Facts on Cocaine

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Cocaine is a powerful central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that heightens alertness, inhibits appetite and the need for sleep, and provides intense feelings of pleasure. It is prepared from the leaf of the Erythroxylon coca bush, which grows primarily in Peru and Bolivia.

Street dealers dilute it with inert (non-psychoactive) but similar-looking substances such as cornstarch, talcum powder, and sugar, or with active drugs such as procaine and benzocaine (used as local anesthetics), or other CNS stimulants such as amphetamines. Nevertheless, illicit cocaine has actually become purer over the years; according to RCMP figures, in 1988 its purity averaged about 75%.

With repeated administration over time, users experience the drug's long-term effects. Euphoria is gradually displaced by restlessness, extreme excitability, insomnia, and paranoia - and eventually hallucinations and delusions. These conditions, clinically identical to amphetamine psychosis and very similar to paranoid schizophrenia, disappear rapidly in most cases after cocaine use is ended.

Tolerance to any drug exists when higher doses are necessary to achieve the same effects once reached with lower doses. But scientists have not observed tolerance to cocaine's stimulant effect: users may keep taking the original amount over extended periods and still experience the same euphoria.

Physical effects of cocaine use include constricted peripheral blood vessels, dilated pupils, and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. The duration of cocaine's immediate euphoric effects, which include hyperstimulation, reduced fatigue, and mental clarity, depends on the route of administration. The faster the absorption, the more intense the high. On the other hand, the faster the absorption, the shorter the duration of action. The high from snorting may last 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Increased use can reduce the period of stimulation.

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, cocaethylene, that intensifies cocaine's euphoric effects, while possibly increasing the risk of sudden death.

Yes. Cocaine is often used with other illicit drugs, especially alcohol, marijuana, and heroin. Some users alternate snorting lines of cocaine and heroin, known as "crisscrossing," or inject the two drugs as a "speedball." Crack is also smoked with marijuana joints or marijuana cigars/blunts, a combination called a "primo." Alcoholic beverages can intensify cocaine's effects, and may place users at greater risk of sudden death. A gram of powder cocaine may cost between $20-$100, while crack rocks can be found for as little as $5-10 each.

Powder cocaine is processed with many volatile solvents, such as kerosene, benzene, and gasoline, and these poisons can remain in the cocaine found on the street. In addition, dealers on the street may "cut" or combine the cocaine with other substances, like talcum powder, amphetamines, anesthetics, and other substances that may bring the purity down and cause unwanted side effects.

Cocaine use can cause dilated pupils, nausea, headaches, sweating, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, and seizures. Cocaine speeds up the heart by stimulating the same nerves that cause fear causing the heart to beat erratically or stop....
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