Cocaine is a highly dangerous and addictive drug that affects people of all ages and walks of life. It comes from the coca plant, which is harvested and then turned into a white powder. Users inhale the powder, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream through blood vessels in the nose. They may also rub it on their gums or possibly even inject it, but this carries a significant risk of overdose.
Cocaine addiction is widespread, with almost two million users in the United States alone. It is the drug of choice for many different age groups but is most prevalent in 18 – 25 year olds. Though it isn’t known why abuse is heaviest at this age, it is known why cocaine is so addictive.
Cocaine stimulates areas of the brain that research has shown respond to pleasurable stimuli. The cocaine interferes with the healthy release and recycling of a substance called dopamine. This leads to an artificial feeling of euphoria in the drug user.
Unfortunately, the human body quickly builds up a tolerance for the euphoric feeling. Wanting to experience that “high” again, the user will need to take larger and larger quantities of the drug and will need to decrease the intervals between hits. This quickly leads to addiction.
Cocaine addiction is reported to be higher in men than in women, but women with addiction problems can cause harm to more than just themselves when they are pregnant. The cocaine transfers from the mother’s blood stream to the baby’s, creating addicts out of children still in the womb. Because women in the 18 – 25 year old age group are of prime child-bearing age, this is another aspect of cocaine abuse that deserves attention.
Cocaine use affects many age groups
The 18 – 25 year old age group is by no means the only one to suffer from cocaine addiction. There was a story recently out of a town in Cork, Ireland. It seems that a 50-year-old grandmother brought cocaine to a bingo hall. She was arrested and charged with two counts of possession. The grandmother claimed that she was holding the cocaine “for a friend,” but she did have two prior convictions for drug possession.
In addition to older people who are involved with cocaine, younger people (18 and below) can be prone to abuse. Children as young as 12 years old have been arrested for possession of cocaine. A 13-year-old was recently arrested in Bedfordshire, England for attempting to sell this drug.
The news on this front is not all bad, however. A survey called Monitoring the Future, done in 2009, showed a clear and dramatic drop in cocaine abuse in 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Cocaine use in 12th graders, for example, fell from about 2.5% in 2006 to about 1.5% in 2009. Since 12th graders are usually 18 years old and are just entering the 18 – 25 age range, perhaps this is an indication that usage in that age group will decline as well.
In fact, information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that overdoses of cocaine resulting in death have steadily declined since 2006 (though there was a slight uptick in 2011,) dropping from approximately 7,500 in 2006 to approximately 4,000 in 2010.
What can be done about cocaine abuse?
Though the National Institute on Drug Abuse study did not attempt to attribute the decline to any particular cause, it stands to reason that effective education of students 10 – 17 years old (and perhaps even younger) would help to decrease the number of 18 – 25 year olds that turn to cocaine. There are excellent drug education programs out there. Helping to ensure that your local schools are implementing effective drug education programs could make a huge impact on future use.