While there’s been a lot of focus on the national opiate crisis and adolescent substance abuse, in the background Cocaine has been making a steady and significant return. The cause? Columbia coca production has skyrocketed over the last five years as Columbia ceased its aerial herbicide spraying in favor of manual eradication which has been far less effective. That’s not to say that aerial spraying doesn’t come with its share of public health and environmental consequences, including damaging native species, food crops, and containing chemicals now found to be a probable carcinogen. But without question, manual eradication has been far less effective in containing the cultivation and it seems to have direct correlation on the significant increase in Cocaine use across the United States.
Simply, Cocaine is more available today than that it was a decade prior. Between 2013 and 2017, Coca production in Columbia increased 256% from 48,000 hectacres to 171,000 hectares according to data from the United Nations. In 2017, there was enough cultivation to produce 1,520 tons of Cocaine which was a 31% increase compared to 2016. Over the same period, there was a 73% increase in people aged 12 and older who tried Cocaine for the first time from 601,000 to 1,037,000 people.
As Cocaine use has climbed, overdoses have spiked over the last decade more than doubling. In 2017 there were 13,942 overdoses involving Cocaine use, compared to only 6,512 in 2007, a more than 110% increase over the decade.
As efforts continue to curtail the opiate epidemic in the United States, this can serve as an important case study on the continued vigilance required to maintain successful drug use reduction. One thing that looks clear, if Coca production continues it’s explosive growth Cocaine use may regain the spotlight in the coming years.