Why We Need a Lifesaving Cocaine Program - Schick Shadel Hospital

Why We Need a Lifesaving Cocaine Program

By June 14, 2019 August 1st, 2019 No Comments
Why We Need a Lifesaving Cocaine Program

While the opioid crisis in the U.S. has taken center-stage in the growing struggle against drug addiction, the rising need for effective cocaine programs has been largely overlooked. Now we have a reemerging cocaine crisis on our hands.

What Exactly is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant that is derived from coca leaves, which are primarily grown in Colombia. It’s classified as a Schedule II drug, which means that it has a high potential for abuse, but it can be administered by a doctor for some legitimate medical uses.1

Cocaine has been identified as the third most harmful drug in terms of addictive potency, trailing closely behind heroin and alcohol. It can produce a high degree of withdrawal symptoms, tolerance, dependence, and intoxication, which are all factors that contribute to addiction.2 Given its high potency, less than a gram of cocaine can cause an overdose. Fortunately, there are medically proven cocaine programs that are available for cocaine addicts that need addiction treatment services.

Without immediate medical attention, a cocaine overdose can cause death by a heart attack, stroke, or respiratory failure. Other life-threatening symptoms of a cocaine overdose can include kidney failure and blood pressure problems. The short-term symptoms of a cocaine overdose can often be deadly or put someone into a critical medical condition. Some of the long-term effects include heart problems, chronic anxiety, psychosis, paralysis, and muscle deterioration.3

 Recent findings indicate that cocaine abuse is reemerging as a public health concern due to the growing number of people that are addicted to it.4 In the U.S., there are about 1.9 million people aged 12 and older that are current users of cocaine.5

 Opioids and Cocaine Are Causing Deadly Cross-Addictions

The most recent statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that more than 130 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids.6 This statistic may continue to worsen as the opioid crisis fuels a rapid increase of cocaine-related overdose deaths.

Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend of mixing a depressant, such as heroin, with cocaine, which is a stimulant.7 This is called “speedballing” and it theoretically enhances the effects of both drugs. The reality is that speedballing is more dangerous and toxic than either of the drugs would be alone.8 Cocaine requires the body to take in and use more oxygen while heroin slows breathing. This not only puts immense strain on the lungs, heart, and brain, but it also causes confusion and turmoil within the body. Since cocaine wears off much faster than heroin,9 people who speedball tend to inject more frequently to try to maintain the effects of both drugs.10 This only makes speedballing more deadly with more likelihood of overdosing.

The Opioid Crisis is Giving Birth to a Cocaine Crisis

After remaining steady for several years, deaths from cocaine increased at an alarming rate of 52% between 2015 and 2016. Cocaine is now killing about 13,000 people a year and it’s on track to rival painkiller pills and heroin. Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are partially to blame for the dramatic increase of cocaine overdose deaths. In some states, synthetic opioids appeared in as many as 83% of cocaine overdoses in 2016.11 Many of these deaths resulted from people not getting the expected effect from using what they thought was just cocaine. They often didn’t know that fentanyl had been mixed in, so they assumed that they simply didn’t get enough cocaine. This leads people to use more, and overdose. Law enforcement agencies have recently stated that they fear that fentanyl-laced cocaine may be the next wave of addiction crisis in the U.S.12

Why has Cocaine Reemerged as a Public Health Concern?

According to a study by RAND, the amount of cocaine consumed in the U.S. decreased by about 50% between 2006 and 2010.13 Cocaine abuse never disappeared in the U.S., but it decreased enough that cocaine programs didn’t require as much attention. Much of the country’s resources shifted to focus on the opioid crisis instead.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, farmers increased their coca production (the plant used to make cocaine) because it was a lucrative opportunity that they couldn’t pass up. In 2016, the Colombian government signed a peace deal with the FARC to help reduce coca production (the FARC is an armed rebel group that is funded by trafficking cocaine into the U.S.)14 The deal promised to pay farmers to switch from growing coca to growing a food crop.15 Unfortunately, many farmers then started to grow coca if they hadn’t already done so. This qualified them to get bought out by the government if they chose to stop growing coca.16 In the end, the Colombian government’s deal unintentionally increased the cocaine supply being produced and trafficked into the U.S.

