U.S. Experiencing Significant Decline in Cocaine Use

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U.S. Experiencing Significant Decline in Cocaine Use

Since 2011 cocaine use in the U.S. has experienced a marked decrease in the sale and use of cocaine. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the total number persons who reported using cocaine dropped by 44% from 2006-2013.

The history of cocaine is a long and sordid one. Native people in the Americas used coca leafs (the plant from which cocaine is extracted) for eons. The coca leaf, however, in its natural form, has effects much weaker than cocaine itself – more akin to caffeine.

In 1956, a man named Friedrich Wöhler extracted chemicals from coca leaves, at which time its psychoactive effects were identified. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, cocaine was used to treat many different conditions. By 1915, however it was classified as a harmful substance.

Cocaine use more or less flew under the radar for about 50 years. It made a comeback in the 1960’s, and was among many drugs associated with the hippy subculture during that time. By the 80’s, cocaine had became an expensive habit to feed, and had then become associated with wealth and glamour. By 1985, an estimated 5.7 million Americans were addicted to cocaine.

Crack cocaine has also been on the decline since the end of the last decade. This is partly due to Columbian law enforcement beginning to target drug labs rather than cartels. Moreover, once the labs that created cocaine from coca leaves were shut down, the cocaine supply dropped, causing the price to increase significantly. Thus, consumption decreased, as well.

According to a 2015 article from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2013 about 1.5 million persons over age 12 were regular cocaine users. This number reveals a marked decline from 2002-2007. when NIDA estimated the number of cocaine addicts to be between 2-2.4 million.

It’s not entirely clear however, if the decline popularity of cocaine reflects law enforcement efforts or changes in which drugs are considered “cool” (or a combination of both.) As it were, heroin use is the rise – increasing three-fold between 2003-2014 to around 1 million users.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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