Cocaine - Drug Addiction

Cocaine is a powerful drug which can be smoked, inhaled or injected and causes people to become energetic and alert. It is often a popular form of drug with the rich and famous although it has become affordable to a wide range of people.

Cocaine is being increasingly used at parties and in dance clubs.

What is cocaine? 

Cocaine is a stimulant which is produced from the leaves of the coca plant which grows in South America. It was first used as a local anaesthetic before being prescribed to treat conditions such as depression and alcohol addiction. It was also added to medicines and soft drinks.

It started to become very popular but people were largely unaware of the dangers and continued to use it until the late part of the 20th century. A cheaper version - ‘crack cocaine’ appeared in the 1980’s.

Cocaine has usually been seen as an expensive drug but prices have fallen which has made it become attractive to new groups of people, for example, clubbers.

What does cocaine look like?

There are three forms of cocaine:

  • White, crystalline powder
  • Crack (rock)
  • Freebase (crystals)

The powder and crack forms of cocaine can also be injected. Cocaine mixed with heroin for injecting is called a ‘speedball’.

How is cocaine used?

Cocaine can be snorted, injected or smoked.

The white crystalline powder is sniffed up through the nose using a rolled up banknote. This can often be mixed with other substances such as amphetamines or ‘cut’ with additives so that it looks like pure cocaine.

It can be made into a solution for injecting.

The powder form of cocaine can also be made into small hard lumps or ‘rocks’ which is smoked in a plastic bottle, pipe or glass tube. This version is known as crack. It can also be made into a solution to inject.

Another smoked version is freebase in which cocaine powder is dissolved in water and heated with baking soda or ammonia which ‘frees’ the cocaine ‘base’ from either of these substances. This results in a stronger form of cocaine which the user smokes through a pipe or glass tube.

What is its street name?

Street names for cocaine include:

  • Coke
  • Rock
  • Snow
  • Ice
  • Base
  • Charlie
  • Blow

Who uses cocaine?

Cocaine was at one time, only used by the wealthy or successful people but it has now become popular with others such as partygoers and clubbers.

How much does it cost?

The costs vary according to where you live.  As a rough guide a gram of powder can cost �40 to �50 whereas a rock (crack) will cost around �20.

What are the effects of cocaine addiction?

Cocaine is a stimulant which makes people alert, ‘on the ball’ and confident. It causes them to become talkative, more aware of their senses and euphoric. It also makes them more aware of their senses.

It increases heart rate and breathing whilst decreasing hunger and the need to sleep. Users often feel as if they are immensely strong and powerful and can do anything they want.

But other people find that it makes them tense, anxious and on edge.

Large doses can result in panic attacks, paranoia and possibly hallucinations.

The effects are stronger with freebase and crack than from the powder. The main reason for this is that inhaled cocaine takes longer to absorb whereas smoking or injecting it will reach the brain that much quicker � hence the instant ‘rush’.

So, you are likely to experience a sense of euphoria more quickly than if you inhale it but the effects are short lasting.   

The problem is that once this effect wears off the person using this drug will feel anxious or depressed and will experience cravings. He or she will take even large doses or spend days on this drug rather than experiencing any withdrawal symptoms.

Another issue is that cocaine is often mixed or ‘cut’ with other substances which increase the risks of damage to the user.

Using cocaine on a prolonged basis is likely to alter the body’s nervous system as well as leading to addiction.

Is it easy to become addicted to cocaine?

Cocaine alters the chemical structure of the brain which causes dependency and addiction. It is a powerful drug � crack and freebase even more so, and it is very difficult to break an addiction.

The withdrawal symptoms include tiredness, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, shakiness and weight loss. The lack of sleep and weight loss will suppress the body’s immune system which makes the user prone to picking up illnesses or infections.  

Not everyone who uses cocaine will become an addict but most people end up in this state. It is also an expensive drug so addicts often turn to crime and/or prostitution to pay for their habit. 

What are the risks of cocaine addiction?

Cocaine causes people to become overconfident which leads to unnecessary risks. This can include sexually risky behaviour which increases the risk of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), injury or even death.

Even if you are young, fit and healthy, cocaine can cause a heart attack or stroke due to the fact that it raises the pulse and heart rate. It also raises body temperature which increases the risk of convulsions or respiratory failure.

Other risks of cocaine addiction include:

  • Increases blood pressure which can lead to a stroke
  • Increases the risk of psychological disorders such as psychosis, paranoia, anxiety and depression
  • Risk of overdose
  • Lowers the immune system which can mean more flu, colds or chest infections
  • Loss of smell
  • Possible lung damage known as ‘crack lung’
  • Risk of hepatitis or HIV from sharing needles
  • Damaged membranes of the nose from regularly inhaling (snorting) cocaine e.g. nosebleeds
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sexual problems
  • Infertility

The risks increase if cocaine is mixed with other substances such as alcohol or heroin (speedball).

Another risk is that of developing an addiction to heroin as well. Some users try heroin as a means of easing their cravings for crack and then find that they have become dependent on this as well as cocaine.

Cocaine is a Class A drug.


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