Cocaine Users Have Higher Incomes, Study Finds
Recent figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that roughly 1.6 million Americans over the age of 11 use cocaine on at least a monthly basis. This is a significantly smaller number than the user base for marijuana or mind-altering medications (the two most commonly consumed illicit/illegal substances in the U.S.). Still, it’s large enough to qualify cocaine as the third most commonly used illicit/illegal substance. From 2002 to 2012 (the last year with fully reported data), the overall rate of people using the drug on at least a monthly basis varied between a high of 1 percent (in 2003, 2005 and 2006) and a low of 0.5 percent (in 2011). The rate of use in 2012 was 0.6 percent. By a fairly small margin, more Americans abuse cocaine than prescription stimulant medications.
Economics and Substance Use
Economic considerations are known to play a substantial role in the habitual consumption patterns of several types of legal and illegal substances. For example, in a study published in 2007 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a team of U.S. researchers used a phone survey involving 1,355 adult residents of New York City to explore the economic factors that help determine areas where alcohol use and marijuana use are most likely to occur. These researchers concluded that two related financial factors - level of income and inequality of income distribution - play important roles. Essentially, alcohol and marijuana intake occur most often in neighborhoods with unusually high average income levels and in neighborhoods unusually affected by unequal income distribution. (A similar economic pattern was not found for the use of cigarettes/nicotine.) Previous research has also shown that financial considerations meaningfully impact typical patterns of heroin use.
Economic Impact on Cocaine Use
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the University of Toledo used a project involving 83 cocaine-using adults to explore the impact of economic factors on typical patterns of cocaine seeking, cocaine purchasing and cocaine intake. All of these participants answered questions about their income and cocaine-related behaviors in the month prior to the beginning of the study. Examples of these questions include the amount of money coming in from various sources, the amount of money going out to meet ongoing or short-term financial obligations, the amount of money spent on any given purchase of cocaine, the amount of cocaine purchased at any given time and the numbers of times cocaine purchases were made. The researchers analyzed three potential links between income availability and cocaine use: the amount of money available for buying the drug, fluctuations in the price of cocaine and the time required to find a cocaine seller.
After completing their analysis of the data, the researchers concluded that the availability of uncommitted spending money increases the likelihood that a regular cocaine user will purchase the drug. Despite this fact, the average user (who may not have a lot of uncommitted money available) still takes other factors into account before making a drug purchase, including the current price of cocaine and the presence of any competing financial interests (especially the need to purchase food). Generally speaking, cocaine users with high income levels are more willing than their less wealthy counterparts to maintain a daily cocaine habit in the face of potential problems, such as the need to find a new cocaine dealer and the chance of getting arrested while making a purchase.
The study’s authors note that the financial factors they linked with regular cocaine use largely mirror the factors associated with regular heroin use. They believe that the method employed to obtain their information (semi-structured interviews with active cocaine users) produces very accurate results.