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Cocaine abuse over the years in the US

11-14 | By Rachael

Cocaine abuse over the years in the US

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 1.9 million people (0.7 percent of the population) aged 12 and above were the current users of cocaine.

Among these users, nearly 432,000 were the current users of crack (0.2 percent of the population). The largest group of 552,000 users (1.6 percent of young adults) abusing this illicit drug belonged to the age group 18 to 25 years, including 15,000 (0.1 percent) who used crack.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant with a high potential for abuse. Since it is highly addictive, it is classified as a Schedule II drug that can be legitimately administered only by a doctor for medical reasons, such as local anesthesia for eye, ear or throat surgeries.

As a street drug used for recreational purposes, cocaine is sold as a fine white crystalline powder and is popularly known by various names, such as Coke, C, Snow, Powder or Blow. In order to increase profits, street cocaine is often diluted (or ‘cut’) with non-psychoactive substances, such as cornstarch, talcum powder, flour or baking soda. It is also adulterated with other drugs like procaine (another related local anesthetic) or amphetamine (another psychostimulant). People also indulge in speedballing by combining cocaine with heroin for enhanced euphoric effects.

Usually, cocaine comes in two chemical forms that include the water-soluble hydrochloride salt available in powder form that is either injected or snorted and the water-insoluble cocaine base (freebase) that is smoked. ‘Crack’ is the street name given to freebase cocaine that has been derived from the crackling sound emitted when freebase cocaine is smoked.

Understanding the trajectory of cocaine abuse

Cocaine, extracted from the leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca), is indigenous to the Andean highlands of South America. The compound cocaine hydrochloride was isolated from the leaves of the coca plant in the 19th century. Historically, its use as a stimulant has existed for thousands of years as the natives of South America have been known to chew and ingest coca leaves for its stimulant effects to relieve fatigue. The Andean natives were also known to brew coca leaves into a beverage just like tea. History shows that the natives burned or smoked various parts of the coca plant as part of their religious and medicinal practices.

It was Albert Niemann, a German chemist who first recognized the stimulant effects of the coca leaves by extracting the pure chemical cocaine hydrochloride in the mid-1800s. With the discovery of the anesthetic properties of cocaine, it soon became popular as an anesthetic for eye, nose and throat surgeries. The widespread awareness about the psychoactive effects of cocaine led medical practitioners to prescribe it for the treatment of depression, anxiety and addiction treatment.

By the early 1900s, cocaine formed the main active ingredient in a wide variety of patent medicines, tonics and elixirs. Surprising, the original formula for Coca-Cola contained approximately 2.5 mg of cocaine per 100 ml of fluid—often sold as a medicine for headache cure and stimulant.

With the increase in the number of mishaps and other repercussions, the public health officials raised an alarm decrying cocaine’s negative effects and other social consequences. This played the leading role in initiating and implementing the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 that restricted the legal production, importation and distribution of cocaine. This ended the unbridled and extensive use of cocaine in the early part of the 20th century.

Curbing cocaine epidemic needs promulgating stringent measures

The legal prohibitions helped to restrict the supply of cocaine. Unfortunately, cocaine again became part of the American drug scene in the 1960s and the supplies entering the U.S. gradually increased year after year until the mid-1980s.

When the drug traffickers chanced upon crack cocaine, the cocaine epidemic reached its worst phase from 1985 onwards. It caused devastating consequences in the society by rapidly escalating the rates of addiction and other health-related problems. Moreover, a wave of street crime swept through many American cities.

If you or your loved one is struggling with the problem of addiction to any substance, contact the Colorado Substance Abuse Advisors for information about the state-of-the-art substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-300-5857 or chat online with our representatives for further information about the evidence-based substance abuse treatment programs in Colorado.


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