Transitions in the route of cocaine administration--characteristics, direction and associated variables

Addiction. 1999 Jun;94(6):813-24. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.1999.9468135.x.


Aims: To examine transitions in the route of administration of cocaine and the variables associated with them.

Design: A cross-sectional study undertaken between January 1996 and October 1997.

Setting: Fifteen different services that offer treatment, counselling or assistance to drug users or HIV-positive patients in the State of São Paulo, Brazil.

Participants: Two hundred and ninety-four current or ex-cocaine and crack cocaine users.

Measurements: A structured interview schedule was developed consisting of 246 questions covering socio-demographic details, drug history, cocaine transitions and HIV-risk behaviours.

Findings: Eighty-seven per cent of patients began using cocaine by snorting and 74% subsequently underwent a transition of route--68% towards smoking and 20% to injecting. Half of all transitions occurred in the first 3 years following initiation into cocaine use. Factors associated with transitions were: younger age at cocaine initiation, more frequent use at peak usage, initial use of cocaine by snorting or injecting, a lower level of scholastic attainment and experience with a wider range of drug classes. A cohort effect was apparent with younger cocaine users and those who had begun using after 1990 being more likely to undergo a transition to smoking crack and less likely to start injecting.

Conclusions: Cocaine transitions are very common and are usually towards routes associated with a higher dependency potential and increased HIV-risk behaviour. Further research is needed to see if transitions can be prevented by early identification of potential cases.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cohort Effect
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology


  • Cocaine