The decreased use of cocaine in the United States over
the last 20 years mostly occurred
among the highly educated, while cocaine use among non-high
school graduates remained constant,
according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg
School of Public Health.
The study authors suspect that the inverse
relationship between cocaine use and education is
related to access to health warnings and resources. They
also concluded that the emerging disparity
highlights the need for improved interventions that target
persistent cocaine users who are less
educated. The study is published in the October issue of
the American Journal of Public Health.
"Much like smoking, people with a better understanding
of the impact cocaine has on health are
more likely to modify their behavior," said Valerie S.
Harder, lead author of the study and a doctoral
candidate in the Bloomberg School's Department
of Mental Health. "Better educated individuals also
may have more resources and access to health care services,
such as drug treatment programs."
The researchers used data from the 1979-2002 National
Survey on Drug Use and Health to
compare cocaine use and educational achievement for adults
ages 19 to 50. The subjects were
categorized as non-high school graduate, high school
graduate or college graduate, and as either
recent onset or persistent cocaine user.
The proportion of non-high school graduates using
cocaine remained consistent from 1979 to
2002. Early data suggest that high school and college
graduates were more likely than non-high school
graduates to start and persist in their use of cocaine;
during the late 1980s, however, the proportion
of high school and college graduates classified as
persistent users dropped dramatically and fell below
that of non-high school graduates. In the same period,
first-time cocaine use steadily decreased
among all adults, regardless of their level of educational
achievement, and remained low.
"It isn't enough to simply try to stop individuals
from using cocaine the first time," Harder said.
"More drug intervention programs that target non-high
school graduates are necessary to reduce
persistent cocaine use in that population."
Howard D. Chilcoat, an associate professor in the
Bloomberg School, co-authored the study,
which was supported by a grant from the National Institute
on Drug Abuse.