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Feds: A popular drug from the disco era is making a deadly return

May 6, 2019

The bitter lessons about the dangers of cocaine from the disco era in the 1970s may be lost on a new generation of drug abusers.

A phenomenon known as “generational forgetting” may be one of the reasons for the deadly uptick in cocaine deaths that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week, experts said.

“Certain drugs seem to go in and out of style,” Daniel Raymond, deputy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, said. “Right now we’re seeing an uptick in cocaine use, and we’re hitting that point in the cycle where we’re starting to see more fatal overdoses.”

“Absolutely, there is a generational piece to this,” said Hans Breiter, a Northwestern University psychiatry professor and one of the world’s leading experts on how cocaine stimulates the human brain.

Today’s narcotics abusers may be turning to cocaine in part “because there’s been a lot of bad press about other drugs,” Breiter said.

Just like the generation that dealt with the horrors of AIDS was followed by another that was less afraid of the scourge and thus more likely to have unprotected sex, today’s drug users aren’t afraid of cocaine like they should be, he said.

“We see this kind of forgetting in politics all the time, for example,” he said. “People resurrecting ideas like trickle-down economics, even though it’s been pretty much invalidated.”

On Thursday, the CDC reported that overdose deaths involving cocaine began rising around 2012 and jumped by more than a third between 2016 and 2017.

CDC researchers also found that almost three-quarters of the deaths involving cocaine in 2017 were among people who had also taken opioids.

But deaths involving cocaine alone also increased, said the CDC’s Lawrence Scholl, who was one of the study’s authors.

That could be because there’s more cocaine on the streets, Raymond, of the Harm Reduction Coalition, said.

By Corky Siemaszko

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