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Article Summary

About Cocaine

Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant drug which is one of the number one drugs of abuse in the nation. Cocaine is a white crystalline powder, but another type of cocaine commonly abused is crack cocaine which is a more potent form of the drug which has been processed further and shaped into a rock crystal. Crack cocaine can be heated and smoked. The reason it is called crack is due to the crackling sound the drug makes when heated.

There are three ways a cocaine user can administer the drug. One is insufflation of the drug, which is basically snorting the drug through one's nose. When cocaine is snorted, it is released into the bloodstream via the user's nasal tissues. Injection is another method of administration of the drug, whereby cocaine is put into a syringe and shot directly into the bloodstream via a vein. Smoking cocaine entails taking in cocaine vapors into one's lungs where it can then be absorbed into the bloodstream. The effects from smoking the drug can be experienced just as rapidly as from injecting it. However the drug is administered, individuals who use cocaine develop dependence very quickly which then leads to addiction to the drug.

Cocaine Effects

When an individual takes cocaine, they typically experience a surge of energy and alertness and a feeling of euphoria known as a "high". How intense these effects are and how long they last depend on how the cocaine has been administered. The route of administration which has a more direct shot to the bloodstream and brain is going to cause the fastest onset of effects and the most intense high and rush. Because the drug goes directly into the bloodstream, cocaine users who smoke and inject the drug experience the quickest and most intense highs. However, smoking and injecting cocaine produces a high of shorter duration which lasts for about 5 to 10 minutes. If an individual snorts cocaine, the onset of effects may take longer and be less intense, but the high will last 15 to 30 minutes. Either way, the high experienced on cocaine is not a long one. Because of this, individuals who abuse cocaine will typically do so in binges where they will repeatedly take cocaine for several hours or even days gradually increasing their dose.

The reason cocaine causes the high that users experience is because of the drug's effect on the brain and central nervous system. Cocaine stimulates the brain and CNS and works to flood these areas of the body with high levels of the brain chemical known as dopamine. This is how most drugs produce their effects. Dopamine is the brain chemical, properly known as a neurotransmitter, which makes individuals feel happy or rewarded from a certain activity, substance or drug for example. Dopamine is released when you exercise or eat chocolate for example, not just when you do drugs. Under normal circumstances, such as when you eat smell your favorite food, the dopamine is released but is then recycled by the same cell that released it. However, cocaine doesn't allow the dopamine to be recycled. This causes a large amount of the neurotransmitter to build up, causing a much larger than normal dopamine load resulting in the high users experience. If an individual repeatedly uses cocaine, they will become addicted to these euphoric effects that they cannot naturally experience without the drug. Unfortunately, many cocaine users chase the original high they got from first time use, but to no avail. Individuals who abuse the drug will chase this high by upping their dosage to get a more intense and prolonged high, but this just puts them at risk of undesirable effects and a potential overdose.

Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine abuse and addiction can have disastrous consequences to one's health. Cocaine can cause a number of adverse reactions, some of which can be life threatening. Common side effects can include constricted blood vessels, headaches, gastrointestinal difficulties, dilated pupils, and a sharp rise in body temperature, cardiovascular rate, and blood pressure. Because a side effect of cocaine use is a decrease in appetite, individual who abuse the drug long-term can become malnourished.

If someone snorts cocaine, this can lead to loss of smell and other nasal problems such as chronic runny nose, nosebleeds and trouble swallowing. Smoking cocaine can cause lung damage and other damage to the lining of the esophagus. Injecting cocaine puts individuals at risk of vein damage, which can result in life threatening consequences under certain circumstances such as when a vein collapses. Injecting any drug such as cocaine also comes with a myriad of dangers due to need sharing that is commonplace in the drug community. Many intravenous drug users may be carriers of deadly viruses such as HIV or Hepatitis which can cause severe health consequences and even death.

Cocaine users are of particular risk of experiencing cardiovascular or cerebrovascular health consequences, such as a stroke or cardiac arrest. This is true of first time user and long-term users, and can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. These serious side effects as a result of cocaine use can cause sudden death in users, as is the case with most cocaine related deaths. The majority of cocaine related deaths are often a result of a seizure or heart attack followed by respiratory arrest. The aforementioned cocaine binges that often take place among cocaine abusers can leave the individual feeling irritable, restless and anxious. In some users, this may result in severe psychosis which could be life threatening.

Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal will typically set in when a long-term cocaine user suddenly stops taking the drug or dramatically reduces their dose. This is what makes quitting cocaine use so difficult. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are created by the negligible amount of dopamine that the individual is naturally producing without the drug. The body has to re-adapt to function without cocaine, and the individual will manifest physical and psychological symptoms of cocaine withdrawal until the body can return to normal function. These symptoms can be overcome and it is suggested that individuals seeking to get off of cocaine get the proper support and guidance that can be offered at a drug rehab which treats cocaine addiction.

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