What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug. It is made from the leaves of the coca plant, typically found in South America. Also employed for valid medical purposes, for instance; anesthesia, recreational use of the drug is still illegal.As a street drug, cocaine would appear as a crystal powder. Dealers would mix it up with cornstarch, flour, etc. to increase their return on profits. However, some may even mix it with other drugs such as stimulants including fentanyl. This is always dangerous for users who aren’t aware of this addition to the pure drug. This tampered cocaine also increases the likelihood of deaths caused by overdose.

Some popular nicknames for cocaine are coke, crack, blow, snow, Flour, Branquinha, Pó, Coca, Brilho, Dust, Talquinho, Júlia and Basuko etc.

How do people use cocaine?

People typically tend to snort the drug through their nose. Or rub it into their gums. Some may even inject it directly into the bloodstream for instant effects. Another popular use of the drug is through the manufacturing of a rock crystal known as freebase cocaine. In this form, it is heated up, which produces vapors that will be inhaled directly into the lungs. This is what has been coined crack.

How does it affect the brain?

Drugs go on to affect the reward circuit of the brain. Which causes a swell of euphoria, and floods it with dopamine; a chemical messenger.

A normal reward system would serve as motivation to repeat certain behaviors that are needed to survive, such as the need to eat or drink. Added dopamine to the reward circuit will call for the repetition of acts that are pleasurable, even when they are unhealthy. This is why people will continue to consume drugs over and over again.

As a person will continue to abuse drugs, their brain would adapt by reducing the ability of the cells present in the reward circuit to respond to it. This is what reduces the high in comparison to the first time the drug is used.

Hence, people will continue to consume more of the drug, to achieve a greater high. The person then becomes less able to derive pleasure from activities that they once loved to do. Now, they have access to a quick fix.


Short-Term Effects

Short term effects include increased alertness, surges of joy and paranoia, among others. They appear almost instantly due to the intensity of the drug, and will disappear within a minute time frame. The time frame during which the effects persist will depend on the method and amount of usage. From snorting, the high could last between 15 to 30 minutes. And from smoking, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. It is relatively short lived.

What are the other health effects of using it?

Drug addiction has a harmful impact on the user’s body, which includes; nausea, dilated pupils, irregular heartbeat, raised body temperature, and constricted blood vessels.

In the long run, this could lead to a loss of smell, and frequent nosebleeds due to snorting the drug, including coughs and other respiratory diseases. It can also lead to hepatitis C, and collapsed veins  – amongst other impairments of normal bodily functions.


Long-Term Effects

Some long-term health effects depend on the method of use and include the following:

  • snorting: loss of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing
  • smoking: cough, asthma, respiratory distress, and higher risk of infections like pneumonia
  • consuming by mouth: severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow
  • needle injection: higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases, skin or soft tissue infections, as well as scarring or collapsed veins
  • However, even people involved with non-needle cocaine use place themselves at a risk for HIV because cocaine impairs judgment, which can lead to risky sexual behavior with infected partners (see “Cocaine, HIV, and Hepatitis”).

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