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Rising numbers indicate looming cocaine epidemic

stroke over time - can unexpectedly kill years after abuse begins, Gold said.

"Cocaine gives them a feeling of incredible mastery, that they are immune to the laws of nature," said Gold, who is affiliated with UF's McKnight Brain Institute. "But it causes consequences. You can't say you are out of the risk window simply by surviving the use event. Death can come some time in the future." Cocaine temporarily induces a high but depletes the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, which in turn triggers a craving for more of the drug. It is this "drive for the drug," he said, that makes it more likely for someone who has used cocaine once to use it a second time.

Gold and his colleagues, including Bruce Goldberger, Ph.D., a professor of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine at UF's College of Medicine, said models, artists and other celebrities addicted to cocaine have "advertised" the drug, enticing students and others with disposable income, who are now among the most frequent users.

Funding for the data analysis came from the UF Foundation's Substance Abuse Research Endowment. UF experts said the recent spike in deaths should serve as a wake-up call, prompting more drug education in schools and communities nationwide. Gold said such interventions are necessary to avoid another full-fledged cocaine epidemic.

"Hopefully, with warning and prevention we can help users realize that this is a chronic problem without a cure and their longevity is at question," he said.

Source-Eurekalert
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