80s style is back, cocaine use included!

Everyone knows that trends come back around, and with the resurgent popularity of gigantic sunglasses, eye-bleeding neon, electronic music and metallic spandex (or so we at A3 are told), it seems that the 1980’s have firmly replanted their flag in the public consciousness, down to a sequel to that seminal testament to 80’s excess, Wall Street, in theaters later this summer. Of course, as that film and many more were quick to point out, much of that characteristic 80’s exuberance was derived from an illicit, dangerous, source, and that too, it seems, is making something of a comeback.

Cocaine use is growing in Florida

A study of data collected at the University of Florida has shown that cocaine use in their area seems to have doubled since the beginning of 2000, according to a number of key measures used to assess drug use. The report notes that the number of cocaine deaths per capita in the first half of the decade almost doubled (from 150 per 100,000 in 2000 to nearly 300 in 2005). And the study is quick to point out that these cases are coming disproportionately from college-towns and opulent upper-class communities, evoking the very 80’s image of the white powder as an infamous vice of choice for the rich and privileged.  The phenomenon seems to be global, with law enforcement and public health officials from Sydney to Dublin sounding the alarm; here in the United States, a 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health said that approximately 36.8 million Americans, 14.7% of the population aged 12 and older, had tried cocaine at least once in their lifetimes.

Past effects of surges in cocaine use?

For many of these Americans, that “once” (or perhaps more) probably occurred in the early to mid 1980s, during the so-called “Cocaine Crisis.” During this period, rising rates of abuse (both of powder cocaine and crystallized/crack form), the subsequent surges in both crime and serious health complications and the related emerging research on real addictive and dangerous properties of the drug all combined to petrify the media, polarize the population and spur the government into aggressive, often misguided action to combat what was seen as a rapidly growing threat.

As several articles note, the cocaine-related deaths of high-profile celebrities such as John Belushi and basketball star Len Bias (whose death was of particular significance to the alarmists, as it was alleged that it was his very first time using the drug) shattered the previously widely held view of cocaine as a harmless and non-addictive substance. Despite the oft-repeated cliché that cocaine was once so commonplace that it was a Coca-Cola ingredient , it bears remembering that there were still grave misconceptions about its potency less than 30 years ago.

Cocaine use, cocaine treatment, and the future

Clearly, the drug problem as it relates to America in particular has much to do with the political and criminal elements that complicate our own mission, which aligns more closely to the assessment and treatment of addicts in the manner best for their own health and the overall benefit of society. Even in a vacuum, however, cocaine is a highly addictive, extremely dangerous drug, and even if a relatively small percentage of those who try drugs end up categorically addicted to them, a doubling of use is a potential doubling of people addicted, which might be the most disturbing 80’s comeback not involving Boy George.

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