Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug.
hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water
and injected. Crack is cocaine that has not been neutralized by an acid
to make the hydrochloride salt. This form of cocaine comes in a rock
crystal that can be heated and its vapors smoked. The term "crack"
refers to the crackling sound heard when it is heated.*
Regardless of how cocaine is used or how frequently, a user can
experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, such as
a heart attack or stroke, which could result in sudden death.
Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizure
followed by respiratory arrest.
is a strong central nervous system stimulant that interferes with the
reabsorption process of dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with
pleasure and movement. The buildup of dopamine causes continuous
stimulation of receiving neurons, which is associated with the euphoria
commonly reported by cocaine abusers.
effects of cocaine use include constricted blood vessels, dilated
pupils, and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. The
duration of cocaine's immediate euphoric effects, which include
hyperstimulation, reduced fatigue, and mental alertness, depends on the
route of administration. The faster the absorption, the more intense
the high. On the other hand, the faster the absorption, the shorter the
duration of action. The high from snorting may last 15 to 30 minutes,
while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Increased use can
reduce the period of time a user feels high and increases the risk of
Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability,
and anxiety. A tolerance to the "high" may develop?many addicts report
that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from
their first exposure. Some users will increase their doses to intensify
and prolong the euphoric effects. While tolerance to the high can
occur, users can also become more sensitive to cocaine's anesthetic and
convulsant effects without increasing the dose taken. This increased
sensitivity may explain some deaths occurring after apparently low
doses of cocaine.
Use of cocaine in a binge, during which the drug is taken repeatedly
and at increasingly high doses, may lead to a state of increasing
irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. This can result in a period
of full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the user loses touch with
reality and experiences auditory hallucinations.
Other complications associated with cocaine use include disturbances in
heart rhythm and heart attacks, chest pain and respiratory failure,
strokes, seizures and headaches, and gastrointestinal complications
such as abdominal pain and nausea. Because cocaine has a tendency to
decrease appetite, many chronic users can become malnourished.
Different means of taking cocaine can produce different adverse
effects. Regularly snorting cocaine, for example, can lead to loss of
the sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness,
and a chronically runny nose. Ingesting cocaine can cause severe bowel
gangrene due to reduced blood flow. People who inject cocaine can
experience severe allergic reactions and, as with all injecting drug
users, are at increased risk for contracting HIV and other blood-borne
Added Danger: Cocaethylene
When people mix cocaine and alcohol consumption, they are compounding
the danger each drug poses and unknowingly forming a complex chemical
experiment within their bodies. NIDA-funded researchers have found that
the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol and manufactures a third
substance, cocaethylene, that intensifies cocaine's euphoric effects,
while potentially increasing the risk of sudden death.
Source: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)