Cocaine is a fast-acting stimulant that is derived from the coco plant, native to South America. Usage of this drug is widespread, and it is particularly known for having highly addictive qualities.
Effects and Usage
Cocaine is primarily insufflated, or snorted when it is consumed in powder form. It is also abused in the form of intravenous injection. If the cocaine has been processed into crystalline form (then known as crack), it can be smoked.
The effects of cocaine are increased energy and rapid speech, elevated mood and intensity, and reduced fatigue and appetite. The drug acts to increase dopamine reception in the brain, effectively overriding the body’s natural regulating systems.
This does not decrease a persons need to eat and sleep, but it does prevent the brain from sending and receiving these messages from the body. Due to the way that it stimulates a users metabolism, cocaine is processed very quickly by the body, usually in as little as 15 minutes. With such a short period of intoxication, the desire to return to the elevated mood artificially provided by cocaine leads to binge usage—and because of the feeling of increased energy, more and more is usually done at the end of a binge.
Health Risks Associated with Cocaine
The metabolic effect that cocaine has on a body effectively speeds everything up, similar to revving a car engine up to twice its normal speed. This puts users at an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke as a result of the stress put on the cardiovascular system. Other health problems are related to the way it is consumed. Users who snort cocaine will experience nosebleeds, runny noses, post nasal drip, and difficulties swallowing as an aftereffect of drug use.
Long terms negative side effects are neurological—as cocaine changes brain chemistry, prolonged use can recondition the brain’s dopamine receptors and other endocrine receptors as well. The endocrine system regulates the bodies hormones and emotional states, so long-term abusers often have issues with manic-depressive episodes. These are moods where emotional highs and lows become extreme and change rapidly, and people can also experience paranoia and addiction. Since the brain is so profoundly affected by cocaine, it is possible to become severely addicted to the drug in a relatively short while, when compared to other drugs.
Cocaine is a powerful drug that has an enormous potential for abuse. The euphoria that it produces is in direct contrast to the “crash” of the comedown, and as a result people often combine alcohol with cocaine, which increases the effects of both drugs, but also greatly increases the risk of overdose, stroke, or respiratory failure due to the toxicity the drugs have when combined.