Exactly What is Cocaine?
What is cocaine and what does cocaine do to your body? Let’s start by answering the first question. Cocaine is a concentrated extract made from the leaves of the coca plant, found in South America. South American peoples have chewed coca leaves as a mild stimulant for centuries. But in processing coca leaves to create cocaine, the altered active ingredients become exponentially more potent. With this change and increase in potency comes much more powerful effects on the brain and high addictive potential. Anyone who has been through cocaine abuse or witnessed cocaine addiction knows just how devastating this drugs effects can be.
When most people think of this drug, they are imagining the crystalline white powder form (cocaine hydrochloride). Cocaine comes in 3 main forms though. They are:
- Cocaine Hydrochloride – A crystalline white or very pale-yellow powder. Most often snorted, but sometimes turned into a solution and injected intravenously.
- Crack Cocaine – Crack is compound made with cocaine. It ranges from white to tan in color. Crack is an easily smokable form, unlike cocaine powder.
- Freebase Cocaine – Freebase cocaine is much less common since crack appeared in the early 80s. It is a highly purified form of smokable cocaine.
How Does Cocaine Work?
Cocaine is a potent central nervous system stimulant regardless of what form it is in. It is usually snorted or smoked, but sometimes injected as a solution with distilled water, much like heroin. Cocaine is sometimes injected in concordance with heroin in a dangerous mix called a ‘speedball’. It works in part by blocking the brains reabsorption of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This results in much higher-than-normal levels of dopamine in the brain, which is largely responsible for the high.
Research has found other chemicals in the brains reward pathway, like glutamate are also part of the high produced by cocaine use. Because the brains reward pathway is involved, cocaine is very addictive. Addicted lab animals will even forgo food and water in favor of cocaine to the point of starvation. Humans have been shown to go to some alarming extremes in cocaine addiction too. The next section titled ‘What Does Cocaine Do to Your Body?’ delves into more of the physical and health effects of cocaine addiction and cocaine abuse.
The Effects of Cocaine Addiction and Abuse
Short-term cocaine abuse produces these effects, among others:
- Euphoric or giddy feelings
- Increase in focus and motivation
- Talkativeness and excitability
- Overconfidence, mild delusions of grandeur
Long-term use or abuse in large amounts often produces these effects:
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Bizarre, erratic or violent behavior
- Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
So… What Does Cocaine Do to Your Body?
What does cocaine do to your body? Well, cocaine’s effects and the duration of effect vary somewhat. It depends on how you consume it, but any way you use it, it still enters the bloodstream and the brain. The brain is where the effects sought by the addicted person occur. Aside from the pleasurable effects and the not to pleasurable psychological symptoms, cocaine has other negative effects. Long-term or excessive cocaine abuse can leave someone partially disabled, with permanent brain damage or even kill them.
Because cocaine is a powerful stimulant, it can send the heart rate and blood pressure skyrocketing which can be very dangerous for obvious reasons. Snorting it habitually causes severe and sometimes permanent damage to the delicate tissue in the nose. Smoking it causes serious lung damage. Injecting cocaine comes with all the attendant risks of IV drug use. Transmission of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis, abscesses, collapsed blood vessels and infection. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures.
Some of the more serious physical effects cocaine has on the body include:
- Destruction of the cartilage and tissue in the nose
- Permanent lung damage
- Cardiac arrest (heart attack)
- Stroke or coma
- Permanent brain damage
Cocaine abuse is a very serious matter and often leads to cocaine addiction. If you are still wondering what does cocaine do to your body, know that the simple fact is, there is no “safe” way to use cocaine. It is a powerful and dangerous drug that has destroyed millions of lives. Cocaine use leads to financial ruin, wrecks marriages and breaks families apart. It devastates the body and can cause permanent neurological damage, strokes and even death. Cocaine-related deaths due to heart attack or stroke are not uncommon.
There is a bright side to all this doom and gloom, however. Millions of people have successfully recovered from cocaine addiction. There is hope. You can put down the straw, pipe or needle and take back your life. All it takes is enough willingness to pick up the phone and ask for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine abuse, Recovery in Tune can help. Give us a call at (954)-IN-TUNE or reach out to us through our contact page here. Help is here, you just need to make the first move.