Cocaine is a substance found in the leaves of the South American coca plant (the same plant that gave its name to Coca Cola®. Since the early 1900s, Coca Cola has been using strictly cocaine-free extracts of the coca plant. And there’s a good reason why! In purified form, cocaine produces an intense sense of well-being. People on cocaine feel energetic, alert, competent, and often sexually aroused. This feeling of euphoria and competence becomes very desirable for most who try it several times, and therefore cocaine is highly addictive. In fact, a 2007 study placed cocaine second after heroin in a list of addictive and abuse-prone substances.
For various reasons, cocaine has become a “fashionable” drug, favored by the “moneyed” set: fashion models, high-end brokers, Hollywood celebrities and the like. Cocaine became a status drug for the affluent for several reasons:
- It’s quite expensive
- It’s preferred by the same people who like designer clothes and expensive sport cars
- it shows off their wealth
Cocaine has also had medical uses: it’s a very effective topical anesthetic and was often used as a local anesthetic for certain operations—for example on the eye and nose—before it was replaced by synthetic drugs with fewer side-effects. In some places it is still used, either for local anesthesia or for its effect in reducing bleeding locally, by constricting blood vessels.
Apart from medical uses, cocaine is illegal in practically every country in the world. Given both its illegal status and its high desirability and extreme price, cocaine forms the basis for several huge criminal enterprises.
Cocaine is available in:
- Powder form. Often “cut” or adulterated with various other powders. Some of these powders are harmless, but others may contain drugs that increase the risk of adverse side effects.
- “Crack” or rock form. This form can be easily obtained from the powder and is faster acting.
Cocaine is consumed in a variety of ways:
- “Snorting” (i.e., sniffing the powder up the nose)
- Mixing the powder with water and injecting into a vein or under the skin
- Crack cocaine form
One can often tell that someone is on a cocaine high by observing:
- Excessive excitement
- High energy level and hyperactivity
- Loud, exuberant speech
- Dilated pupils
These physical and mental signs accompany the “high,” which is not always positive, and may induce feelings of anxiety and paranoia in some people. The effect of cocaine does not last long: 30 minutes to a couple of hours, after which the user experiences a harsh letdown (also know as a “crash”).
In addition to being highly addictive, the use of cocaine in any form has very damaging side-effects.
- Organ damage. One of its properties is to constrict blood vessels, which wreaks havoc with several organs in the body.
- Brain damage. In the brain, constricting blood vessels can cause seizures or strokes, even in people who are otherwise healthy.
- Heart damage. Constricted blood arteries can result in a heart attack; and in the intestines and stomach, the reduced blood supply contributes to the development of ulcers.
- Kidney failure. Long-term cocaine users can also suffer sudden kidney failure.
- Respiratory tract issues. Cocaine can also cause problems along respiratory tract: powder snorters may end up with a perforated septum (the divider between the nostrils), have nose bleeds, sinus infections and suffer loss of their sense of smell.
- Lung damage. Smokers of crack cocaine will damage the lungs, sometimes permanently. Using cocaine for a long time can lead to weight loss and malnutrition, as well as generally poor health.
Beyond such physical damage, long-term usage of cocaine can cause:
- Several other mental health problems
Apart from the dangers inherent in using cocaine itself, there is always the added risk in obtaining cocaine on the street. Often, it’s adulterated by the addition of unknown substances, so dealers can enhance their profit. Some of these substances can be relatively harmless, such as a powdery form of sugar. Or more harmful if snorted or injected because a local anesthetic or caffeine was mixed in. As with many other “street drugs” there’s always great danger of serious infection due to the practice of sharing needles among users.
To these risks one should not forget to add the clear physical and mental risk of getting caught: cocaine is illegal in practically every country and being found in possession comes with very harsh penalties. People who stop using cocaine can suffer extensive withdrawal symptoms for varying lengths of time.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- General irritability/mood swings
- Itchy skin
Medical research continues to search for ways to battle cocaine addiction. For some of the latest research findings about cocaine addiction, click here. If you are struggling with an addiction, a specialized cocaine rehab program is the best choice.
Where can I find help for treating my cocaine addiction?
If you can’t stop using cocaine, it’s time for help. Water’s Edge Recovery understands your addiction and we’ll give you the support you need to fight it. Water’s Edge Recovery can help make sure you break your cocaine dependence for good. Learn more about the cocaine rehab services offered at Water’s Edge Recovery today.