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Over a quarter of college students are offered cocaine, study finds

In films such as “Scarface†and “The Wolf of Wall Street,†cocaine is often depicted as the quintessential drug of the 1980s, but a 2010 study found over a quarter of millennial college students had been introduced to it as well.

In a longitudinal study of 1,253 college students, 36 percent had been asked to use cocaine and 13 percent had used the substance, according to the University of Maryland’s school of public health and psychology department as well as the Treatment Research Institute.

Cocaine art

The study found that individual percentages increased throughout students’ four years of college. Cocaine usage among college students began at 4 percent during their freshmen year and increased to 10 percent by their senior year.

In a separate study only 2.7 percent of college students in 1993 admitted to cocaine usage, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. That number rose to 5.7 percent in 2005.

Karen Morgan, an alcohol and drug abuse counselor at Addiction Campuses, said increases are probably caused by the benefits that users think the drug has.

“It seems cocaine is making a comeback because some might consider it safer than heroin, but it certainly isn’t,†Morgan said. “It also is a stimulant drug, so it has the added benefit of alertness and can be marketed as a helpful study aid.â€

Morgan also said she thinks the high percentage of usage stems from the opioid epidemic. More than 64,000 Americans died from overall drug overdoses in 2016, according to The National Institute of Drug Abuse.

The University of Maryland and Treatment Research Institute study also found that men were given more opportunities to use cocaine than women, but women were more likely to use the drug than men.

Among 243 cocaine users in the study, women seemed to have a higher average frequency of use and a greater likelihood for meeting criteria of cocaine dependence. Morgan said she thinks women might use the drug more frequently than men because of the type of high the substance gives.

“Cocaine high makes a person feel invincible and [like they have] heightened their alertness and sexual interest,†Morgan said. “I suspect women are more susceptible than men since it can also assist with weight loss and sexual desires.â€

Men typically lose weight faster than women, at least at first, according to CNN. Women, on average, have 6 to 11 percent more body fat and studies show estrogen reduces a woman’s ability to burn energy after eating, according to ScienceDaily. This is why it can be more difficult for women to lose weight.

The University of Maryland’s study also urged college administrators and health providers to be “aware of the prevalence of cocaine use among student populations†and to “design strategies to address the problem.â€

Students have been arrested for marijuana possession on University of Memphis campus in previous years, but cocaine usage on campus is something that Derek Myers, interim chief of campus police, has not encountered.

“While searching through records from 2011 to present, I did not find any reports on campus involving cocaine at all,†Myers said.

Myers said that even small amounts of cocaine are classified as a “Class C Felony†under Tennessee law.

“An arrest would be the appropriate response to any felony,†Myers said. “Tennessee law states that a person convicted of a Class C Felony is subject to paying a fine of up to $10,000 and serving a prison term for three to 15 years.â€

Morgan said she thinks the cocaine trend will continue to increase as more people steer away from heroin. A study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that heroin usage among college students has been lower than it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Still, in Tennessee, 1,631 citizens died from drug overdoses last year, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. This is the largest number of drug overdose deaths recorded in state history.

“The underlying issues of why people use drugs are still not being addressed properly,†Morgan said.

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