Cocaine is classified as a stimulant drug and is powerfully addictive. Cocaine is derived from the leaves of a plant, coca scrub, which is native to South America. It is a pain blocker as well as one of the strongest natural stimulants. In the 1800s, cocaine was used as a numbing agent and as an anesthetic. However, soon after its addictive nature was discovered, its use as an anesthetic was discontinued and safer alternatives were put in place.
Cocaine is also known by the street names of crack, snow candy, snow, ski, etc. Cocaine can be snorted, injected or smoked. Cocaine is sold as a crystalline white colored powder (hydrochloride form) or as an off-white chunky substance. It is then diluted with other substances such as sugars, local anesthetics, etc.
Many users of cocaine ultimately become victims of addiction and are subject to long-term negative health effects and life threatening consequences. Statistics reveal that youngsters between the ages of 18 and 25 are among the highest users of cocaine.
Physical Effects of Using Cocaine
Smoking or injecting cocaine causes an instant 'high' in the user. Cocaine enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain quickly. In the brain, cocaine blocks neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, etc., from being reabsorbed. This buildup of chemicals results in a high. During a high, users experience elevated moods, increased alertness, and a feeling of superiority. However feelings of paranoia, anxiety and irritability are seen to accompany this euphoria. Cocaine users have dilated pupils, they speak excitedly, and have visible energy/activity bursts.The cocaine high usually wears off in about half a hour to two hours.
The Physiological Effects of Cocaine
Use of cocaine constricts the blood vessels, increases temperature of the body, blood pressure and heart rate. It is also seen to cause nausea and headaches. Over time cocaine works to reduce appetite. Cocaine addicts are therefore malnourished as well.
Long-term effects include loss of sense of smell in those who snort cocaine regularly. Nosebleeds, runny nose, hoarseness of throat etc., are other complications. Injection of cocaine makes the user more prone to HIV/AIDS infections. Cocaine smokers suffer from respiratory diseases and even bleeding in the lungs. Heavy cocaine abusers suffer from severe paranoia when they can experience auditory and visual hallucinations. Long-term users are also known to suffer cardiovascular and cerebrovascular emergencies in the form of heart attacks and strokes.
Poly-drug combinations, such as that of cocaine and alcohol, when taken together are more dangerous and are known to increase the risk of sudden deaths due to the compounded effects of the drugs.
A myth exists that cocaine is not as addictive as heroin as the withdrawal symptoms are not as physical as in the latter. But the truth is that cocaine has powerful physiological addictive properties. The addictive behavior is not restricted by age, profession, religion, or race.
Human response to cocaine usage has shown that cocaine-dependent individuals use up the drug until the supply is exhausted. Addicts of cocaine have been seen to perform acts that are unnatural and unusual when compared with their otherwise normal actions.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Behavioral therapies seem to be most effective in reducing cocaine addiction and prevent relapse. However, they need to be customized for every individual to optimize the results. Currently, there is no FDA approved medication that is used to treat cocaine addiction. Current research indicates that medication combined with behavioral and holistic therapies produce the best results that help to reduce drug abuse in the longer term.