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Please note that the information on this page is based on the EMCDDA Annual report 2011: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. Most statistical data relate to the year 2009 (or the last year available).


Annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe
Cocaine and crack cocaine

Published: 15 November 2011

Health consequences of cocaine use

The health consequences of cocaine use are likely to be underestimated. This may be due to the often unspecific or chronic nature of the pathologies typically arising from long-term use of cocaine (see 'Drug-related infectious diseases and drug-related deaths'). Regular use, including by snorting, can be associated with cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric problems, and with the risk of accidents and of transmission of infectious diseases through unprotected sex (Brugal et al., 2009) and possibly through the sharing of straws (Aaron et al., 2008), for which evidence appears to be growing (Caiaffa et al., 2011). Studies in countries with high levels of use indicate that a considerable proportion of cardiac problems in young people could be related to cocaine use (Qureshi et al., 2001). In Spain, for example, cocaine use appears to be involved in a significant proportion of drug-related hospital emergencies, and a recent Spanish study indicated that 3 % of sudden deaths are cocaine-related (Lucena et al., 2010). Increases in use in Denmark have coincided with increasing numbers of cocaine-related emergency cases, which rose from 50 cases in 1999 to almost 150 in 2009.

Cocaine injection and crack use are associated with the highest health risks among cocaine users, including cardiovascular and mental health problems. These are generally aggravated by social marginalisation and the risks associated with injection, including the transmission of infectious diseases and overdoses (EMCDDA, 2007a).

Bibliographic references

Aaron, S., McMahon, J.M., Milano, D., Torres, L., Clatts, M., Tortu, S. et al. (2008), 'Intranasal transmission of hepatitis C virus: virological and clinical evidence', Clinical Infectious Diseases 47(7), pp. 931-4.

Brugal, M.T., Pulido, J., Toro, C., de la Fuente, L., Bravo, M.J. et al. (2009), 'Injecting, sexual risk behaviours and HIV infection in young cocaine and heroin users in Spain', European Addiction Research 15, pp. 171-8.

Caiaffa, W.T., Zocratto, K.F., Osimani, M.L., Martínez, P.L., Radulich, G., Latorre, L. et al. (2011), 'Hepatitis C virus among non-injecting cocaine users (NICUs) in South America: can injectors be a bridge?', Addiction 106(1) pp. 143-51.

EMCDDA (2007), Cocaine and crack cocaine: a growing public health issue, Selected issue, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Lucena, J., Blanco, M., Jurado, C., Rico, A., Salguero, M., Vazquez, R., Thiene, G. and Basso, C. (2010), 'Cocaine-related sudden death: a prospective investigation in south-west Spain', European Heart Journal 31(3), pp. 318-29.

Qureshi, A.I., Suri, M.F., Guterman, L.R. and Hopkins, L.N. (2001), 'Cocaine use and the likelihood of nonfatal myocardial infarction and stroke: data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey', Circulation 103, pp. 502-6.

About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Friday, 28 October 2011