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NIDA Research Report

Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

From the Director

Cocaine abuse and addiction continues to be a problem that plagues our nation. For instance, from 1965 to 1967, only 0.1 percent of youths had ever used cocaine, but rates rose throughout the 1970s and 1980s, reaching 2.2 percent in 1987. After a brief decline, lifetime prevalence rates peaked at 2.7 percent in 2002.

However, we now know more about where and how cocaine acts in the brain, including how the drug produces its pleasurable effects and why it is so addictive. Through the use of sophisticated technology, scientists can actually see the dynamic changes that occur in the brain as an individual takes the drug. They can observe the different brain changes that occur as a person experiences the “rush,” the “high,” and, finally, the craving of cocaine. They can also identify parts of the brain that become active when a cocaine addict sees or hears environmental stimuli that trigger the craving for cocaine. Because these types of studies pinpoint specific brain regions, they are critical to identifying targets for developing medications to treat cocaine addiction.

One of NIDA’s most important goals is to translate what scientists learn from research, in order to help the public better understand drug abuse and addiction, and to develop more effective strategies for their prevention and treatment. We hope that this compilation of scientific information on cocaine will help to inform readers about the harmful effects of cocaine abuse, and that it will assist in prevention and treatment efforts.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse


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All materials appearing in the Research Reports Series are in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission from NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated.

To obtain printed copies of this report, please call or write the National Clearinghouse on Alcohol and Drug Information, P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20852, 1-800-729-6686. NIDA Research Report - Cocaine Abuse and Addiction: NIH Publication No. 99-4342, Printed May 1999, Revised November 2004.


Letter from the Director

What is cocaine?

What is crack?

What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States?

How is cocaine used?

How does cocaine produce its effects?

What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?

What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?

What are the medical complications of cocaine abuse?

Are cocaine abusers at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C?

What are the effects of maternal cocaine use?

What treatments are effective for cocaine abusers?

Where can I get further scientific information about cocaine abuse and addiction?

Glossary and References


Cocaine Abuse and Addiction Research Report Cover

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