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Back To Vidyya Cocaine, Marijuana, and Heroin Abuse Up, Methamphetamine Abuse Down

The Rise Follows Several Years Of Stable Or Declining Use

Smoking and Drinking Trends

Many CEWG cities reported statistically significant increases from 1997 to 1998 in hospital emergency department (ED) visits due to cocaine, heroin, and marijuana use. However, methamphetamine-related ED visits declined sharply in most cities where rates had previously been highest.

Cocaine abuse indicators increased in many U.S. metropolitan areas during 1998 and the first half of 1999, according to a NIDA-supported network of drug abuse researchers who regularly report data on drug abuse in the United States. The rise follows several years of stable or declining use, the researchers reported at the meeting of the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG).

CEWG researchers meet twice a year to report on such drug abuse indicators as drug-related deaths, hospital emergency department (ED) visits, and treatment admissions. Data from 20 cities presented at the December meeting indicate that marijuana and heroin abuse also continued to increase in most areas of the country. However, methamphetamine abuse declined in most cities, including some areas that have been hardest hit by the problem. Highlights from the meeting's advance report are:

Cocaine. Indicators of cocaine abuse increased in half of the 20 CEWG cities, remained stable or mixed in 8, and decreased in 2. Five cities reported significant increases in cocaine-related ED incidents and 9 cities reported large increases in the number of cocaine-related deaths.

Heroin. Heroin abuse indicators increased in 10 CEWG cities, were stable or mixed in 9, and decreased in 1. Heroin abuse and snorting of the drug continued to increase among younger populations, such as college students. These trends were particularly apparent in East Coast cities where pure forms of white powder heroin, which can be snorted, are most available. Heroin-related deaths also increased in many areas of the country.

Marijuana. Seventeen CEWG cities reported increases in problems associated with marijuana abuse. The percentage of drug abusers whose primary drug of abuse was marijuana continued to increase in many cities. Rates of marijuana-related ED visits also continued the consistent, often dramatic, increases shown over the last 6 years. Increases in marijuana-related problems may be tied to increased availability, higher potency, and lower prices for the drug along with perceptions that marijuana abuse is less risky than abuse of other drugs, the report indicates.

Methamphetamine. Indicators of methamphetamine abuse decreased in West Coast and Southwest areas where abuse of the drug has been a major problem for years. Sharp declines in methamphetamine-related ED visits were reported in 1998 in six CEWG areas. Several areas also reported that methamphetamine treatment admissions, hospital mentions, and deaths continued to decline in the first half of 1999. Researchers cited several possible reasons for these decreases, including initiation of national and community methamphetamine abuse prevention programs and enactment of laws that make it more difficult to obtain the chemicals needed to produce the drug.

Club Drugs. Thirteen cities reported problems with MDMA (ecstasy) abuse. The drug is available at raves and nightclubs in most areas. Ecstasy abuse also is increasing in other settings, such as college campuses. Nine areas reported GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) abuse at raves and clubs. Numerous medical emergencies and several deaths were associated with GHB abuse.

For More Information

The CEWG Advance Report, Epidemiologic Trends in Drug Abuse, December 1999, is available in today's issue of Vidyya or from NIDA's Web site,

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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