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The relationship between cocaine abuse and violence

Cocaine is the second most abused drug in the world after cannabis. Cocaine has become so prevalent that experts believe there are between 13.2 and 19.7 million cocaine addicts worldwide.

In Britain, around 1.9% of people aged between 16 and 59 are believed to use powder cocaine. The figure for those between 16 and 24 is just over 3%.

Why cocaine use leads to violence

Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system and leads to intense euphoria coupled with the sensation of strength and intellectual prowess. At the same time, it suppresses the appetite, fatigue and pain, while also reducing inhibitions. But, once these effects have worn off, users become anxious, agitated and feel the need for more of the drug.

As a consequence of these effects, many cocaine users are prone to violence. Significantly, those who inhale crack cocaine tend to become more angry and violent than those who snort crystalline cocaine.

Researchers believe that the rage and violent behaviour associated with cocaine use could be result of the drug’s effect on neurotransmitters in the pleasure centres of the brain. It is also thought that cocaine causes changes in the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin that might lead to aggressive behaviour, hyperactivity, impaired judgement and paranoia.

Statistics relating to cocaine and violence

In 1999 it was reported that studies conducted in the United States found:

  • More than 50% of patients with cocaine-induced psychiatric symptoms exhibited violent behaviour that could be related to their cocaine use.
  • A telephone survey showed that 42% of cocaine users in the United States reported experiencing feelings of anger, 32% said that they were prone to violent behaviour and 84% said they felt suspicion or paranoia.
  • 46% of users were found to have actually committed violent crime, in most cases as a means to get crack.
  • 26% of crack users had committed a crime while on crack, 95% of which involved violence.

In New York it was found that some 18-22% of suicides exhibited cocaine use, a statistic that experts suggest could be the result of cocaine induced depression. Interestingly, studies have also found that a disproportionate number of victims of violent crime have used cocaine.

Findings in Britain mirror those in United States. According to Druglink, in 2009, police in the Greater Manchester area examined 1000 violent crimes and found that nearly half of offenders tested positive for drug use, with 86% of those testing positive for cocaine. Merseyside Police made similar findings.

In 2009, Martin Barnes, the then Chief Executive of DrugScope, which publishes Druglink, agreed that the police findings show a link between powder cocaine use and violent behaviour. He warned, however, that some caution was necessary because cocaine is often taken with alcohol. He also pointed out that the user’s personality and the environment in which the drugs are taken are also significant factors.

Types of cocaine

Typically, in the West the cocaine taken is found as cocaine hydrochloride. It is an odourless, white crystalline powder that can be snorted, taken orally or dissolved and injected.

Crack is a cocaine derivative that usually comprises a mixture of cocaine, sodium bicarbonate and/or ammonium bicarbonate. The mixture is heated and the smoke inhaled. Like injected cocaine, its effects are immediate. They are more intense than snorting, but the euphoria is briefer and, once it wears off, the “down’ is more intense.

Breaking the habit of cocaine addiction

Cocaine use can quickly lead to a psychological dependence on the drug and hence a habit that is very difficult to break. The sooner you get help, therefore, the better.

Cocaine addiction cannot be treated using substitution treatments, although studies indicate that drugs like topiramate might be effective in the prevention of relapses in some cases. Psychotherapy plays an important role in treatment, but at all stages and long after formal treatment ends patients need strong support. Here at Life Works Community we have all the expertise needed to help you get off cocaine.

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