Cocaine History: 1990s-2012

Crack Cocaine in the plastic back.

Between 1992 and 2000, crack cocaine grew in dominance and powder cocaine shrank. Arrests at a federal level for powder cocaine dropped from 6,671 in 1992 to 5,241 in 2000, while those for crack cocaine more than doubled to 4,706.

As the old millennium was traded for the new one, cocaine abuse statistics fluctuated year to year. At the height of the drug’s popularity, 10.4 million people used the drug (1982).

In 1985, 5.7 million people were cocaine abusers, but by 2000, this figure had dropped to 1.2 million. About one in five of these were crack cocaine users (265,000).

The percentage of Americans using the drug went back up between 2000 and 2003, with the number of crack users almost doubling. By this time, the market value of cocaine sales reached an estimated $35 billion.

By 2006, the number of crack cocaine users hit 702,000, the highest number so far. The fluctuation would continue in 2008, with the crack users being cut almost in half.

In these same years, methamphetamine and Ecstasy use were growing, which may have replaced cocaine abuse for some people. And abuse of prescription drugs was another increasing problem. Some of these prescription drugs were stimulants, particularly the “study drugs” abused by students wishing to concentrate for tests or research or adults wishing to find instant energy. With all these choices, cocaine was no longer the only choice for a person wishing to party.

As America seemed to have reached its limit of cocaine consumption, cocaine manufacturers and traffickers looked for new markets for their drugs. And found them. Cocaine abuse statistics in Europe and Australia began to increase as the numbers declined in the US. South American traffickers found that they could ship massive amounts of the drugs through corrupt and vulnerable West African nations, and from there move it into Spain and other countries in Europe.

Cocaine Continues to be Seized in Huge Quantities Around the US

a cocaine bust

While usage statistics may have stabilized at lower levels, the quantity of cocaine coming into the country was still enormous. Huge quantities of cocaine and large groups of traffickers would be seized or arrested from time to time. In just a short period in 2012:

  • April 2012: Two go-fast boats in the Caribbean that appeared to be headed toward the US yielded 4,840 pounds, a street value of $362 million.
  • May 2012: Twenty-eight members of a cocaine trafficking ring were arrested in Northern Virginia.
  • June 2012: Nearly two tons of cocaine was seized in a short period of time in the Miami area. The wholesale value of the drugs was $48 million.

South American traffickers varied their trafficking patterns, moving drugs by vehicle, aircraft, and watercraft. In 1993, the first semi-submersible vehicles outfitted for moving cocaine were found. These crafts were intended to get the powder from Colombia to Mexico. From Mexico, it would be smuggled across the border to American cities. Year by year, these crafts became more undetectable as the building methods became more sophisticated.

The cost to build a submarine may run $2 million but each one may generate as much as $100 million in proceeds. These crafts are usually sunk when they reach their destination. One half-built submarine found near Bogota would have been capable of moving 150 tons of cocaine. It was estimated that 85 drug-laden subs made the trip from Colombia to Mexico in 2008.

Loss of Life Due to Cocaine Abuse

overdosing from cocaine

Cocaine can cause death due to the strain on the heart. The heart beats faster but blood vessels constrict, an effect that can lead to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), heart attack, cardiac arrest, aneurysm or stroke.

In one well-known example of this effect, basketball player Len Bias died after he developed a heart arrhythmia resulting from his cocaine use. Many other athletes, entertainers, and other public figures have lost their lives in situations that involved cocaine abuse. Such as John Belushi and Chris Farley, who both died after abusing a combination of cocaine and opiates. In early 2012, singer Whitney Houston was found dead, and autopsy reports attributed the death in part to heart damage from extended cocaine abuse.

Between 2000 and 2006, deaths related to cocaine abuse approximately doubled, rising to more than 6,000 deaths per year.

Recovering from Cocaine Addiction

In 2000, 238,000 Americans sought recovery at publicly-funded drug rehab facilities, with almost three out of four of these people listing crack cocaine as the primary drug to which they were addicted. In 2006, this number rose to 273,000. The count dropped in 2010 to about 153,000.

Powder cocaine and particularly crack cocaine drive users into addiction with intense cravings. In fact, one of the withdrawal symptoms suffered by those seeking sobriety is sharp cravings for the drug. There have been no substitute medications developed for cocaine as there have been for opiates. A person addicted to heroin, oxycodone or hydrocodone can be given methadone or buprenorphine to quell his cravings. He does not achieve sobriety through this treatment and remains in a drugged state as long as he is on these medications.

But for cocaine, there is no similar remedy. As of 2010, the pharmaceutical industry had begun experimenting with various methods of “vaccinating” a person to prevent the high that results from using cocaine. One vaccine consisted of a bit of the drug bonded to a cholera toxin. As of 2012, results were not encouraging.

When recovery from cocaine addiction can occur without vaccines or substitute medications, as happens at Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers around the world, then these pharmaceutical answers are not needed. The Narconon program accomplishes a high success rate without the use of any drugs or medications. The program focuses on reducing cravings, repairing the damage created by addiction and restoring sober living skills.


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