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Cocaine Abuse in the US: Dennis Quaid Reveals Past Struggles

“My greatest mistake was being addicted to cocaine,” wrote Dennis Quaid in a 2011 essay for Newsweek.

The actor, now 64, is well-known for a variety of roles—fromThe Parent Trap to The Right Stuff. His charming personality and trademark grin served him well in the 1980s, where his career gained steam on the big screen. A high-profile relationship with actress Meg Ryan meant that Quaid appeared regularly on tabloid covers—all while harboring a heavy burden of drug abuse.

Quaid was addicted to cocaine during a time when cocaine use was at an all-time high. Speaking to Megyn Kelly about his addiction in a recent interview, he divulged that his use was almost “on a daily basis.”

In his interview with Kelly, Quaid stated, “I spent many, many a night screaming at God to ‘Please take this away from me and I’ll never do it again, cause I’ve only got an hour before I have to be at work.’ ”

In 1990, Quaid entered rehab for his addiction, after what he referred to as a “white light experience.” Engaged to Ryan at the time, Quaid was forced to get serious after realizing his life was in incredible danger.

“[…] I saw myself either dead or losing everything that meant anything to me,” he said.

Cocaine Abuse: From the 1980s to Today 

Why was cocaine use so popular in the 1980s? The drug, a highly addictive stimulant, is made from the leaves of the coca plant of South America. A crystallized version, called crack cocaine, surged in popularity in the 1970s and 80s, with The DEAreporting that huge amounts of cocaine powder were being shipped into the US by the late 70s.

In 1985, 5.8 million people in the United States admitted to using cocaine on a routine basis.

Actors like Quaid were among the many in Hollywood that used cocaine during this period of time. The drug, cited for its ability to increase energy and alertness in the short-term, sends high levels of dopamine into the brain.

Today, the opioid crisis has taken hold of national attention. Although, with many stories emerging about cocaine being laced with other harmful substances such as opioids, governing agencies have cautioned the public of the continued and increased risks of overdose and addiction.

The Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, recently spoke openly of his son using cocaine that had been laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

“For me, it’s personal. I almost lost one of my children from it,” said Dr. Redfield in a press conference.

The risk of cocaine being contaminated with synthetic opioids is at an all-time high. News reports from across the country reveal that contaminated drugs are on college campuses, in small towns, and in big cities alike. While regular cocaine use is risky enough on its own, combining the substance with fentanyl can—and often will—result in a death sentence.

In an article for NPR, state research showed that deaths in Connecticutinvolving cocaine and fentanyl increased by 420 percent in the last three years. While individual states report these statistics differently, headlines echo a similar crisis across the board: unsuspecting cocaine users are overdosing due to a technique dubbed “speedballing,” or combining the use of cocaine and heroin.

The potency of this “cocktail” is shocking, and has contributed to numerous deaths in recent years. Still the second most popular recreational drug overall, cocaine use appears to be rebounding in recent reports.

With celebrities such as Quaid coming forth to describe their experiences with cocaine use in the past, it is clear that cocaine use in today’s society has changed, with many more risk factors at stake.

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