Cocaine no more preserve of the rich

  • Vishav Bharti, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Nov 23, 2014 08:53 IST

Cocaine is no more an exclusive drug of the rich and affluent classes but is now more commonly popular among unemployed youth from the middle class, a Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, study has found.

Cocaine, a natural product obtained from the leaves of the coca plant, is one of the most addictive drugs available due to its effect on the brain.

It is commonly called chitta in Punjab.

The study

The case series, based on five patients with cocaine dependence who came for treatment to the psychiatry ward of the hospital, showed that cocaine addicts were not necessarily from the affluent class.

The series was published in the latest issue of the National Medical Journal of India.

The study, which is said to defy the commonly-held myth about the ‘exclusivity’ of cocaine and cocaine users, observed, “This has rather obvious and ominous implications in terms of spread of cocaine use in the general substance-using population. This case series is best seen as the tip of the iceberg.”

The series is unique because according to PGIMER, there are no published reports of cocaine abuse or dependence from India till date.

“So, it intends to be both a curtain raiser and an eye opener,” said Dr Debasish Basu, professor of department of psychiatry, PGIMER, who is the main author of the study.

According to the study, all the five cocaine addicts were young men between 20- 27 years.

They used cocaine hydrochloride powder by ‘snorting’ rather than by the other common routes like injecting or smoking.
None reported smoking or inhaling the vapour of the heated freebase cocaine (pure form of the drug) but all five reported intense and specific craving for cocaine.

“Patients from higher socio-economic strata may not be seeking treatment in government hospitals. However, none of our patients was from a high socio-economic background.

Most were middle-class youth, often unemployed or holding medium-level occupations, and there was nothing ‘special’ or ‘exclusive’ about them in terms of their background or affluence,” the study observed.

Expert talk

According to experts, cocaine is considered to be the most addictive recreational drug which is abused by snorting, injecting or smoking and rarely by the sub-lingual route (administering the drug by keeping it under the tongue).

“The media has been highlighting the increasing use of cocaine and drug seizures by police in India. The upwardly-mobile population in metropolitan cities has been identified as the reason for India’s rising demand for cocaine. Despite cocaine dependence being a long-established phenomenon in the West and several recent seizures of the drug by police in India as well, just one documented case of addiction has been reported in medical literature and that too came as an ophthalmic complication and not cocaine dependence,” the study observed.

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