What is Cocaine and What Does Cocaine Do?
Let’s start with what cocaine is. Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that produces a temporary feeling of euphoria. What does cocaine do? Cocaine interferes with the reabsorption process of dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with pleasure and movement. Dopamine is released as part of the brain’s reward system and is involved in the high that characterizes cocaine consumption.
How Addictive is Cocaine?
How addictive is cocaine, is cocaine physically addictive? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cocaine is “a powerfully addictive stimulant drug.” Many studies have documented both the addictive nature of cocaine and the brain changes that result from cocaine abuse. Individuals who use cocaine are at risk of developing cocaine addiction from the very first time they use the drug. The addiction to cocaine can become so overwhelming that in many cases inpatient treatment for cocaine at a reputable substance abuse treatment facility will be the only way to become free of the addiction.
How is Cocaine Used?
The effects of Cocaine are experienced either by snorting it into the nose, injecting it directly into the bloodstream, or by smoking it which includes free-base and Crack cocaine.
Snorting cocaine is the process of sniffing cocaine powder into the nose where it is then absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Injecting cocaine is the act of using a needle to release the drug directly into the bloodstream, and smoking cocaine involves inhaling cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs where it is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
What is Crack Cocaine and How is it Different?
“Crack” is the street name given to cocaine that has been processed from cocaine hydrochloride to a form for smoking. Rather than requiring the more volatile method of processing cocaine for smoking using ether, crack cocaine is processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water and heated to remove the hydrochloride, thus producing a form of cocaine that can be smoked. The term “Crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked (heated), presumably from the sodium bicarbonate
There is great risk whether cocaine is ingested by inhalation (snorting), injection, or smoking. It appears that compulsive cocaine use may develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked rather than snorted. Smoking allows extremely high doses of cocaine to reach the brain very quickly and brings an intense and immediate high. The injecting drug user is at risk for transmitting or acquiring HIV infection/AIDS if needles or other injection equipment are shared.
What Are The Effects of Cocaine on the Body
The effects of cocaine use on the body include constricted peripheral blood vessels, dilated pupils, an increased temperature, an increased heart rate and blood pressure, a decreased appetite, and an immediate euphoric feeling, including hyper-stimulation, reduced fatigue, and mental clarity.
The faster the absorption of cocaine into the bloodstream, the more intense the high. On the other hand, the faster the absorption, the shorter the duration of the high. The high from snorting cocaine, which has a slower absorption rate, last between 15 to 30 minutes, while the high from smoking or injection, which both having much faster absorption rates, last between 5 to 10 minutes.
Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. An appreciable tolerance to the high may be developed, and many addicts report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure. Scientific evidence suggests that the powerful neuropsychologic reinforcing property of cocaine is responsible for an individual’s continued use, despite harmful physical and social consequences. In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. However, there is no way to determine who is prone to sudden death.
High doses of cocaine and/or prolonged use can trigger paranoia. Smoking crack cocaine can produce a particularly aggressive paranoid behavior in users. When addicted individuals stop using cocaine, they often become depressed. This also may lead to further cocaine use to alleviate depression. Prolonged cocaine snorting can result in ulceration of the mucous membrane of the nose and can damage the nasal septum enough to cause it to collapse. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.
Added Danger Cocaine Mixed with Alcohol: Coca Ethylene
When people mix cocaine and alcohol consumption, they are compounding the danger each drug poses and unknowingly forming a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. NIDA-funded researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol and manufactures a third substance, coca ethylene, that intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects, while possibly increasing the risk of sudden death.
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