The objective of this article is to explain what cocaine is, its use, and its effects.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: Cocaine is a stimulant drug used medically as a local anesthetic. It can cause irritation of the tissues with which it comes in contact, and has serious emotional and physical side effects. This article seeks to describe how cocaine is used and the effects on emotional and physical well-being that it can have.
What is cocaine? It is a stimulant drug extracted from the leaves of the cocoa plant,. Medically cocaine is a local anesthetic. It has the properties to reduce bleeding so it is sometimes used in nose and throat surgery.
How is cocaine used? It is usually a crystalline powder that is snuffed into the nostrils. Some heavy users inject the drug into the blood with a needle. This produces a stronger effect. There is also a form called “free-base” in which street cocaine is chemically converted so that it can be smoked. Smoking “free-base” cocaine gives a faster effect than snorting. Buying a conversion kit is extremely expensive.
The effects of cocaine: Sniffing cocaine produces a feeling of pleasure. The high starts within a few minutes and lasts up to an hour. In smoking or injecting, the drug reaches a high level in the blood immediately, and the euphoric effect is greater than with sniffing. The euphoria also fades more quickly, within a few minutes, and is usually followed by depression. This causes the user to increase the activity. One reason many people give for using cocaine is that the drug supposedly increases sexual ability and pleasure as well as enhancing other creative impulses. This has not been proved. Rather, it is probably true only as a psychological benefit for those who believe it, while they are also propelled into cocaine use by the great stimulation and exuberance that they feel during a high.
The dangers: Continuous sniffing of cocaine can cause damage to the nostrils, including irritation, inflammation, and even ulcers. Smoking, when continued and prolonged, may result in extreme depression, paranoia, agitation, and dangerous increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Instances of psychosis requiring hospitalization have been reported.
There have also been reports of deaths as a result of convulsions that were followed by respiratory arrest and coma or heart arrest. This happens rarely in the case of snorting but more frequently with smoking or injecting. Hepatitis and other infections have resulted from the use of unsterile needles when injecting. The drug does not cause physical addiction. However, there exists a powerful compulsion to reuse cocaine–especially when smoked–and this creates a great psychological dependence.