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Kentucky 'Cocaine Bear' used to encourage participation in drug research

Cocaine Bear Display at Kentucky For Kentucky-UK Research Sign (Not placed there by UK Research Team)
Stu Johnson
Cocaine Bear Display at Kentucky For Kentucky-UK Research Sign (Not placed there by UK Research Team)

The Cocaine Bear movie has brought with it attention given to a long-standing drug issue. Bill Stoops is a behavioral scientist at the University of Kentucky. Stoops said studies show five million Americans used cocaine last year, compared to two to three million took methamphetamines and about a million used heroin. He said medication therapies remain elusive.

“We’ve got medications that we can use to treat opioid use disorder or to promote smoking cessation. But, there are no approved medications for cocaine use disorder nor are there widely available treatments for folks who have cocaine use disorder,” said Stoops.

Stoops noted clinical trials are mainly conducted to try to advance behavioral treatments, but also pharmacological treatments. He added the human lab research also looks into what contributes to the ongoing use of cocaine.

The UK behavioral scientist said the use of cocaine carries with it many adverse health effects, but top on the list might be cardiovascular-related.

“The sort of most common thing that people think about in terms of a chronic use of cocaine issue…cardiovascular issues. Cocaine is a psycho-stimulant…increasing heart rate and blood pressure. And so what we typically see is people who use cocaine chronically is heart problems,” said Stoops.

In addition to heart problems associated with chronic use of cocaine, Stoops said there are a variety of other issues like depression, anxiety, and immune system breakdowns.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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