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Comprehensive Analysis of Cocaine Statistics 

Cocaine use is not only an ongoing problem in the United States. It is a growing concern for individuals, families, and communities around the world. 

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According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), an estimated 2,000 tons of cocaine was produced globally in 2020, about twice the amount that was manufactured in 2014.[1] 

This increase is likely due to a jump in coca bush cultivation as well as new and improved processes for converting raw coca into the cocaine that is sold on the street.[1]

In the U.S., use of cocaine is rising, with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reporting an almost 10% increase in past-year use of the drug between 2021 and 2022.[2] 

Cocaine Use Statistics

Cocaine use stats vary among different demographics, including age, sex, education levels, and employment status.

Cocaine Use by Age Group 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports the following change in use of cocaine among age groups between 2021 and 2022:[3] 

  • Past-year use of cocaine doubled among those ages 12-17 from 2021 to 2022, growing from 0.1% to 0.2%. 
  • The age group of 18-25 year olds saw no change in cocaine use, with 3.7% of people reporting past-year use of the drug in both 2021 and 2022. 
  • There was a 0.2% increase in past-year cocaine use among 26-49 year olds between 2021 and 2022, with rates of use clocking in at 2.4% and 2.8% respectively. 
  • More people between the ages of 50 and 64 reported past-year use of cocaine in 2022 as compared to 2021, with rates of use increasing from 0.8% to 0.9%. People in their early 60s saw the greatest increase in use, with an increase in past-year use from 0.7% in 2021 to 1.5% in 2022. Those ages 50-54 used cocaine less in that time period, however, with reported past-year use dropping from 2% in 2021 to 1.5% in 2022.

Cocaine Use by Sex 

SAMHSA also reported some noted differences in lifetime cocaine use between men and women across age groups:[3]

  • In both 2021 and 2022, more men than women used cocaine, with 25.2 million men reporting use of the drug in 2022 as compared to 17 million women.
  • The use of cocaine increased among men in 2022 compared to 2021, while women used less of the drug in 2022. 
  • Twice as many boys ages 12-17 used cocaine in 2021 compared to girls of the same age, but in 2022, that number flip-flopped with almost twice as many girls than boys using the drug. 
  • Among men and women over the age of 18, the numbers looked more like the overall numbers of cocaine users, with 25.1 million men reporting use of cocaine in 2022 and just under 17 million women reporting the same. 

Cocaine Use by Ethnicity

Reported lifetime use of cocaine varied widely among different ethnic groups in 2021 and 2022, according to SAMHSA:[3]

  • Use of cocaine was lowest among Asian individuals with fewer than half a million reporting use of the drug in 2021 and almost half of that number in 2022.
  • Use of cocaine was highest Caucasian individuals, with more than 30 million people reporting use of the drug in both 2021 and 2022.
  • Hispanic or Latino Americans reported the second highest use with more than 5.2 million using the drug in 2021 and 5.9 million in 2022.
  • Third in line for highest rate of cocaine use occurred among Black or African Americans, but their rate of use declined significantly in 2022 compared to 2021, reporting 3.3 million users in 2021 and 2.9 million users in 2022. 

Cocaine Use by Education Level 

The data is limited on reported lifetime use of cocaine broken down by education level in 2022, but in 2021, SAMHSA reports the following:[3] 

  • People with less than a high school diploma showed the lowest rates of cocaine use with 3.7 million.
  • Those with a high school diploma as their highest level of education were next with 10.8 million cocaine users.
  • The highest rate of cocaine use was found among those with some amount of college or an associate degree, with 15 million users.
  • In second place for cocaine use are college graduates, with 11.5 million users. 

Cocaine Use by Employment Status 

When broken down by employment status, the reported lifetime use of cocaine in 2021 was vastly different among those who worked full-time as compared to those who worked part-time or didn’t work at all. These are the stats:[3]

  • People who worked full-time reported the highest rates of lifetime cocaine use at 19.4 million. 
  • In second were those who classified themselves as not working part-time or full-time but not unemployed, with 13.9 million users.
  • About 5 million part-time workers reported having used cocaine in their lifetime. 
  • Those who were unemployed reported the lowest rates of lifetime use of cocaine at 2.8 million. 

