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Violent Behaviors Associated With Cocaine Use: Possible Pharmacological Mechanisms

NCJ Number
International Journal of the Addictions Volume: 26 Issue: 10 Dated: (1991) Pages: 1077-1088
N S Miller; M S Gold; J C Mahler
Date Published
12 pages
Results of two studies suggest that suspicious/paranoid thinking may be common among cocaine addicts, that violent behavior and crime are associated with cocaine use, and that paranoid thinking and the need to get money for cocaine may cause violent criminal behavior by cocaine users.
Many drug addicts who use cocaine repetitively and in large doses present clinically evident psychiatric symptoms, such as suspiciousness, paranoia, delusions, irritability, and explosiveness, and also exhibit violent behavior. In an October 1988 study of psychiatric symptoms, 452 males participated in structured telephone interviews. In a second study, conducted in October 1989, 200 male and female crack addicts were interviewed by telephone. Both studies elicited information about violent behaviors associated with cocaine or crack use. Violent behaviors reported by drug addicts ranged from minor psychological aggression to major physical acts that included murder and rape. It was determined that pharmacological mechanisms underlying the introduction of cocaine-associated violence may involve known neurotransmitter systems affected by cocaine. A possible explanation may be that cocaine acts in those areas of the brain, particularly the limbic system, that subserve aggressive and violent behaviors. Further studies are recommended to characterize more specifically the nature, frequency, and severity of cocaine-associated violence. 20 references and 3 tables


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