Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine Abuse

NEWS FLASH: Cocaine abuse is a memory of yesteryear and the U.S. has shaken off the drug as of 2013!!

That’s a headline some would like to see, and for those who have been watching the trend of cocaine abuse, many would say the drug has disappeared from many areas of the U.S. However, cocaine abuse is still present and still an issue for those addicted to it, the medical community, schools, and the work place, and for law enforcement.

Trend Shifts Since The 1980s

While cocaine use has definitely decreased in the U.S. since the heyday of the 1980s and early 1990s, the related drug abuse still affects a significant portion of the national population. Cocaine abuse as of 2011, per the federal government statistics, measured 1.4 million users. While this only represents less than a half percent of the total population, it still includes enough people to make up a large city in most states.

First time users measured 670,000 in 2011, and those known to be addicted to cocaine represent approximately 800,000 in the same year. Further, 25 people out 10,000 tested still show positive for cocaine use at work-site testing. Overdose deaths were almost 4,200 in 2010. While these figures are lower than previous years, caveats are also included noting that the figures are likely understated as a number of users are simply not yet known in the system, but still abuse cocaine on a regular basis. Further, the data doesn’t include incarcerated addicts, as well as homeless.

Influencing Factors

Part of the reduction of cocaine abuse today has been credited with a generational shift away from the drug. Many in normal circles used cocaine on a regular basis to facilitate their fast-paced lifestyle and demands of working extremely hard in the day and then socializing at night to stay networked. That lifestyle faded as many of those involved moved on in life from the crazy singles lifestyle in their 20s and 30s.

The other major push reducing the supply of cocaine and making it hard to find has been a partnership between the federal government and that of Colombia. This alliance has finally found a way to block and reduce the amount of cocaine shipping out of South America and into the U.S. Instead of focusing on farmers, the Colombian government shifted tactics and began focusing on the drug middlemen and suppliers. So, in the aggregate, far less supply has made it to American streets. That makes it harder, in turn, to even find cocaine illegally. Demand measured in 2011 is down 40 percent versus previous years, notably reducing efforts of law enforcement chasing drug abusers and dealers as well. Some years Chicago law enforcement, for example, were dealing with almost 1 out of 2 suspects being related to cocaine somehow; the figure has now dropped to less than 19 percent in 2011.

Personal and Societal Impacts

Cocaine abuse still causes significant damage on those who habitually use the drug and become addicted. It affects health, social relationships, home relationships, marriage, work, ability to function properly in activities, and one’s primary health. Over time, the stimulant also results in a significant restructure of brain activity and processing, affecting literally everything from how a person behaves to how he thinks and cognitively approaches issues. These effects vary depending on the type of cocaine, how it is ingested or taken in, and the amounts. While the withdrawal phase from cocaine abuse only takes a few weeks, the addiction stays latent. Many former users have noted an intense desire for the drug can be felt again years after going clean. As a result, treatment for cocaine abuse can often be a long-term medical process versus a simple outpatient procedure.

The societal costs of cocaine abuse are significant as well. While the U.S. level of cocaine abuse is dropping, Australia is actually rising, making it a good microcosm of cocaine impacts in 2013. Australian law enforcement, particularly coastal customs, have intercepted as much as 2 tons of illegal cocaine shipments from 2010 to date. That only includes the drug shipments stopped versus what has made it through to users. There was a time when the U.S. spending on cocaine reached as much as $38 billion in 1996. Now the country’s cocaine abuse puts us in sixth or fifth place, well behind the skyrocketing level of demand going on in Australia. That said, the U.S. still faces impacts of drug abuse every day.

In reaction to the 1980s and 1990s drug abuse, the federal government, as well as states, pushed for harsh criminal and legal penalties on abusers and dealers. As a result, prisons have now been stuffed to the gills with cocaine and other drug users and traffickers with hefty sentences at the federal level. The issue is so compacted now in the prisons, even the federal Department of Justice has now had to issue new guidelines on prosecution sentencing requests, reducing the number of years of prison asked for from the courts as punishment for drug-related crimes. The current 2013 Attorney General, Eric Holder, issued sentencing reform guidelines to Justice offices nationwide in August, to reduce “draconian mandatory minimum sentences” overcrowding the federal prisons.

In Summary

Cocaine abuse, despite the overall drop in cases, still exists and, for those who suffer from the cocaine addiction, the damage is real and ongoing. Treatment is available, but because of the nature of the addiction being long-term, inpatient treatment on a regular schedule basis is truly the most effective way to get a grip on the problem for a patient. Outpatient approaches simply don’t provide the platform consistently needed month after month to keep a patient from relapsing into addiction again. The U.S. law enforcement and court system is realizing that simple incarceration doesn’t solve the problem either. Long-term medical treatment is one of the few tools that effectively works on cocaine abuse, and will continue to be.