Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is derived from the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca plant that is native to South America. While the native people of Columbia and nearby countries have been using the coca leaf safely for thousands of years to increase energy and productivity, current derivatives are man-made, much more potent, and extremely dangerous to use.
Cocaine impacts the production, absorption, and itemization of three chemical neurotransmitters in the brain: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (adrenaline.)
“When cocaine is ingested, these chemicals are released into the brain. In an unaffected brain, the chemicals are usually reabsorbed without incident. But because cocaine prevents uptake, however, these neurotransmitters over-accumulate.”
This action results in feelings of excess energy and euphoria, per the user’s primary goal. But using cocaine also can result in a wealth of other problems in the brain and body’s central nervous system, manifesting adverse symptoms such as anxiety, hallucinations, and aggressiveness, among others.
Also, a user will likely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms following cessation of use.
Three Forms Of Cocaine
The extract of the coca leaf is used to make three different forms of cocaine: Cocaine hydrochloride, Freebase, and Crack.
- Cocaine hydrochloride is a white, bitter-tasting crystal-like powder. It is most often used intranasally (snorted), but can also be used intravenously (injected) or rubbed onto the gums.
- Freebase is also a white powder formulation, purer than traditional cocaine itself and most commonly smoked.
- Crack cocaine is a less-pure form that presents as crystals varying in color from white/cream to transparent with a pink or yellow tint. Like freebase, crack cocaine is also typically smoked.
Effects Of Cocaine Intoxication
Cocaine use may result in any or all of the following effects:
- Happiness and confidence
- Feeling extra energetic and alert
- Feeling physically strong and mentally sharp
- Reduction in appetite
- Dry mouth
- Dilated pupils
- Increased blood pressure, heartbeat, and breathing
- Increased body temperature
- Increased libido (sex drive)
- Unpredictable, aggressive behavior, or violent behavior
- High pain tolerance, which can lead to an impaired ability to identify the extent of one’s injuries or illness
Snorting cocaine regularly for an extended period can result in frequent episodes of runny/bloody nose, nasal infections, as well as a damaged septum and long-term injury to the nasal cavity.
Cocaine injections and the sharing of non-sterile needles also increase the likelihood of overdose, hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, and abscesses/infections.
The duration and intensity of cocaine effects are based on several individual factors, such as size, weight, overall health, level of tolerance, the amount/dose used and potency of the drug.
Ingesting an excessive amount or particularly potent batch of cocaine can result in overdose. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following symptoms after recent cocaine use, please call 911 immediately:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Panic attacks
- Extreme agitation
- Labored breathing
Indicators of psychosis such as paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and uncharacteristically aggressive behavior.
When cocaine is abused as a stand-alone drug or is combined with other substances, the result may result in cardiac irregularities/arrest, stroke, coma, and/or death.
Combined Drug Intoxication
Using cocaine with alcohol, opioids, or other central nervous system depressants is particularly dangerous, as the body must then struggle against the conflicting effects of both stimulating and depressive substances.
Withdrawal symptoms occur after ingesting cocaine for a significant amount of time and stopping abruptly. The most common effects include anxiety, depression, and moodiness.
Withdrawal symptoms typically begin 1–2 days after the last use and may persist for up to 10 weeks.
When cocaine is used for an extended period, effects may also include:
- Insomnia, exhaustion
- Psychosis – paranoia and/or hallucinations
- Significant weight loss
- Sexual dysfunction
- Hypertension and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Heart disease
- Death due to complications of use
According to recent statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2014, an estimated 1.5 million current (past-month) cocaine users age 12 or older were reported.
Of those, persons from18-25 years of age had a higher rate of current cocaine use than all other age groups, with 1.4 percent of young adults reporting past-month use.
Around 22 percent of people in drug abuse treatment report using cocaine, but only about one-third of those individuals report cocaine as their primary drug.
While cocaine use has remained somewhat stable in the last decade, overdose deaths involving cocaine use doubled from less than 5,000 in 2009 to more than 10,600 in 2016.
More men use cocaine than women, but women are more likely to report cocaine use upon admission to treatment.
Getting More Information
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Our programs are structured with various components of evidence-based treatment practices and holistic approaches to treatment that provide our patients with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful in their recovery.
If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, please seek help as soon as possible.
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