Changes in Cocaine Use & Abuse After COVID

In the past, cocaine use rates were relatively low compared to rates of other substances of abuse, but they have been rising in popularity since about 2017. During the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of cocaine use and production initially dropped but then increased significantly as more coca bushes were cultivated.[4]

In the post-COVID era, cocaine seizures and arrests have increased significantly as well. Now, more and more people are struggling with cocaine addiction and overdose, both here in the United States and around the world. 

During COVID, access to treatment dropped, exacerbating the problem of long waitlists and too few resources for people who wanted help for recovery. Post the COVID pandemic, there are a number of issues that may impede someone’s goal of leaving cocaine abuse and addiction in the past, including stigma, fewer resources, and systemic discrimination.[5]

Cocaine Overdose Statistics

Here are some stats on cocaine overdose:

  • According to one study, emergency room visits caused by use of cocaine were more likely to present with cardiopulmonary issues as compared to ER visits triggered by use of psychostimulants.[6]
  • Rates of ER visits for cocaine use were much higher in the northeastern U.S. as compared to the western states.[7]
  • In the 12-month period ending April 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there was an increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths compared to the prior 12-month period.[8]
  • Rates of cocaine-related overdose deaths began to climb in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and more than doubled in number by 2021 compared to 2015.[9]
  • Rates of overdose death involving cocaine and opioids grew at a higher rate than overdoses caused by cocaine alone in 2018.[10] 

Cocaine Addiction Treatment & Recovery

Treatments that have proven to be most effective for cocaine addiction include high-level support during the cocaine detox process, individual therapy sessions, group therapy, and long-term support in making the lifestyle changes that add up to a new life in recovery. 

Relapse rates are often high among those who use stimulants like cocaine, but with comprehensive treatment and care designed to meet the needs of the individual person in crisis, the likelihood of leaving cocaine addiction in the past increases.

One study found that there was an increased likelihood of sustained recovery with the following:[11]

  • Staying engaged with treatment for a longer period of time
  • Engaging with long-term support in recovery after treatment 
  • Learning self-sufficiency in recovery
  • Working on and maintaining a positive outlook on recovery and life in general
  • Staying sober for five years or more

Stopping Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine use and abuse has risen significantly in the past decade, and rates of addiction and overdose death have increased along with it. In 2021, about 1.4 million people over the age of 12 in the U.S. had dealt with a cocaine use disorder in the past year.[12]

While cocaine has not historically been a heavy focus for researchers since the onset of the opioid epidemic and the spike in fentanyl overdoses, there is a significant need for more research in this area. As more people are educated on the risks that come with using cocaine (including the potential for long-term damage, overdose, and death), use rates will likely decline and more people will achieve lasting recovery.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated February 18, 2024
Resources
  1. Global Report on Cocaine 2023 Local Dynamics, Global Challenges. United Nations Office on Drugs And Crime. Published 2023. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  2. 2022 NSDUH Detailed Tables | CBHSQ Data. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Services. Published 2022. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  3. Section 1 PE Tables – Results from the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Services. Published 2022. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  4. Cocaine trafficking surges following COVID 19 related slowdown. United Nations News. Published March 16, 2023. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  5. “The post COVID era”: Challenges in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) After the Pandemic. López-Pelayo H, Aubin HJ, Drummond C, et al. BMC Medicine. 2020;18(1).
  6. Emergency department visits and trends related to cocaine, psychostimulants, and opioids in the United States, 2008–2018. Suen LW, Davy-Mendez T, LeSaint KT, Riley ED, Coffin PO. BMC Emergency Medicine. 2022;22(1).
  7. Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN): Findings from Drug Related Emergency Department Visits. Published 2022. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  8. Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000 Annually. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published November 17, 2021. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  9. NIDA IC Fact Sheet 2024. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Published March 13, 2023. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  10. Data Briefs - Number 384 - October 2020. Centers for Disease Control. Published October 5, 2020. Accessed February 1, 2023.
  11. Factors in sustained recovery from cocaine dependence. McKay JR, Van Horn D, Rennert L, Drapkin M, Ivey M, Koppenhaver J. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2013;45(2):163-172.
  12. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published December 2022. Accessed February 1, 2023.
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