After being in vogue for over 25 years, cocaine use in Florida is declining. According to a report by James N. Hall, Director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University, the number of cocaine-related overdoses and deaths in Florida has declined. Likewise, fewer people are seeking treatment for cocaine and crack addictions.
But it is not because we are winning the war on drugs or because more drug users are becoming clean – cocaine use is declining primarily because, in tough economic times, many cannot afford to buy it.
Cocaine was introduced in the United States in the 1970s, but the height of its use was in the 1980s and 1990s. Cocaine and crack cocaine were readily available and abuse was rampant. As cocaine use increased, so did law enforcement’s war on drugs. The war on drugs made it more difficult to obtain cocaine, thereby reducing the supply and making it more expensive. Increased police efforts have lead to more “cut” – or less pure cocaine – being on the market; so users are paying more but getting less.
Recently, Florida’s unemployment rate has hovered between 10 and 12 percent, the housing market has collapsed and many Floridians have little disposable income. Cocaine, one of the priciest recreational drugs, is too expensive and more of a luxury drug in this economy.
Prescription Drug Abuse on the Rise
While cocaine use is declining, the abuse of prescription drugs is increasing. Prescription drugs are easier to obtain and cheaper than cocaine. According to an article in the Miami Herald, of the 9,000 drug-related deaths reported in Florida in 2010, 6,090 of those included the use of benzodiazepines and Oxycodone.
Here are some statistics from Hall’s report:
- In 2007, there were 281 cocaine-related deaths in Miami, while In 2009, that number fell to 155 deaths
- The number of ER visits related to cocaine overdoses declined 14 percent from 2008 and 2009
- In 2009, 918 persons sought treatment for cocaine addiction, and in 2010, only 549 persons sought treatment
- In 2010, deaths from prescription drugs like Oxycodone increased 50 percent
Cocaine and Florida are linked forever in pop culture because of TV shows like “Miami Vice” and movies such as “Scarface.” But with declining use of cocaine and increasing abuse of prescription drugs, it may be time for that image to change.