What is Cocaine?
Cocaine starts off innocently enough as a leaf on the coca plant (not to be confused with cocoa plants). In fact, it stays pretty innocent until people start adding a blend of chemicals to change its properties. It belongs to the stimulant class of drugs, as it excites the processes of the central nervous system. It started out as a high-end drug, as it was used mostly by celebrities and business executives. Now, however, cocaine is cheap enough to be available to anyone who wants it.
It’s also available in various forms, including powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.
Crack cocaine is a particular problem in lower-income groups because it can be cobbled together from a variety of impure substances, which increase the health risks for addicts.
There are three forms of cocaine with which the public is most familiar:
1) Cocaine hydrochloride, which is a crystalline powder that is usually snorted but which can also be injected.
2) Cocaine base, which is also a powder.
3) Crack, which looks like rocks and which is often smoked or injected.
Cocaine’s effects are immediate – there is no lag time between consumption and the high, which means that coke addictions are quick and easy to develop. The intensity of the effects differs according to the method of use, the size, weight and gender of the user, and the regularity with which the drug is used.
Injecting cocaine produces the strongest effects, but it may not last as long; about 5 – 10 minutes. Snorting doesn’t produce the dizzying heights of injecting but it lasts about three times longer. In addiction circles, snorting cocaine may be more ‘acceptable’ than injecting crack because it gives the illusion that the abuse is still under a modicum of control.
Pleasant side-effects include:
- Feeling of power
- Pain relief
- Increased alertness
Unpleasant side-effects include:
- Increased heart rate.
- Unpredictable behaviour, which could turn violent.
- Bowel gangrene
- Heart failure.
- Paranoid psychosis
- Respiratory illnesses
- Ruined nose tissue
- Insomnia leading to exhaustion
- Heart attack
Cocaine taps into the reward centres of the brain, which is what provides the feelings of overall goodness, happiness and euphoria. The problem is that people start to crave more of those good feelings, so they take more cocaine more often. In the end, the body loses the ability to tap into the reward centres itself and only cocaine can produce the desired results. This results in physical and chemical dependency.
Because the highs don’t last that long, people tend to use large amounts in a short space of time – on a Friday night out, for example. But addicts quickly develop a tolerance for cocaine, so that amount consumed increases dramatically.
The physical nature of cocaine addiction leads to some very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which are even more severe in long-term users. The symptoms last for one to two weeks and include:
- Depression – occasionally leading to suicidal ideation
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscle aches
- Mood swings
Cocaine is no longer the rich-man’s drug that it once was. It’s now readily available to all levels of society and is more affordable. It becomes even more affordable when it’s cut and the purity decreases, which poses even more danger to users. This means that anyone you know could be a coke addict.
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