Cocaine users: a special population? The evidence in policy and practice

First published: 09 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

The emergence of cocaine use within treatment populations in the past 15 years has required clinicians and commissioners to review existing service provision which had been developed around the needs of opiate users. However, there is limited research exploring the need for specific services for cocaine users despite there being some evidence that treatment can be effective.

Cocaine users are not a homogeneous population. Barriers to accessing services may exist for some cocaine users, whilst others are already well represented within opiate based treatment services. The current focus on retention and quality in UK treatment raise important questions about the relevance and utility of treatment beyond that of supplying substitute medication.

Setting up specific services for cocaine users is often a pragmatic decision based on local need and capacity within existing services. However, it is argued that developing a workforce across all services skilled in psychosocial interventions such as motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioural techniques will yield benefits for all substance using populations, including cocaine users.


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Luke Mitcheson