Crime Stoppers

Cocaine: the “new cool drug” among students

Although it seemed that cocaine was just a fad, this drug still remains, today, as one of the most consumed substances in USA and Canada, especially among younger demographic fringes. The numbers are intimidating.

In 2009, 4.8 million Americans from age 12 and older revealed they had used cocaine (in any form) at least once in their life and 1 million had abused crack at least once in the year before the survey, which was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2010).

On the other hand, in 2011, Canada registered a decrease in their numbers with 0.9 percent of its population admitting to have used cocaine or crack in the year before, as stated on a research from Health Canada (Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, 2011).

Unlike the United States, Canadian results are clearly a consequence of the great job that the country has been making in the drug prevention area. The study quoted above mentions that, between 2004 and 2011, the statistics regarding the number of cocaine and crack users has diminished from 1.9 to 0.9 percent.

There are some regions in the country that are following a different path and one of them is Northwestern Ontario, where drug abuse among students is skyrocketing.

This is only one more reason for the Crime Stoppers of Northwestern Ontario and Northern Minnesotato continue fighting drug abuse, especially cocaine, which is becoming a bigger source of imminent social scourge. Also, these numbers keep on reflecting on the local crime rates and that’s why the organization wants its fellow citizens to be informed about the signs of drug abuse and criminal danger.

The dangerous effects of cocaine

After a consumption decrease registered in the 90s, when the main hard drug was heroin, cocaine is back in full power, either in its pure form or in crack form. “However, cocaine is not a new drug. In fact, it is one of the oldest known psychoactive substances”, claims a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (“Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction”, 1999).

The history of the drug goes a long way back to the coca leave, originally used 1,200 years ago by the native south-American tribes that chewed it to cheat their hungry stomachs and to sustain thirst and fatigue.

Still today, some people from countries like Peru and Bolivia use these leaves to, legally, make a weak and traditional coca tea.

Nothing that can resemble what is, today, the consumption levels of cocaine. In its current form, cocaine acts in the nervous system of its users, making the consumers feel extremely excited, conscious and awake.

Many of them report a state of clear mind and the feeling of being stopped in time. This happens because cocaine is a strong enhancer of the connections that occur in the sympathetic nervous system, both in the brain and in its periphery.

Cocaine – scientifically called benzoylmethylecgonine or benzoic acid ester – is an alkaloid drug that is created from the bush Erythroxylum coca, by extraction methods that involve solvents such as alkali, sulfuric acid or kerosene, for instance.

This illegal drug has severe anesthetic effects and its abuse can cause a lot of undesirable effects. The first one is, of course, high dependence, followed by hypertension and psychiatric disorders. It’s said that this drug makes its users feel disconnected of any social, familiar or emotional interests and that is one of the reasons appointed by specialists when trying to find a connection between crime rates and cocaine abuse.

Cocaine has become a weapon of self destruction and has originated a lot of derivatives like the cheaper and dangerous crack, named “cocaine of the poor”. The euphoric effect of crack is stronger when compared to cocaine, but, although the crack’s price is a “street truth”, it’s not a scientific truth. It turns out that crack only looks cheaper than its original drug, but it isn’t because its effect is quicker, an average 20 minutes, depending on the addiction degree. But none of this matters because is the thrill of the sensation that attracts them and leads these consumers to commit crimes in name of the drugs.

Cocaine in the present and future crime

The hazardous effects and the ability to produce a strong dependency turn cocaine and crack into true factories of offenders and criminals. The Minnesota State is the first to recognize this fact, in a report published in 2012: “substance abuse, untreated addiction, underage drinking and tobacco use have a significant and costly impact on the health, well-being and public safety of our state and nation” (Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy, 2012).

Although the following data is not recent, it’s great to demonstrate the connection between cocaine and crime rates in a region of interest. From May 1997 to March 1998, in Minnesota, “law enforcement sources continue to report gang involvement in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and related violent crime. Of the homicides committed statewide, 22 percent of the victims and 33 percent of the suspects and arrestees were gang members. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, the rise in violent crime is attributable to street gangs’ defense of their turf. The St. Paul Police Department estimates that 50 percent of crime in the city can be attributed to gang-related drug sales, assaults, drive-by shootings, burglaries, and criminal damage to property” (Minnesota Drug Threat Assessment, 2001).

A study published in The British Journal of Criminology assures that “crack cocaine eventually led, and was thus apparently related, to street robbery and snatch theft” (The Links between Heroin, Crack Cocaine and Crime, 2005). So, does society really need more signs before it decides to fight against drug abuse?

This is a growing preoccupation among the populations of Northwestern Ontario and Northern Minnesota, if we take a look at the drug statistics among young students that can, later, become crime authors. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2011, 3.59 percent of the inhabitants between 18 and 25 years old and also 0.93 percent of the inhabitants with more than 26 years old were cocaine users. And, geographically, Minneapolis was the most worrying city of the state and also the center of cocaine distribution (Minnesota Drug Report Data Source, 2010).

After looking at the Minnesota data, Ontario is the other Crime Stoppers’ concern. As reported by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit in 2006, “cocaine and crack use has historically been low among Northwestern Ontario students”, but it doubled from 3 to 6 percent between 2001 and 2005 (Northwestern Ontario Student Drug Use Survey, 2006). This tells us exactly what we don’t want to hear: that cocaine consumption is abnormally rising in this particular region. This drug was, actually, the 12th most abused substance by students from this Canadian area (but the 5th drug in the illegal and hard substances list). According to a study made by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, 2.8 percent of Ontario students had already consumed cocaine and Northwestern area was, definitely, the most concerning. Also, 10 percent of the interviewees assured it was easy to buy cocaine in that particular region (Drug Use Among Ontario Students, 2011).

So, if you’re a concerned parent, relative or friend, here are some dangerous signs of cocaine addiction:

  • The first physical signs revealed by cocaine users are dry or chapped nose and lips, permanent bad breath, dilated pupils and also bulging red veins in the white part of the eyes;
  • During the high caused by the drug, that lasts about 15 to 30 minutes, users show signs of intense stimulation. They usually appear extremely happy, talk really fast and can also seem anxious or irritable. But, because the high ends quickly, they start to look fatigue and may have to hide to get another dose;
  • Cocaine can also mess with eating habits, because it ruins the consumer appetite. Sleeping habits are also affected;
  • Like many other drugs, it leads to a disorganized life, making the user miss appointments, ditching school or work and leaving their hobbies behind;
  • Generally, cocaine users also show permanent signs of rage and mood swings;
  • And, of course, cocaine also affects its consumers’ health, causing respiratory and lung disorders, like asthma and fluid in the lungs, disintegration of the nasal passages, delusions and anxiety disorders, as well as nausea and headaches.

If we look at the available data and believe in the previsions made by Columbia University in 2012, that says that 1 in 4 users who start consuming any addictive substance before the age 18 will become addicted (Addiction: a preventable and treatable disease, 2012), then, there are reasons to be even more worried about the future than we are about the present. That’s exactly the reason why the mission of Crime Stoppers of Northwestern Ontario and Northern Minnesota hinges on prevention. This organization wants citizens to know the signs in an effort to prevent future problems.