Cocaine Use On The Rise For The First Time In Nearly A Decade

By Britni de la Cretaz 03/22/17

There has been a 54% increase in the number of cocaine overdose deaths from 2012 to 2015.

Person using a razor blade to separate cocaine.

A release from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) indicates that there has been a rise in Colombian cocaine production—but numbers in the U.S. have remained relatively stable over the last five years. However, recent numbers show a slow uptick in cocaine use in the U.S. for the first time in almost 10 years.

There has been a 54% increase in the number of cocaine overdose deaths from 2012 to 2015, according to the ONDCP release, and the number of people using cocaine increased 26% from 2014 to 2015.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released this month, said, “According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there was an increase in cocaine seizures nationwide between 2014 and 2015, and the number of overdose deaths within the United States involving cocaine in 2015 was the highest since 2007.”

The report continued, “There are troubling early signs that cocaine use and availability is on the rise in the United States for the first time in nearly a decade. Coca cultivation in Colombia increased by 39% in 2014 and again by 42% in 2015 to 159,000 hectares, nearing record highs, and this surge in production may be having effects within the United States.”

This report gives a boost to President Trump’s rhetoric about increasing border security in order to fight the addiction epidemic in the U.S. But in Kentucky, Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force Director Tommy Loving has another theory about what to expect in the coming years regarding cocaine-trafficking and use.

He told the Bowling Green Daily News, “With commuted sentences recently by the former president some number of the upper-level crack cocaine traffickers are going to be released from federal prison that have much experience in trafficking of cocaine and crack cocaine, so that is something we’ll be watching and also may be a partial driver in the increase. We’ll be paying attention to that in this area.”

Loving is referring to the 1,715 sentences for non-violent drug offenders commuted by President Obama during his time in office, the largest number of any U.S. president. However, there is no evidence that granting clemency to people who had been serving 25 year-to-life sentences for non-violent drug offenses will increase drug trafficking.

While some ex-offenders do re-offend, the reasons for that are often related to the incredible challenges of re-entering society and the lack of support services for these individuals. Not only that, large numbers of formerly incarcerated people go on to rejoin their families and contribute to their communities in positive ways. In fact, a 2015 report from the Ella Baker Center shows that incarceration has a negative impact on both the incarcerated individual and their families.

Officials in Kentucky said they have seen an increase in crack-cocaine arrests and related crime in recent years. Loving said, “This will just further eat away at our limited resources at a time when we have not seen any increase in federal funding to assist drug task forces … And until the federal government can control drugs coming across the border, it’s difficult for me to buy that this is a state and local issue.”

The Trump administration has committed to trying to control the amount of drugs coming into the country, but whether or not it will be effective policy remains to be seen—when it was attempted in the past, it was deemed a policy failure on all levels by the United Nations.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.