Cocaine Use Rising Among the Middle and Lower Classes
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Despite its image, cocaine is no longer just a rich person’s drug. A new report from the U.K.’s advisory council on the misuse of drugs (ACMD) finds that, though overall cocaine use has slightly decreased, the drug is increasingly prevalent among middle and lower income communities.
More people now have access to the drug due to an emerging market of low-purity, cheaper cocaine, in addition to a smaller market of the expensive, higher-purity variety, says the ACMD.
“Consumption of powdered cocaine in the United Kingdom has changed radically over the last two decades,” said Prof. Les Iversen, chair of the ACMD. “Once characterized as the preserve of wealthy bankers and celebrities, the research highlighted in this report shows a cheaper, low-purity version of the drug has permeated society more widely.”
The report found that nearly one in 10 people, aged 16 to 59, have used cocaine at some point, making it the second most popular drug after marijuana.
The authors of the report said the drug can lead to crime and “risky behavior” and warned that first-time cocaine users may experience “potentially severe and life threatening consequences.” One of the potential dangers is impurity, since cocaine is often cut with bulking agents like Levamisole, a drug used to treat worms in animals, or benzocaine, an anesthetic used by dentists. A study of U.K. cocaine seizures in 2008/09 found that most samples had a purity of 10% or less.
But the drug’s “champagne” image may lead people to believe that the drug is safe. “The association of cocaine with celebrity culture is one of the reasons that some people think misguidedly this is a safe drug,” said Iversen. “This is not doing a service to understanding of the realities of the drug.”