20 Things You Need to Know About Cocaine

by Alyssa Craig

Cocaine is a powerful drug that can lead to a powerful addiction and serious consequences. They say knowledge is power, so having information on what cocaine is, how it affects the body, what the consequences are, and how to look for signs of overdose and withdrawal, is important for everyone.

1. Origins: Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant grown in South America - first used by the Incans, as it was believed to be a gift from the gods.

2. Medicinal Origins: First used in the US in the 1880s as an anesthetic in eye, nose, and throat operations. The first cocaine-addicted physician on record was William Stewart Halsted, who was also the first to perform surgery, using cocaine as an anesthetic. Freud also recommended it to treat depression, alcoholism, and morphine addiction.

3. Current Users: The number of current cocaine users has gone down to 1.5 million (over age of 12) compared to 2-2.4 million during 2002-2007. A report in 2006 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 35.3 million Americans have used cocaine.

4. Effect: The drug produces a short term sense of euphoria and increased energy. It is a strong central nervous system stimulant and stimulates the production of dopamine that regulates pleasure and movement.

5. Forms of Cocaine: There are three main ways cocaine is taken into the body. It can be snorted as a powder, dissolved in water and injected into the bloodstream, or it can be smoked as crack.

6. Length of Effect: The initial euphoria lasts about 5-30 minutes. After the euphoria has worn off, an intense depression or edginess can set in, lasting for days, as stated here.

7. Dependency: Frequent use of cocaine usually occurs in order to put off coming off the euphoria, leading to dependency, which can then turn into an addiction.

8. Long-term Use: Over time, cocaine use can have a dangerous effect on the brain. The overwhelmed dopamine receptors adapt to no longer respond to natural rewards like food or sex that usually produce these good feelings.

9. Effects of Cocaine Use: Paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, suicidal thinking, and homicidal thinking all occur when an individual has been using cocaine, especially for extended periods of time.

10. Tolerance: As a person continues to use cocaine, they find they need more to feel the same high. This means tolerance has developed and puts them at physical and psychological risk.

11. Fatal Heart Problems: Cocaine users can suffer from heart attacks or strokes, which may result in death. In fact, cardiac arrest and an arrest of breathing is often the cause of cocaine-related death.

12. Consequences by Method: Snorting: loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems swallowing, hoarseness, chronically runny nose. Ingesting by mouth: severe bowel gangrene due to reduced blood flow. Injection: severe allergic reactions and risk for HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood borne diseases.

13. Pregnancy Risks: Mothers who use cocaine risk having babies born prematurely, with low birth rates, and who suffer from brain damage. Spontaneous abortion is also a risk, as well as the babies themselves being addicted to cocaine.

14. Gender Influence: Men are more likely to use cocaine than women, though the gap is closing.

15. Hospital Visits: Cocaine is the most frequently mentioned illegal drug reported to the Drug Abuse Warning Network by hospital emergency departments.

16. Signs of Cocaine Use: Here are some signs to watch for if you suspect cocaine usage: dilated pupils, eyes sensitive to light, nosebleeds, burned lips or fingers, track marks (injection site), high energy, excited, overly confident, decreased appetite, and unusual sleep patterns.

17. Potential Causes: There are three most common causes that contribute to cocaine use: Genetic (first-degree relative was addicted to cocaine or other substances), Physical (may be used to self-medicate), and Environmental (drug abuse or addiction are acceptable in the family or environment where use is prevalent and seen as a normal way to cope).

18. Risk Factors of Cocaine Use: Especially in children and teens, these risk factors may contribute to cocaine use: early aggressive behavior, peer pressure, lack of parental supervision, accessibility of drug, poverty, presence of certain mental illnesses (ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder), loneliness, high stress.

19. Cocaine Overdose Symptoms: These symptoms are signs of cocaine overdose and the need for immediate medical attention: seizures, irregular breathing, heart attack, stroke, delirium, panic attacks, paranoia, anxiety and agitation, angina (severe chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart).

20. Withdrawal Effects: Once an individual decides to stop using cocaine they will experience some of the following symptoms: agitation and restlessness, depression, cravings, anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), increased appetite, aggression, paranoia, fatigue and sleepiness, decrease in activity levels, anxiety. Withdrawal must take place with medical supervision so these effects can be treated properly and so the person can be made to feel as comfortable as possible.

Knowing what to look for can help alert the presence of risk factors, identify an individual who is using, and help prepare the individual and loved ones for the beginning of the recovery process.

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and Finally Remember:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8

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