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What is Cocaine? Cocaine Facts

What is cocaine?  Get facts about cocaine including the history of cocaine, how it’s used, who uses cocaine, forms of cocaine and more.

Many cocaine facts are available due to cocaine's longstanding use and popularity. Cocaine is a stimulant drug extracted from the leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca) native to the South American Andes mountain range. While South American native populations have been chewing the leaves of the coca planet for centuries, cocaine facts tell us the extracted drug, cocaine, has only been available since the mid-19th century.

In modern times, when people ask, "What is cocaine?" they primarily get cocaine facts about the addictive and illegal nature of the drug. However, facts about cocaine also show that cocaine has a legitimate medical use as a local anesthetic, the first ever available.

What is Cocaine? Facts About Cocaine Use

Facts about cocaine use have been available for decades as cocaine became popular (and it became illegal) over 100 years ago. Facts about cocaine usage in the U.S. lead some to believe cocaine use has reached epidemic proportions.

Facts about cocaine use in the U.S. include:1

  • Cocaine is the second most popular illegal drug (behind marijuana)
  • The 1980s was the most popular decade for cocaine use
  • By the late 1980s, it is estimated that 30 million people were cocaine users and 6 million people were cocaine addicts
  • The person most likely to use cocaine is a white male with a greater than average income between the ages of 18-25
  • Young adults who use cocaine generally do so infrequently and use marijuana and alcohol more frequently
  • The relapse rate for cocaine addiction treatment is more than 95%.2

Cocaine facts though, are not limited to the US. Facts about cocaine tell us cocaine use is popular worldwide. Facts about cocaine use worldwide include:3

  • According to a 2007 United Nations report containing cocaine facts, Spain has the highest rate of cocaine use: 3% of adults using cocaine within the previous year
  • The same report contains the cocaine fact that the U.S. has the second greatest percentage of adults using cocaine at 2.8%
  • About 3.6% of Europeans have used cocaine at least once and 1.2% within the last year
  • 4% - 7% of men have used cocaine in the last year in Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom

What is Cocaine? Other Forms of Cocaine

While facts about cocaine indicate the drug is primarily seen in a powder form which is inhaled, several other forms of cocaine are available and nasal ingestion is not the only way it is used. Cocaine facts about other forms of cocaine include:

  • Cocaine can be injected
  • Cocaine is smoked once it becomes crack cocaine
  • Cocaine is also smoked once is has been chemically manipulated into a more pure form, known as free base
  • In South American countries cocaine is often smoked in a coca paste form

For more on the addictive nature of cocaine, click the "next" article below. For information on:

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next: Cocaine Dependence and Is Cocaine Addictive?
~ all cocaine addiction articles
~ all articles on addictions

Last Updated: 20 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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