Epidemiological Research on Cocaine Use in the USA

  1. Gregory R. Bock Organizer and
  2. Julie Whelan
  1. James C. Anthony

Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

DOI: 10.1002/9780470514245.ch3

Ciba Foundation Symposium 166 - Cocaine: Scientific and Social Dimensions

Ciba Foundation Symposium 166 - Cocaine: Scientific and Social Dimensions

How to Cite

Anthony, J. C. (2007) Epidemiological Research on Cocaine Use in the USA, in Ciba Foundation Symposium 166 - Cocaine: Scientific and Social Dimensions (eds G. R. Bock and J. Whelan), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470514245.ch3

Author Information

  1. Department of Mental Hygiene, The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene & Public Health, 624 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 SEP 2007

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780471931799

Online ISBN: 9780470514245



  • cocaine;
  • epidemiological evidence;
  • human health;
  • drug abuse;
  • united states


In the study of cocaine, epidemiology offers a way to reckon the experience of human populations, from time to time, from region to region, from community to community, and from group to group. Continuing surveillance of cocaine experiences in diverse segments of the United States population has allowed us to plot the course of our most recent cocaine epidemic in more detail than in the past. Still, much remains to be learned about the dynamics of the cocainc epidemic before public health agencies or anyone else should ride to glory on the descending limb of this epidemic curve. Beyond basic surveillance, epidemiology has the capacity to teach us about the conditions under which human cocaine use starts, is maintained, and stops, including the array of perceived and actual consequences of cocaine use that may determine specific patterns of use. In this respcct, there is some value in making a chronicle of cocaine users' life experiences, with a comparison to the life experiences of others. However, the perceptions of cocaine users do not always map onto observations made under controlled conditions of laboratory research. Finally, it is not essential for epidemiology to rely solely upon what individuals perceive and report as causal linkages between cocaine use and their other life experiences. One effective alternative is to use the epidemiological case–control method and related strategies to probe suspected causal linkages involving cocaine. As demonstrated in recent research, these strategies have a resolving power that goes beyond that of standard epidemiological survey reports. Of course, the resulting epidemiological evidence does not stand alone. Rather, it complements laboratory and clinical research, giving a more complete view of cocaine's impact on human health.