Ten Facts About the Most Deadly Illicit Drug in America
Cocaine is the second most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. after marijuana and has the highest death rate of any other illicit drug.
About 2.1 million Americans are regular users, and 2,500 people try it for the first time every day.
While it is known as a "party drug" for the young and the rich, what are the real facts about cocaine?
1. Cocaine causes three times more deaths than any other illicit drug. This is due in part to the common practice of combining alcohol with the drug, which creates the toxic compound coca-ethylene, allowing the cocaine to have a longer lasting effect on the brain. When combined with alcohol, cocaine is 25 times more likely to cause sudden death.
2. Cocaine is the most powerful central nervous system stimulant found in our natural environment. It gives the illusion of limitless energy, self-confidence and a high level of alertness. At the same time, it can cause confusion, physical shaking/twitching and extreme paranoia and nervousness.
3. Cocaine was first used by members of the Inca Civilization in the Andes mountains. The tribe members chewed the purest form of the drug, the Coca leaf, and considered the plant a "gift from the gods."
4. Because cocaine is a powerful numbing agent, it was used in the late 1800s as an anesthetic for eye, nose and throat surgeries.
5. Cocaine is one of the most addictive controlled substances with about 10% of people who try the drug progressing to heavy usage.
6. Coca-Cola is notorious for once containing about 9 milligrams of cocaine per serving. The combination of cocaine with caffeine created a highly stimulating (and addicting) effect until the drug was removed from the ingredients in 1903.
7. The highest rates of cocaine use in the U.S. are among young adults in the age group of 18-25 years. About 5% of this age group admits to regular use.
8. Men are more likely than women to use cocaine, possibly because men tend to feel the effects of cocaine faster than women. Men also report more episodes of euphoria and dysphoria.
9. The majority of deaths associated with cocaine are caused by suicide, homicide and car accidents due to the mind-altering qualities of the drug.
10. Worldwide, the United States has the highest incident rate of cocaine abuse, while Asia has the lowest.