Cocaine is a short-acting, highly addictive alkaloid stimulant drug derived from the coca leaf. Cocaine can be snorted, injected and even smoked in some forms of the drug. In all cases cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant which affects the brain’s processing of dopamine.
Coca is one of the oldest, most potent and most dangerous stimulants of natural origin. Three thousand years before the birth of Christ, ancient Incas in the Andes chewed coca leaves to get their hearts racing and to speed their breathing to counter the effects of living in thin mountain air. Native Peruvians chewed coca leaves only during religious ceremonies. This taboo was broken when spanish conquerors invaded Peru in 1532. Forced Indian laborers in Spanish silver mines were kept supplied with coca leaves because it made them easier to control and exploit. Cocaine was first isolated (extracted from coca leaves) in 1859 by Albert Niemann. It was not until the 1880s that it started to be popularized in the medical community.
All types of this drug are addictive, but by reaching the brain very quickly freebase or crack tend to have a much stronger effect and be more addictive than snorted powder cocaine. Injecting any form of cocaine will also reach the brain more quickly but this has serious additional risks, including damaging veins and spreading blood bourne virsues Crack cocaine looks like a small rock, chunk or chip and it is sometimes off-white or pink in color. Cocaine is the second most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. Nearly one percent of Americans, or 2.1 million people, are currently using cocaine. Users can be from all economic status, all ages and all genders.
Cocaine is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and limited medical usage. Cocaine hydrochloride solution (4% and 10%) is used primarily as a topical local anesthetic for the upper respiratory tract. It also is used to reduce bleeding of the mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, and nasal cavities. However, better products have been developed for these purposes, and coca is rarely used medically in the US
Three routes of administration are commonly used for this substance: snorting, injecting, and smoking. Snorting is the process of inhaling cocaine powder through the nose, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Injecting is the use of a needle to insert the drug directly into the bloodstream. Smoking involves inhaling cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is as rapid as it is by injection.
Short term effects
Coca effects appear almost immediately after a single dose, and disappear within a few minutes or hours. Taken in small amounts (up to 100 mg), cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep.
Taking the drug makes users feel on top of the world. Its effect is like the stimulant ‘amphetamines’ (speed) but is stronger and doesn’t last as long. People taking it feel wide-awake, confident and on top of their game.
Coca is a stimulant, so it can raise the body’s temperature, make the heart beat faster and stave off feelings of hunger.
Effects on the body
The short-term physiological effects of coca include constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Large amounts (several hundred milligrams or more) intensify the user’s high, but may also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior.
Effects on the brain
These users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, paranoia, or, with repeated doses, a toxic reaction closely resembling amphetamine poisoning. Some users of the drug report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety.
Cocaine long term effects
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Once having tried the drug, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug. Cocaine’s stimulant and addictive effects are thought to be primarily a result of its ability to inhibit the reabsorption of dopamine by nerve cells. Dopamine is released as part of the brain’s reward system, and is either directly or indirectly involved in the addictive properties of every major drug of abuse.
With repeated exposure to this drug, the brain starts to adapt, and the reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforcers and to the drug itself. Tolerance may develop—this means that higher doses and/or more frequent use of coca is needed to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. At the same time, users can also become more sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine’s anxiety-producing, convulsant, and other toxic effects.
Users take cocaine in “binges,” during which the coca is used repeatedly and at increasingly higher doses. This can lead to increased irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, and paranoia—even a full-blown psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations. With increasing dosages or frequency of use, the risk of adverse psychological or physiological effects increases.
Different routes of cocaine administration can produce different adverse effects. Regularly snorting the drug, for example, can lead to loss of sense of smell; nosebleeds; problems with swallowing; hoarseness; and an overall irritation of the nasal septum, which could result in a chronically inflamed, runny nose. Ingested coca can cause severe bowel gangrene, due to reduced blood flow. Persons who inject cocaine have puncture marks called “tracks,” most commonly in their forearms, and may experience allergic reactions, either to the drug or to some additive in street cocaine, which in severe cases can result in death. Many chronic cocaine users lose their appetite and experience significant weight loss and malnourishment.