The increased supply of cocaine flowing into the U.S. dropped the price and made it easier to obtain. As cocaine became more affordable and obtainable, many people who already encountered the illegal drug market for opioids began using cocaine too.17 The growing rate of cross-addiction with opioids and cocaine has increased the demand for cocaine. As a result, coca plants turned into an extremely lucrative crop for those Colombian farmers that initially began growing with the intention of being bought out.

We have since seen a rising number of deaths involving cocaine. Almost 14,000 Americans died due to cocaine overdose in 2017, which was a 34.4% increase from 2016.18

Schick Shadel Hospital’s Cocaine Program Can Help Eliminate the Addiction

At Schick Shadel Hospital, our cocaine program is based on proven scientific research and utilizes a medical approach called aversion therapy. Aversion therapy is a form of counterconditioning that has been medically proven to retrain the brain and stop the addictive cravings of cocaine. As the longest-running and most successful addiction treatment center in the U.S., we have helped over 80,000 people overcome addiction in the past 80 years.

If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine addiction, give us a call at 1 (800) 272-8464 or send us a message online to inquire for more information about our cocaine program. We are always ready to help and stand by our promise: give us 10 days and we’ll give you back your life!



1 What is cocaine?. (2019). Drugabuse.gov. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine

2 (2019). Medcraveonline.com. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://medcraveonline.com/JPCPY/JPCPY-03-00143.pdf

3 Cocaine Overdose. (2019). Drug Rehab. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/drugs/cocaine/overdose/

4 State Estimates of Past Year Cocaine Use among Young Adults: 2014 and 2015. (2019). Samhsa.gov. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2736/ShortReport-2736.html

5 Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (2019). Samhsa.gov. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm#illicit8

6 Opioid Overdose Crisis. (2019). Drugabuse.gov. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

7 Leonard, K. (2017). What’s behind the Rise in Cocaine-Linked Deaths?. [online] U.S. News. Available at: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-care-news/articles/2017-01-03/as-the-opioid-epidemic-evolves-impacts-bleed-into-cocaine-overdose [Accessed 3 Jun. 2019].

8 Speedball. (2019). Drug Rehab. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/drugs/heroin/speedball/

9 Is Cocaine Addictive?. (2019). Drug Rehab. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/drugs/cocaine/how-addictive/

10 Speedball (Heroin & Cocaine) Abuse And Recovery – Addiction Center. (2019). Addictioncenter.com. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/heroin/speedball/

Citations for “Why We Need a Lifesaving Cocaine Program” continued:

11 The Opioid Crisis Is Turning Into A Cocaine Crisis | Psychemedics. (2018). Psychemedics. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.psychemedics.com/the-opioid-crisis-is-turning-into-a-cocaine-crisis/

12 Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine Could Be ‘Next Wave’ Of Opioid Crisis, Some Warn. (2019). Wbur.org. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2018/03/27/fentanyl-cocaine-addiction-crisis

13 What America’s Users Spend on Illegal Drugs. (2014). Rand.org. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR534.html

14 Who are the Farc?. (2019). BBC News. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36605769

15 Colombia signs UN deal to tackle cocaine. (2019). BBC News. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41866092

16 Colombia’s Coca Acreage for Cocaine Production at All-Time High. (2019). Nytimes.com. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/world/americas/cocaine-colombia.html?save=nyt-gateway-stories

17 Overshadowed by the Opioid Crisis: A Comeback by Cocaine. (2019). Nytimes.com. Retrieved 3 June 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/05/upshot/overshadowed-by-the-opioid-crisis-a-comeback-by-cocaine.html

18 Kariisa, M., Scholl, L., Wilson, N., Seth, P., & Hoots, B. (2019). Drug Overdose Deaths Involving Cocaine and Psychostimulants with Abuse Potential — United States, 2003–2017. MMWR. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report, 68(17), 388-395. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6817a3. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6817a3.htm

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