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Drugnet Europe News from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction — October–December 2007

Cocaine: a growing public health issue

Special attention is given to the health consequences of cocaine use in a Selected issue on 'Cocaine and crack cocaine: a growing public health issue', published alongside the 2007 Annual report. In this review, the EMCDDA looks at the prevalence and patterns of cocaine use and related responses and the challenges to providing effective treatment for the diverse needs of cocaine and crack cocaine users.

The most common adverse health effects of cocaine use are cardiovascular disorders (e.g. ischaemia), cerebrovascular disorders (e.g. strokes) and neurological impairments (e.g. seizures). Risk of cocaine toxicity seems to be influenced by concomitant use of other substances such as alcohol and heroin.

Deaths from purely pharmacological overdose of cocaine are infrequent, says the review, except in cases of massive exposure. Cocaine deaths are currently more difficult to identify than opioid deaths. And it is possible that deaths occurring shortly after, and induced by, cocaine use, but which are not strictly poisonings (e.g. due to strokes), are not identified as cocaine-induced and therefore are under-reported.

Currently no effective medication is available to help cocaine users maintain abstinence or reduce use. Cocaine users in treatment are generally prescribed anti-depressants or benzodiazepines to reduce symptoms of abstinence (e.g. anxiety). Experimental therapeutic drugs which reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings have shown potential in clinical trials. Immunotherapy of cocaine dependence through a cocaine vaccine (TA-CD) is also under investigation.

Drugnet Europe is the EMCDDA's newsletter launched in September 1996. The newsletter provides regular and succint information on the Centre's projects and activities to a broad readership.

Page last updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008