Brief Overview of Cocaine and Consequences of Abuse

Brief Overview of Cocaine and Consequences of Abuse

Derived from coca leaves, cocaine may not be one of the most popular sought after drugs today but it's definitely a powerful and addictive stimulant that numerous people from all walks of life abuse. For example, just recently Florida Republican Henry "Trey" Radel plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession, the Florida Rep. admitted to buying cocaine in October.

Even though cocaine isn't a drug teenagers commonly experiment with, many have tried it and some have become addicted at a young age.

Cocaine is far from a new drug, it's of the oldest known psychoactive substances. For thousands of years people have been chewing and ingesting coca leaves which is the source of cocaine. The purified chemical which is cocaine hydrochloride, has been an abused substance for over a hundred years.

Back in the early 1900s, purified cocaine was the main active ingredient in most of the tonics and elixirs that were developed to treat a wide variety of illnesses. By the 20th century, the addictiveness of cocaine was well known and in 1914, the United States government passed the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act making cocaine illegal for non-medical purposes.

Forms of Cocaine

There's actually two chemical forms of cocaine that are abused, water soluble hydrochloride salt and water-insoluble (freebase). Hydrochloride salt is a powder form of cocaine which is typically snorted or injected into the bloodstream when abused.

The base form of cocaine has been processed with either ammonia or baking soda and water and then heated to remove the hydrochloride to produce a smokable substance. The term 'crack' which is the street name that's given to freebase cocaine, refers to the crackling sound that's heard when the mixture's smoked. Crack cocaine emerged in the mid-80s, it's smoked in a small glass pipe and produces an immediate high.

Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine is a very potent stimulant that creates strong pleasurable feelings. Cocaine users typically feel euphoric, invincible, and carefree, they're also more alert and have lots of energy. This is usually followed by feelings of agitation, depression, anxiety, paranoia and a decrease in appetite. The effects of cocaine usually last around two hours.

Side Effects of Cocaine

  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Tremors
  • Increased sweating
  • Nausea
  • Nervous tics
  • Numbness
  • Troubled breathing
  • Muscle weakness

Cocaine is even more dangerous when mixed with alcohol. SAMHSA reports the combination of alcohol and cocaine interferes with learning, thinking, leads to impulsive behavior and increases the risk of sudden death.

Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Because cocaine is such a powerful addictive substance, users are left with an overwhelming craving for the drug. With repeated abuse of cocaine, users can develop an addiction very easily. Cocaine addiction is a chronic repeated disease that's characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use which is accompanied by the chemical and molecular changes in the brain. Sometimes, these changes continue long after cocaine use is stopped.

Cocaine addiction ends up taking over a person's life, addicts continue to use so they can feel normal not because they're wanting to achieve a high anymore. During withdrawal, cocaine addicts may experience the following symptoms

  • Chronic chest pain
  • Phlegm cough
  • Muscle spasms
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Depression

Effects of Cocaine Due to Long Term or Heavy Use

  • Severe damage to the nose and nasal passage
  • Loss of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke
  • Severe loss of weight
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low sex drive
  • Violent, aggressive or irrational behavior
  • Cocaine psychosis (this condition causes paranoia, confusion, depression, and hallucinations)

Common Street Names for Cocaine

  • Coca
  • Coke
  • C
  • Crack
  • Snow
  • Flake
  • Blow
  • Soda Cot


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