During a period of 1 year we observed 12 African American patients who had smoked or sniffed cocaine for several years and presented to inner city hospitals with accelerated hypertension and renal insufficiency. Ten required maintenance dialysis; 1 recovered partially after a brief period of dialysis, and 1 had moderate renal insufficiency. In the absence of striking proteinuria, cardiomegaly or renal shrinkage, the probable diagnosis in most of the patients was primary accelerated hypertension. The clinical history suggested that the habitual use of cocaine had worsened the hypertension, made it more difficult to control or triggered an accelerated phase resulting in renal shutdown. At a time when billions of dollars are being spent on the treatment of end-stage renal disease, the harmful role of cocaine in susceptible individuals requires due attention.