Cocaine is a highly addictive drug. It causes psychological and physical dependency. Long term use can lead to serious, even life-threatening health problems.
What exactly is cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine is a white hydrochloride salt in its powdered form. Although health care providers can use it for valid medical purposes, such as local anaesthesia for some surgeries, cocaine is an illegal drug.
As a street drug, cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder. Street dealers often mix it with things like cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to increase profits. They may also mix it with other drugs such as the stimulant amphetamine.
What is crack cocaine?
Crack cocaine is derived from powdered cocaine by combining it with water and another substance, usually baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). After cocaine and baking soda are combined, the mixture is boiled, and a solid forms. Once it’s cooled and broken into smaller pieces, these pieces are sold as crack. It is a rock formation that is generally white, cream, tan, or light brown. It is cheaper to buy than pure cocaine. When the drug is heated and then smoked, it makes a crackling sound – hence the name. It is a highly concentrated form of cocaine and therefore very addictive. It is possible for a person to become addicted to crack cocaine after just one use.
How do people use cocaine?
Cocaine powder can be snorted through the nose or rubbed into gums. It takes longer to feel its effects but the resulting high lasts longer.
The powder can also be dissolved in water and injected into the bloodstream. Some people inject a combination of cocaine and heroin, called a Speedball.
Another popular method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called “freebase cocaine”). The crystal is heated to produce vapours that are inhaled into the lungs. The effect is instant and last only 5 -10 minutes. This form of cocaine is called Crack, which refers to the crackling sound of the rock as it’s heated.
People who use cocaine often take it in binges—taking the drug repeatedly within a short time, at increasingly higher doses—to maintain their high.
What happens if you use cocaine?
Smoking or injecting cocaine results in nearly instantaneous effects. Rapid absorption through nasal tissues makes snorting cocaine nearly as fast-acting. Whatever the method of taking it in, cocaine quickly enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain. Deep in the brain, cocaine interferes with the chemical messengers — neurotransmitters — that nerves use to communicate with each other. Cocaine blocks norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters from being reabsorbed. The resulting chemical build up between nerves causes euphoria or feeling “high.” A ”crash” follows a high which can lead to cycles of bingeing and crashing.
What are the side effects of cocaine addiction?
The intensity and duration of the drug’s effects depend on how you take it. Desired effects include pleasure and increased alertness.
Short-term effects also include paranoia, raised blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels leading to the heart, increase in body temperature, dilated pupils, stroke, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, convulsions, and death. Severe depression and reduced energy often accompany withdrawal.
Both short- and long term use of cocaine has been associated with damage to the heart, brain, lungs, kidney and destruction of the nasal septum.
When a person stops using cocaine, he will go through a period of excessive sleeping, followed by depression. There is a risk that the person could die of respiratory failure. When cocaine use is stopped or when a binge ends, a crash follows almost immediately. This crash is accompanied by a strong craving for more cocaine.
Alcohol: 3-5 days in urine, 10-12 hours in blood
Amphetamines: 1-3 days in urine and around 12 hours in blood
Barbiturates: 2-4 days in urine and 1-2 days in blood
Benzodiazepines: 3-6 weeks in urine and 2-3 days in blood
Cannabis: 7-30 days in urine and up to 2 weeks in blood
Cocaine: 3-4 days in urine and 1-2 days in blood
Codeine: 1 day in urine and up to 12 hours in blood
Heroin: 3-4 days in urine and up to 12 hours in blood
LSD: 1-3 days in urine and up to 2-3 hours in blood
MDMA (ecstasy): 3-4 days in urine and 1-2 days in blood
Methamphetamine (crystal meth): 3-6 days in urine and 24 – 72 hours in blood
Methadone: 3-4 days in urine and 24-36 hours in blood
Morphine: 2-3 days in urine and 6-8 hours in blood
Terminology and Information on Drugs, Revised Edition, United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, New York, 1999.
Merck Index, 13th Edition, Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station NJ, 2001.