Cocaine is a highly addictive powerful drug that is manufactured from the leaves of the coca plant. It is a bitter, white crystalline drug that is typically sold in powder form. It is classified as a central nervous system stimulant, but pharmacologically it is considered an anesthetic. Cocaine that is sold on the streets has a potency of 30-40 percent but the drug produces a degree of physical and mental deterioration that is not matched by other drugs. It is the most abused major stimulant in America and the second most popular illicit drug used in the USA behind marijuana.
Cocaine is a drug that increases alertness, feelings of well-being, euphoria, energy and feelings of competence and sexuality. Anxiety, paranoia and restlessness are just some of the side effects of the drug.
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that makes users feel euphoric, confident and alert. Cocaine increases the levels of dopamine in the brain, giving the user pleasant feelings. The drug, however, wears off relatively quickly, prompting the user to take more which builds a tolerance. Once this tolerance is established, a user will need to use more and more to get the same feeling which increases the risk of overdose. Cocaine addiction is not just a physical addiction. The drug also has a serious psychological addiction that is very hard to break.
There is no typical cocaine addict. Some addicts have high powered jobs or are well known in the media. Others are people who have serious social and health complications from the drug. A cocaine addict may use the drug every day or they may use it on weekends or in social situations ‘only’. But when the drug becomes dependent on to be sociable, to go to work, to have energy, then the drug user needs help. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that among the 7 million drug users in the United States who are classified as having a dependence, over 1 million were dependent or abused cocaine in 2010.
Many cocaine users are considered poly-drug users. This means that they abuse more than one drug at a time. Individuals may use cannabis in conjunction with cocaine to lessen the effects of the comedown, or they may drink excessive amounts of alcohol to magnify the effects. Users may take ecstasy or amphetamines to extend the high of cocaine. Poly drug use increases the chances of negative health risks. Studies have revealed that of clients in treatment, the most common secondary drug used is cocaine.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine is one of the most difficult drugs to overcome. When used for extended periods of time, the drug has been found to make biological changes to the brain and cells. It is a drug that causes users to crave the drug intensely for a long period of time after the drug. Some users become obsessed with the drug and many who have recovered from their addiction will still crave the drug for many years.. Statistically speaking, a high number of individuals who undergo treatment for cocaine dependency will relapse.
Cocaine dependence is a long and difficult issue to treat as it involves not only dealing with the physical aspects of the addiction but the social and psychological issues too. Some users require medical detoxification prior to undertaking further treatment options. Behavioral interventions have been found to be effective in helping some patients. This aims to change the drug taking behaviors, reduce the risk of relapse and arm individuals with skills to help them refuse and not re-use. Unfortunately, there is no drug available to medically treat cocaine dependence. Cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational therapy and other behavioral treatments are the most beneficial treatment options available.
How Cocaine Is Used
There are three main ways of administration of cocaine: snorting, injecting and smoking. The effects of the drug is dependent on the way the drug is administered into the body. The faster the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, the more intense the high will be. But it also can mean that the drug wears off quicker and the user will crave another hit. Cocaine is most commonly used in binges
Snorting cocaine also known as sniffing or blowing) is the most common way that it is ingested in the Western world. When taken in this way, the drug is absorbed through the nasal membranes. Nosebleeds are common due to irritation and damage to the mucus membranes and damage to the nose occurs because cocaine is a vasoconstrictor – it constricts blood vessels – and oxygen/nutrient flow is interrupted.
Injecting cocaine is not as common as snorting the drug and the risks of overdose and addiction are greatly increased. Health problems arise because the drug damages veins and the surrounding injection site very quickly. It is said that the euphoric feelings associated with cocaine are experienced earlier and more intensely when injected, however, it also increases the negative paranoid feelings. Cocaine is often mixed with heroin and injected. This mixture is referred to as a speedball and it is used to alleviate negative side effects and increase the stimulative effects. However, using this type of mixture is incredibly dangerous and users often overdose.
When cocaine is smoked, it is usually in the form of crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is a crystal form of cocaine that has been boiled with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate to form chunks or rocks. It is typically smoked using a glass pipe where the crack is placed at one end of the pipe with a flame held near it to produce vapors. These vapors are inhaled and the effects are felt almost immediately though they do not last long. Cocaine in its usual powder form can be smoked when combined with other drugs such as marijuana though its potency is often destroyed in this way.
Health Risks from Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a highly addictive and harmful drug. There are a number of serious health risks and side effects that users face. These include accelerated heart rate, hallucinations, nausea, tremors, loss of appetite, vomiting, dizziness and heart pain.
Prolonged use (especially when binging) cases nerve cells to fatigue and the user will crash. This means that they will fall into prolonged sleep, face periods of depression or a drug-induced mood disorder and anhedonia. Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from activities
The long term health implications of prolonged use of cocaine range from depression and fatigue, increased blood pressure, chest pain, seizures, headaches, respiratory failure, extreme weightloss and an increase risk of stroke. When a person binges on cocaine they are also at risk of cardiac arrest and psychosis.
History of Cocaine
Cocaine which is derived from the leaves of the coca plant has been used by native South Americans for centuries as a stimulant. Natives chewed the leaves of the coca plant which gave them energy and stamina to work in high altitude conditions in South America.
Cocaine in its current form, was first discovered in the 1860’s when scientists extracted the substance from the leaves of the coca plant. For many years this substance was legally produces and available around the world. It was used as an anesthetic, and also once an ingredient in coca-cola. Due to the highly addictive nature of the drug and the health risks associated with its misuse, the drug was made illegal in the early 20th century.
Cocaine Synthesis and Toxicity
Cocaine is made with a variety of ingredients but it should be noted that the cocaine that users get when it is purchased on the street is usually less than 40 per cent pure. This information is by no means comprehensive but shows how many dangerous and toxic ingredients are used in the process which are harmful to users.
To make cocaine, coca leaves are stripped from the plant and crushed with a mixture of alcohol, kerosene or gasoline. This is to separate the cocaine from the leaves. The liquid that remains is un-purified cocaine alkaloids. This liquid is processed to remove any substances left from the leaves and then using harmful acids, the alkaloids are removed from the liquid. The remaining cocaine is processed with kerosene and the crystallized crude cocaine is processed with methyl alcohol. Sulfuric acid is then used as a final processor. The remaining substance has to be then treated with oxidizing agents such as potassium permanganate, benzole or sodium carbonate which makes it possible to snort or inject.
Cocaine is typically diluted or cut with adulterant substances before a user gets the drug. This is done by all levels of the drug production and sale community. The drug is processed in this way to increase the volume of the drug and to increase profits for dealers. Typical adulterant substances include glucose, caffeine, sodium bicarbonate, amphetamines, paracetamol, sodium carbonate, glass, cleaning products or other pharmaceutical products. These substances increase the toxic and harmful health risks to the user.