Cocaine is a stimulant derived from leaves of the coca plant. It’s usually sold in a white powder or synthesized into crystals or rocks as “crack.” Snorting, smoking or injecting the drug elicits a brief euphoric, energizing, and exhilarating feeling that lasts a few minutes to an hour, followed by an unpleasant comedown.
Blow, Bump, C, Coke, Crack, Flake, Rock, Snow, Powder.
How Does It Affect Your System?
Cocaine triggers your brain to release dopamine and creates a euphoric feeling. The high is intense but short-lived, which leads people to use it repeatedly to try to keep the feeling going. Cocaine is considered highly addictive, largely because the substance impedes the brain from discarding dopamine—the chemical associated with reward, motivation, and emotion. This produces a short-lived feeling of euphoria, but long-term use can restructure the brain. Research shows that cocaine abuse increases stress levels in individuals, suggesting that the drug also interferes with the ventral tegmental area of the brain.
The high a single dose of cocaine produces lasts only a few minutes to an hour, encouraging repeated use. Despite its high potential for abuse, the drug remains popular: In 2019, 2 million Americans over the age of 12 admitted to using cocaine within the past month.
What Are The Symptoms & Risk
Continued cocaine abuse in all its forms carries many dire health risks and adverse long-term side effects to practically every one of the body’s major functions, particularly the body’s cardiovascular system. Cardiac complications include disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks, as well as inflammation of the heart muscle, deterioration of the ability of the heart to contract, and aortic ruptures.
People who abuse cocaine may be malnourished. Users sometimes neglect healthy eating habits when on a binge and the drug reduces blood flow in the gastro-intestinal tract, causing ulcers and tears. Cocaine abuse also harms the liver and kidneys and can even cause renal failure in extreme cases. Other life-threatening health risks include:
Impaired cognitive function, including problems with attention, impulse inhibition, memory, making decisions involving rewards or punishments, and performing motor tasks.
Severe high blood pressure.
Acute coronary syndrome.
Hyperthermia, abnormally high body temperature.
Expecting mothers who use cocaine also risk harming the fetus. Cocaine decreases blood flow to the uterus, robbing the fetus of oxygen, resulting in raised heart rate and blood pressure. Babies born from mothers that abused cocaine during their pregnancy have increased risk of heart defects, problems with the central nervous system, and death. Despite the dire risks, there are about 750,000 cocaine exposed pregnancies each year.
Repeatedly snorting cocaine damages the nasal cavity, causing nosebleeds, chronic runny nose, and loss of sense of smell.
“Crack lung”—the term that describes the type of damage frequently afflicted onto the lung sacks by smoking cocaine—can cause labored breathing, fever, coughing up blood, and even respiratory failure.
Injecting cocaine is perhaps the most dangerous method of administering the drug—because of the increased risk of overdose as well as the various complications and infectious diseases associated with needle drug use. These include abscesses and skin infections, endocarditis (inflammation of the heart), HIV and hepatitis.
Cocaine use also carries the immediate risk of overdose. An overdose of cocaine can result in a seizure, heart attack, cardiac arrest, or stroke—and may be deadly. In 2018 alone, 14,666 people died of a cocaine-involved overdose.
Detoxing Symptoms (Withdrawl)
Withdrawal from certain substances, like alcohol and benzodiazepines, can involve severe physical withdrawal symptoms; however, cocaine detox brings mostly psychological withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:
Slowed activity or physical fatigue after activity
Inability to experience sexual arousal
Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
Depression or anxiety
Suicidal thoughts or actions
Vivid, unpleasant dreams or nightmares
Physical symptoms, such as chills, tremors, muscle aches, and nerve pain
Increased craving for cocaine
Thoughts of self-harm.
Ongoing tiredness or lethargy.
Cocaine may be a stimulant, but what’s depressing is the number of psychological symptoms associated with the withdrawal process.