Great Britain

Regularly taking cocaine ‘could leave you blind’, study warns

TAKING class A drugs such as cocaine on a regular basis could leave you blind, experts have warned.

A study found that heavy use of heroin, methamphetamine or cocaine is linked to a heightened risk of partial or total blindness.

Experts say that this is because of certain risk factors that are unique to active service - particularly in the US Armed Forces.

Researchers analysed responses from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2013 to 2018.

The researchers compared drug use, dietary factors and lifestyle choices of 106 serving or former soldiers and 1572 civilians.

Their analysis revealed that those with experience of military service were more likely to use drugs than civilians, 21 per cent and 13.5 per cent respectively of those surveyed had used drugs.

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a white powder that is made from the leaves of the coca shrub, a plant that grows in the Andean countries of South America such as Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

It is a Class A illegal drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

It is considered an offence to unlawfully possess, to possess the drug with intent to supply it, to unlawfully sell, share or give it, and to allow the drug to be used in place you live or manage.

Anyone caught with cocaine can face up to seven years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Also, anyone caught trying to sell or produce cocaine faces up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Proportionally more of those who had served in the military reported blindness or partial blindness.

As well as this they were also more likely to have other risk factors associated with sight loss which include lower levels of physical activity and higher blood pressure.

The researchers conducted three separated pieces of analysis.

The first evaluation found that military service was associated with a heightened risk of sight loss.

The second found that lower household income, lower educational attainment and older age were also risk factors.

When it came to the third analysis, researchers found that experience of military service and illicit drug use were the strongest factors when it came to someone losing their sight, closely followed by HIV positivity.

The researchers said it was not clear if respondents were veterans or were currently serving in the military.

They add: “Given the zero tolerance policy on drug use in the military, it is likely our military sample was composed entirely of veterans.

"This study indicates that self-reported vision loss among service members or veterans is more prevalent than among civilians with no military experience.

"And also that self-reported vision loss in military service members or veterans may be associated with severe or prolonged illicit drug use, such as heroin, methamphetamine, or cocaine."

They added that the prevalence of severe illicit drug use among military personnel should warrant further testing.

"There is a need for medical and behavioural health programmes that provide vision screenings to drug-using veterans", they added.

Cocaine epidemic among over-50s sees number of hospital cases treble in just five years

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