NY Cocaine Crash Tells Economic Tale

By Will Godfrey 09/27/11

New figures suggest that New Yorkers have been skimping on cocaine since the financial crisis began.

Now the only way to get high in NY Thinkstock

Stocks may plummet, jobs may go, but one surefire sign of economic woe is when large numbers of people—in New York, of all places—feel the pinch badly enough to put their coke habits on hold. According to indicators obtained by the New York Post, this has happened right on cue over the last few years. Accidental deaths in the Big Apple in which cocaine was a factor fell from 478 in 2006 to 274 in 2010. Emergency room admissions have also fallen, and only 7,693 people sought treatment for cocaine addiction in New York last year—down from 9,654 in 2008—according to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. "It is sort of on a slight but steady downward trend," said Dr. Stephen Ross, director of NYU’s Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, to the Post. "Many cocaine addicts tell me stories they don’t have enough money to buy it anymore." The idea that cocaine's decline is economy-driven and cyclical, rather than a long-term social trend, was supported by one incarcerated drug dealer who spoke to The Fix: "When the economy goes down, people stay in more and smoke more weed, so I always sold a lot more of that," he told us. "When it goes up, people go out and do coke." So we can expect NYC's cash-strapped coke-heads to hit the powder again as soon as the economy springs to life—always assuming, of course, that it does.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.