoke it.

Surveys reviewed in the CP indicate that use rose drastically in the 1970s and peaked in the middle 1980s. Use has continued to decline. The number of “occasional cocaine users” for the raid to late 1980s totalled 5.9 million and “monthly users” numbered about 2.9 minion. Users in 1992 comprised approximately 3.4 million “occasional” and 1.1 million “monthly” users. However, the total number of “frequent users” remained stable at 650 000 between 1988 and 1992. Use predominates in impoverished inner city neighbourhoods among people between the ages of 15 and 34. Similar patterns appear for all ethnic groups although male users outnumber female users. Use declined by 63% for adolescents.

The profile reports that cocaine availability has increased and prices have substantially decreased over the last two decades. Reports indicate that high quality cocaine is now available at a lower cost than during peak use in 1985.

Responses

The CP identifies more than two million “hard-core” cocaine users in the United States. This was described as problematic since there are no standard treatment programmes for cocaine dependence. It was emphasized that intranasal users had more favourable treatment outcomes than do crack smokers. Also, females were found to demonstrate a better response to treatment than do males. Multiple drug use was common. Alcohol is the major drug used with cocaine.

The primary media responses mentioned in the profile focus on the “war on drugs” that centred on crack. However, the media offers negative, exaggerated and often racialized images of crack users. This is especially apparent for women, who are frequently portrayed as prostitutes and unfit mothers. The CP contends that media prevention campaigns are founded on stereotype and myth.

The primary political response noted in the CP is the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 which financed several programmes including research on development of medications for treatment of cocaine dependence.

Advertisements