Is Cocaine Abuse Changing?

Cocaine abuse has gone through several changes over the years and while it is still a popular drug of recreational abuse, the amount produced and consumed has significantly decreased. Cocaine abuse and production was prevalent from the 70s through the early 2000s but has decreased in recent years. Production and cultivation of the coca plant has seen a significant decrease in Colombia as well as a decrease globally. Despite decreased supply, estimates indicate that North America still consumes over 40% of the global supply of cocaine, which is more than any other country. An estimate of more than 6 million people use or abuse cocaine in North America, over 4 million in Europe and over 16 million globally according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In 1988 an estimate of close to 700 metric tons of cocaine were consumed by the United States while today the consumption estimates are between 100 and 200 metric tons. This decrease in production and consumption suggests that the abuse of cocaine has also gone through significant changes. Some of the contributing factors to the change in how Americans abuse cocaine today may include the following:

  • Cocaine was classified as a schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 confirming that it was an addictive substance with a high potential for abuse
  • An increased understanding of how cocaine affects the body and brain due to intensive research into the substance
  • Economic downfall leaving people with less disposable income and unstable careers
  • The development of safer alternative to cocaine for use in medical procedures
  • The presence of alternative substances like prescription drugs that produce similar effects as cocaine but are cheaper, legal, readily available, and easier to obtain
  • Increased efforts by government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on seizures of the substance and arrests on people in possession
  • Replacement of the substance by abusers who have found better alternatives

While cocaine abuse has become less popular it is still one of the top drugs of recreational abuse, especially among teenagers looking for new experiences. As society’s view of drug addiction changes, addiction to cocaine has become less accepted. Addiction is increasingly being recognized as a medical disease rather than a choice. As this accurate view of addiction increases, the acceptance of addiction to harder drugs like cocaine is becoming less popular and less accepted. In many cases cocaine abuse is being replaced by prescription drug abuse because prescription pills are easier to obtain and can produce similar effects. Society’s impression of the type of person that abuses cocaine has changed over the years as well. The stereotype went from an upscale, rich and educated person in the cocaine revival of the 70s to an uneducated, poor and lower class person in the 90s and thereafter. Cocaine abuse now is a common problem for experimental teenagers and low income adults in impoverished inner city neighborhoods.

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