Medicinal use of cocaine: a shifting paradigm over 25 years
Long H, Greller H, Mercurio-Zappala M,
Nelson LS, Hoffman RS.
North Shore University Hospital,
Manhasset, NY, USA.
Laryngoscope. 2004 Sep;114(9):1625-9


OBJECTIVES/HYPOTHESIS: Human cocaine research is predicated on data from the clinical practice of otolaryngology that are more than 25 years old and predate both the cocaine epidemic and the first reported association between cocaine use and myocardial infarction. The authors' objective was to reassess the epidemiology and toxicity of medicinal cocaine use among otolaryngologists and to compare current trends in usage and safety data with previously reported data. STUDY DESIGN: An anonymous closed-question survey replicating the methodology of a previous study was used. METHODS: The survey was mailed to active members of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. The survey used a closed-question format asking about the use of cocaine, safety measures taken, and adverse outcomes and included information about practice type and location. Results were compared with previously published data using a chi test with P < .05 considered significant. RESULTS: In all, 7815 surveys were mailed. Four thousand seventeen otolaryngologists returned the survey, representing a 54% response rate. Of the respondents, only 50% had used cocaine in their practice during the previous year. Physicians who had been in practice for less than 10 years were less likely to have used cocaine than those who had been in practice for more than 10 years (78% vs. 93% [P < .001]). Compared with the data reported in 1977, fewer physicians reported ever using cocaine in their practice (88% vs. 92% [P < .001]), fewer physicians had used cocaine in their practice at any time in the previous 10 years (68% vs. 92% [P < .001]), and a greater number of adverse reactions were reported by current respondents (26% vs. 22% [P < .001]). Tachycardia and hypertension were the most commonly reported adverse effects. Other important adverse events included 14 deaths, survivable cardiac arrest, ventricular tachycardia, and seizures. CONCLUSION: The clinical use of cocaine in otolaryngology has decreased significantly in the past 25 years as a result of discontinuation of use by physicians who had previously used cocaine and an increasing number of otolaryngologists who have never used it. This decline may reflect a better understanding of its potential toxicities, problems associated with storing and dispensing of a tightly controlled substance, increased availability of safer alternative medications, or a combination of these.

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