Cocaine is made from leaves of the coca plant. It's highly addictive and dangerous to the user's health. In 2014, approximately 1.5 million people ages 12 or older were current users of the drug.
History of Cocaine
According to UptoDate, an evidenced-based clinical decision tool, cocaine was extracted from the leaves of the coca plant native to Andean highlands of South America. Natives of the region chewed or brewed the leaves to make a refreshing tea or to help ease fatigue.
- Cocaine was first used for medicinal purposes in the 1880s as a local anesthetic during eye surgery. Most doctors found this drug useful during nose or throat surgery because it had the ability to provide anesthesia and constrict blood vessels, which lessened bleeding. Cocaine was widely used as an anesthetic until the early 20th century.
- Initially, there were no laws restricting the use or sale of the drug as it was freely available in drug stores, salons, grocery stores and through mail-order vendors.
- In 1914 The Harrison Narcotics Act was passed banning the non-medical use of cocaine and other drugs such as marijuana.
Cocaine is the second most trafficked illegal drug in the world and is available in two forms: a white crystalline powder or in small irregularly formed chunks or "rocks" which are generally a whitish color.
Cocaine powder is usually shiny in appearance, odorless, and resembles snow. Most often, this form of the drug is either snorted up the nose or dissolved in water and injected into the veins. Often, cocaine powder is diluted with common substances such as sugars or local anesthetics. Cocaine powder is normally chopped into a fine powder with a razor blade on a hard surface, arranged into rows and inhaled quickly through the nose with a short straw or rolled dollar bill. If the powder is injected, generally, syringes, needles, spoons, belts, bandanas, or surgical tubing accompanies the drug.
Cocaine powder is described as "cakey" to the touch, and it has a medicinal taste. When tasted, it may numb your tongue instantly.
Cocaine can also be made into small white rocks. "Crack" is purer and more potent than the powder version of the drug. It is generally smoked alone in a glass pipe or with marijuana or tobacco products. Crack cocaine is most often packaged in aluminum foil, plastic, paper packets, or small vials and sold in quantities enough for two to three uses.
Cocaine is highly addictive and creates an intense sense of euphoria. UptoDate notes that some of the harmful effects of the drug include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Decreased appetite
- Increased alertness
- Increased restlessness
- High body temperature and
- Skin flushing
The "high" that's felt when using this drug is dependent on how quickly the drug reaches the brain, on the amount of drug used and the manner in which the drug is taken.
When cocaine is smoked, the effects are intense and felt right away. The euphoric feeling lasts 5 to 10 minutes.
Injecting Into a Vein
The drug effects start 15 to 30 seconds after injection, and they last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.
The euphoric feeling happens a little more slowly and is a little less intense than when cocaine is smoked or injected. The effects are felt in 3 to 5 minutes and last 15 to 30 minutes.
When cocaine is abused, it can cause serious health issues including:
- Cardiac arrhythmias (your heart beating out of rhythm)
- Sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack or your heart stopping)
- Ischemic heart conditions (restriction of blood flow)
Using too much cocaine can cause an overdose. Enlarged pupils, sweating, tremors, confusion, and sudden death are all symptoms of an overdose. If you or someone you love are experiencing these symptoms, get medical help right away
Why People Use It
Cocaine is an addictive drug. The high experienced while taking the drug makes users want to continue taking it, especially to maintain their high. Some users find cocaine helps them to perform easy physical and mental tasks more quickly.
Periods of depression generally follow the highs and last for several days. This is depicted by mental and physical exhaustion, increased periods of sleep, and depression. Users will generally crave the drug and want to use it again. Users become tolerant of the drug quickly, which causes them to take higher doses to experience that euphoric high.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine accounted for almost 6 percent of all admissions to drug abuse treatment programs in 2013. Any treatment plans implemented should be individualized to meet the user's needs. Generally, this may include behavioral and/or pharmacological interventions. Another treatment option is detox.
Drug addiction is a complex disease that involves biological, social and environmental factors. Care and support from loved ones are crucial to restoring their health and wellbeing.