Much has been made of the recent decline in cocaine consumption in the U.S. by 50% from 2007 – 2012.
The most compelling arguments of cocaine’s decline attribute the reduction to better strategies by the U.S. and Mexican governments to disrupt trafficking to the U.S. and more focus by cartels to distribute to growing markets in Europe, Brazil and even Australia. There is even persuasive evidence that cocaine’s drop is connected to the increasing misuse of prescription amphetamines like Adderall, used to treat attention deficit disorders. During the same time where cocaine use decreased, U.S. consumers consistently spent $100 billion a year on all drugs, with upticks in prescription opiates, amphetamines and heroin, and a significant increase in marijuana.
Despite the major reduction in cocaine use, today 2.5% of American 15 year-olds have tried the drug, whereas the figure is less than one percent in most of the world. By the time an American is of legal drinking age, 16.7% (or one in six) have used cocaine, three times the rate of the next highest country, Germany. And our use of cocaine goes beyond novel experimentation. A recent NIDA survey found that among 20-40 year-olds with jobs, 5% have used the drug in the past month. Another survey found that of those who have ever used cocaine, 25% used it a few times, and another 25% used it no more than ten times. That still leaves another 50% who have used it from at least a dozen times or are regular users. While cocaine use has declined, it seems firmly embedded as a part of our drug culture and remains problematic for trafficking countries in Central America where 90% of the cocaine traverses before arriving in the U.S.