What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a psychoactive stimulant which is derived from the leaves of the Coca plant native to South America. Cocaine is most commonly manufactured as a white powder. There are few countries which have a larger market for Cocaine than the United States. Although it was once a drug for the affluent, the market for Cocaine has become more accessible to lower incomes, causing a resurgence in the demand for the stimulant. Cocaine is sometimes found in other forms, most commonly Freebase and Crack Cocaine, which both allow the Cocaine to be smoked.
Street names for Cocaine include:
- Nose candy
- Nose beers
- White girl
When selling their drug in its powder form, Cocaine dealers will often mix their supply with other non-narcotics similar in appearance, such as flour, talcum, or cornstarch, to cut costs. Cocaine is also frequently mixed with other illicit substances, causing unknown and often dangerous effects on users.
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How Cocaine Is Used
Though Cocaine is most famously snorted, often using small straws or rolled up dollar bills, it can also be rubbed into someone’s gums or dissolved into a solution to be injected. Originally, the Coca leaf was chewed to give energy. The purified extract came later and was originally used in many products, especially medicine. After it was discovered to be highly addictive, it was discontinued for consumer use but can still be prescribed in other forms as a local anesthetic.
People using Cocaine illicitly will also cut it with other drugs, like Methamphetamine or Heroin, for a greater high. Powdered Cocaine can also be cooked down to Freebase or Crack Cocaine. Crack is a crystalized form of Cocaine that is then smoked. The term “Crack” comes from a crackling sound that comes off when the substance is heated. Freebase is similar in concept, but the Cocaine is broken down in a different process, resulting in a crystalline form with a low melting point. After Cocaine is turned into Freebase, it is more concentrated and can only be smoked.
Effects of Cocaine
The short-term effects of Cocaine can be felt almost immediately after dosing and can last from a few minutes to an hour. These effects, physiological and psychological, include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch stimuli
Without continuous use, the user will crash and either need more or stop there. The fleeting effects of Cocaine are why many using the drug will go on binges to maintain their high. Users who look to intensify their high, or keep it longer, will begin using more and more. This can produce other effects and cause the user to become erratic and violent. Those coming down from the effects of Cocaine, even short-term users, will feel:
- Muscle twitches
Many use Cocaine as a motivator, supposedly helping them accomplish tasks or chores or to focus. While this may be appear temporarily useful to some, and they can even consider themselves “high-functioning,” others could experience the opposite effect. Cocaine could make it harder for them to focus or get anything done. Even worse, they could become confused, erratic, and violent.
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For many first timers, the allure of Cocaine will come from peer pressure. Being around many people who are using Cocaine, or even seeing the glamorization of it in Hollywood, will push people to try it. Other times, people will try Cocaine for a specific purpose. The upper effects may help them be productive or wake up. The highly addictive qualities of Cocaine, however, can grab someone from that very first time. Soon, people addicted to Cocaine will need it just to fully wake up or get through the day, like others need coffee. They may not even realize that they have a problem until they’ve run out.
When Cocaine hits the brain, there are two functions that make it so addictive. First, it releases dopamine, the chemical in the brain responsible for positive feelings that come from things that make us happy, like food or exercise. Secondly, Cocaine blocks the part of the brain responsible for transporting the excess dopamine out. This means the brain gets more than its meant to, which provides the addictive quality. After extended use of Cocaine, people will be unable to trigger those responses without stimulus form the drug.
On average, deaths by overdose rose 18% each year from 2014 to 2016, and have been steadily climbing since 1999.
Of the total 47,055 deaths by overdose in 2014, 12.5% of them were directly tied to Cocaine.
40% of drug-related emergency visits involved cocaine.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
People who have become addicted to Cocaine can go into withdrawal within a couple of hours of their last dose. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Increased appetite
- Restless behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
Recovering from any addiction is difficult, but it can become impossible without help. If you, or someone you love, are suffering from Cocaine addiction, please seek help. Getting clean through detox can be much easier when there are others around to support you and help with the symptoms of withdrawal. If you don’t know how or where to get started, then try reaching out. There are dedicated treatment specialists ready to help you figure out your next steps.
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