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U.S. Cocaine Use Drops Only Among Educated Users

High school drop-outs continued using the drug as use declined among the educated

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Cocaine use dropped dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s among educated users, but persistent use among those who did not graduate from high school remained stable over those two decades, according to a report published online Aug. 29 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Valerie S. Harder and Howard D. Chilcoat, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, looked at data on cocaine use among 19- to 50-year-olds from 1979 to 2002 and stratified the education level of users into three bands: non-high school graduate, high school graduate, and college graduate. Users were also classified as either recent-onset, meaning first usage within the previous 24 months, and persistent use, defined as usage in the previous 12 months and first use more than 24 months before the interview.

Recent-onset cocaine use declined for all three levels of education across the study period and was rare, ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent of respondents, throughout the 1990s. However, persistent cocaine use remained relatively constant among non-high school graduates, whereas use by college graduates peaked in 1982 and then decreased rapidly, falling below that of non-high school graduates by 1990-2002.

"This emerging health disparity highlights the need for improved interventions that target persistent cocaine users with low educational achievement," the authors conclude.

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