While some of the available data is old enough that new surveys should be conducted in certain areas, both new and old data on cocaine use suggests a small but significant number of Americans engage in its use in 2022. Especially at risk of cocaine use are older adults, people with less education, and people in certain jobs, with construction workers having the highest rate of cocaine use of any career field.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is made from the coca plant, which originates from South America. While most people associate the word cocaine with powdered cocaine, cocaine can also refer to crack cocaine, often just called crack.
Cocaine is considered to have significant abuse and addiction potential and has very few medicinal applications, although it is sometimes used as a surgical anesthetic for certain types of procedures. It is known as a club drug or party drug, often used as a recreational drug in these types of settings.
Cocaine can tax the heart and potentially cause a life-threatening overdose in users. The risk of an overdose increases with polydrug use, such as if alcohol is used alongside cocaine.
While not unique to cocaine, cocaine is regularly cut with other agents, often without a user’s knowledge. These agents can be benign, such as baking soda or flour, or other drugs, such as opioids. It may be used to make selling the drug more profitable or to give the drug a more powerful or addictive effect.
Important Cocaine Facts & Statistics of 2022
The following is a collection of important data points on cocaine and cocaine use, using the data available as of 2022. Note that not all this data comes from 2022 as the latest data on certain subjects related to drug use is sometimes old. Collecting this data can be a major undertaking that isn’t always done every year.
Cocaine Use by Age
Cocaine use is relatively rare among youth, with only about 0.3 percent of Americans ages 12 to 17 reporting cocaine use according to one survey. This is compared to 2 percent of Americans 18 and older reporting using cocaine according to that same survey.
Cocaine use seems unusually high among people over 40 compared to many other types of drug use, with 37 percent of people in this group reporting some history of cocaine use. This is in part due to the rate of drug use among people over 40 increasing faster than it is among younger age groups. Additionally, 6 percent of drug deaths among 50-plus users are from cocaine and amphetamines, compared to 13 percent of drug deaths being attributed to other drugs.
Cocaine Use by Education
Older data has suggested that cocaine use among people considered highly educated has been dropping since a high point in the 1980s, potentially due to educated people now having a better understanding of the impact cocaine has on health.
A 2021 Spanish study seems to support this older study, suggesting “educational level plays a protective/risk role in the onset, development and progression of [cocaine use disorder.]” While it’s important to acknowledge cultural and legal differences between the United States and Spain, it’s still significant data to consider.
Cocaine Use by Job
A 2019 study showed construction workers to be the job group most at risk of engaging in cocaine use, with the study finding 1.8 percent of construction workers used cocaine compared to 0.8 percent of the general population. They also had high rates of use of other types of drugs, including opioids and marijuana.
The study claimed some of this drug use may be due to “the labor-intensive nature of their work and high rates of injuries,” with painkillers like opioids and stimulants like cocaine possibly being perceived as useful for their work. The actual risks associated with drug use around heavy machinery and other workplace construction dangers make the perceived value of these drugs a miscalculation.
This study also makes it seem likely that other high-intensity, physical jobs also see a greater level of cocaine and other types of drug use. That study noted that regular, effective drug testing of employees can help to reduce the rate of employee drug use. It recommended that workplaces engage in this type of testing to reduce the rate of potentially very serious workplace accidents.
An older study from 2009 found that 61.2 percent of recent cocaine users were polydrug users, with men tending to engage in polydrug use more than women. This study concluded “polydrug users were significantly more likely to score high on drug-related sensation seeking as well as to use drugs to deal with unpleasant emotions and to have pleasant times with others.” The study noted that mental health factors did not seem to play a role in whether a user engaged in polydrug use or only used cocaine.
Relapses are often associated with substance use disorders, and the rate of relapse sits between 40 percent and 60 percent. While this seems high, and relapse is indeed a serious and often disheartening event, this is actually lower than the rate of relapse for several other chronic health conditions. The relapse rate for people with high blood pressure and asthma is actually higher.
Drug addiction relapse rates tend to be at their highest in the early stages of recovery, with evidence suggesting that 85 percent of individuals relapse and return to drug use within one year of treatment. Notably, experts tend to agree this is an oversimplification of the data, however. An individual’s relapse risk is going to be significantly affected by their biology, the level of care they receive, and the severity of their drug dependence.
Relapse is not failure. It is often simply a step on the overall journey to recovery. Many people experience relapse and quickly get back on track with their recovery. It’s not uncommon for people to relapse several times on their way to sustained sobriety. The key is to return to treatment as soon as possible or to adjust the treatment approach to account for whatever factored into the relapse.
- Cocaine. (April 2016). National Library of Medicine.
- Cocaine Use Related to Level of Education Achieved. (August 2007). Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
- Drug Abuse Statistics. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.
- Influence of Gender and Education on Cocaine Users in an Outpatient Cohort in Spain. (October 2021). Scientific Reports.
- Predictors and Comparisons of Polydrug and Non-Polydrug Cocaine Use in Club Subcultures. (June 2009). American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
- Study Examines Opioid & Cocaine Use by Profession – Most Likely to Use “Makes Sense”. (October 2019). SciTechDaily.
- Treatment and Recovery. (July 2020). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Long-Term Outcomes of Patients With Cocaine Use Disorder: A 18-years Addiction Cohort Study. (February 2021). Frontiers in Pharmacology.
- Comparison of Treatments for Cocaine Use Disorder Among Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. (May 2021). JAMA.