What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a narcotic stimulant extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. It is legitimately used in the medical field as a local anaesthetic for minor surgery. It is also one of the most abused illegal drugs in the world, due to the short term euphoria it causes. It is highly addictive and one of the deadliest street drugs.
The substance is a white powder and street names for it include; crack, C, coke, cola, chalk, blow, dust, flake, nose candy, snow, sniff, toot, white, sprinkle and more. Sometimes the powder is mixed with other drugs, which then get their own slang names. It comes in two forms – a water soluble powder and one which is not water soluble.
The soluble powder can be mixed with liquid and injected directly into the bloodstream. It can also be “snorted” (sucked in through the nose). Some users rub it onto the gums in their mouths. In non-soluble form, it can be inhaled or smoked; the slang name “crack” refers to this version. It comes from the crackling sound that the smouldering powder makes.
About a hundred years ago, the dangers of the drug were not well known. It was widely used as a medicine, pain killer or energiser and mood lifter. History tells us that these practises often ended in trauma. The drawbacks of Cocaine became common knowledge and eventually, it was declared illegal in virtually all countries of the world.
Drug dealers mix the powder with dilutants like flour, starch, baking powder, face powder, other illegal (but cheaper) drugs, and so on, to increase their profits. Although the price varies, it is always quite expensive – this often leads to crime (to finance the addict’s cocaine purchases).
There is a misguided belief that cocaine is not addictive, because it lacks the normal “hangover” symptoms of drugs like alcohol. However, research showed that it causes extreme dependence. In some circles, cocaine is regarded as the most addictive and dangerous drug. In the USA, 40 percent of drug related emergencies in hospitals are ascribed to cocaine.
The Effects of Cocaine
The substance has four main effects:
One is the stimulation of “pleasure” centres in the brain. This creates short term feelings of increased alertness, sensitivity to sights and sounds, high self-esteem and an elevated mood or intense happiness.
The second effect is the inhibition of peripheral nerves, which explains the local anaesthetic effect of cocaine, as well as partial loss of control over normal autonomous functions.
The third effect is a combination of insomnia, loss of appetite, very rapid pulse, fast breathing, high blood pressure, constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, restlessness, fever, hallucinations, panic and paranoia.
Lastly, continuous use results in long term changes in the brain that cause resistance to stopping the abuse of the drug. Suddenly reducing or stopping it triggers problems like insomnia, poor judgement, depression, stress, irritability, hostility, distrust, suspicion, anxiety, tremors, muscle twitches, vertigo, abdominal pain and nausea.
Users also become progressively tolerant to the drug. As time passes, they have to take bigger doses at shorter intervals to get the same relief.
As a result of the above effects, users focus intensely on the drug, neglect normal interests, relationships and obligations and cannot, on their own, stop taking the drug. They are locked in a downward spiral that gets worse and worse.
Cocaine overdosing is a very frequent problem, even with experienced cocaine users. This is due to a range of factors specifically related to cocaine. Overdosing causes lung and kidney failure, coma, bleeding in the brain, heart attacks, strokes, seizures and sudden death.