Cocaine is one of the oldest known substances that affect the central nervous system (CNS) and is highly addictive. Pure cocaine was first produced from leaves of a Erythoroxylon Coca shrub that grows in countries of South America – Peru and Bolivia.
Routes of administration
Cocaine can be administered in various ways. Most common ways of administration are orally, by injection, insufflation or inhalation.
Each of the routes allows absorption of toxic amounts of cocaine that can lead to acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases, which may result in death.
Tolerance for cocaine is developed by continual use.
Tolerance is considered the amount of the substance needed to achieve the desired effect. Increasing one’s tolerance means that larger doses and more frequent ingestion of the drug are needed to produce the same effects as when cocaine was ingested for the first time.
Recent researches have shown that even in cases of prolonged abstinence, memories of the euphoria caused by cocaine or circumstances connected with previous cocaine use (friends, clubs, particular music) could cause craving for the drug, even relapse.
Cocaine is usually sold on the street in form of a fine white powder or crystalized powder by the names of coke, white, snow, blow… Street dealers cut cocaine with starch, baking soda, sugar and other substances like procaine (a local anesthetic) or stimulants, like amphetamines.
Cocaine comes in two forms: hydrochloride and freebase. Hydrochloride or powder cocaine is soluble in water and is usually administered by insufflation or injection. Crack is the street name for the cocaine freebase. It got its name, crack, because of the characteristic crackling sound produced when the drug is smoked. The effects of crack are felt in less than 10 seconds. Immediate and extremely intense onset of effects and low street price led to its popularity in the mid-eighties.
Sometimes cocaine is mixed with heroine, known as speedball.
It is believed that the effects of cocaine are the result of its ability to disrupt reuptake of dopamine in nervous cells.
Effects begin almost immediately after use and last for couple of minutes or hours.
After trying cocaine for the first time, user won’t be able to predict or control future use of the drug.
Ingested in small quantities, cocaine causes feelings of euphoria, energy, chattiness, change of perception. Some users consider that cocaine helps them execute simple and intellectual tasks, while others experience the opposite effects.
In extreme cases, cocaine use can cause sudden death even after the first use. Death caused by cocaine is often a result of heart failure or a seizure that causes respiratory system failure.
- increased energy
- reduced appetite
- mental alertness
- increased heart rate
- blood vessel constriction
- increased body temperature
- dilated pupils
What happens in case of continued cocaine use?
With excessive and prolonged use, the drug can cause irritability, anxiety and paranoia that could lead to development of paranoid schizophrenia, manifested through loss of one’s contact with reality and auditory hallucinations.
Prolonged use of cocaine leads to:
- irritability and mood swings
- auditory hallucinations
Long-term use of cocaine leads to medical problems. Most typical long-term effects affect the:
- cardiovascular system: arrhythmia and heart attack
- respiratory problems: chest pain, respiratory system failure
- neurological problems: stroke, headaches
- stomach problems: stomach pain, nausea
Different ways of administering the drug cause different side effects.
- Insufflation (snorting, sniffing) can cause loss of sense of smell, nose bleeds, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness of the throat, irritability of nasal mucous membranes, leading to chronic inflammation and runny nose.
- Injecting cocaine can lead to allergic reactions to the drug itself or additives in it. This way of administration poses a risk of contracting Hepatitis or HIV due to sharing of paraphernalia.
Cocaine reduces the need for food and therefore many users loose their appetite that leads to weight loss and physical deterioration.
- Often, cocaine is combined with alcohol, which significantly increases the toxic effects it has on the body.
Combining cocaine with alcohol creates a compound called cocaethylene. Effects of this compound last longer and are more adverse to the body. Ultimately, the combination of these substances can result in death.
Women that use cocaine during pregnancy risk premature labor and their newborns being underweight, with a smaller heads and shorter than other babies.
Treating cocaine addiction
Cocaine and other stimulants’ addicts are subjected to detoxification as the first step of their treatment.
Cocaine addiction and abuse are a complex problem and treating them requires psychobiological, social and pharmacological approach. To permanently solve the problem of addiction, it is necessary to change the lifestyle and proceed with treatment (find out more about our FAST Recovery program).
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