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Cocaine Abuse and its Complications

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant of the central nervous system, which is derived from the coca plant's leaves. Though it is used legally for local anesthesia for surgeries of the ear, eye, throat, etc., it is termed as illegal when people try to acquire it on their own and abuse it. There are other names for cocaine such as C, coke, blow, flake, etc. Many dealers of cocaine mix other substances like talcum powder, sugar, cornstarch and other drugs and stimulants like amphetamine, procaine, etc.

Cocaine is normally abused in two forms:
In the form of freebase, this has the impurities removed using solvents and is normally smoked. Crack is freebase cocaine, which is made from cocaine hydrochloride powder and is smokable. It is commonly known as rocks, chunks, chips, etc. The name was given to it, since it makes a cracking noise when smoked. The color of crack is based on various factors including the way it is prepared, its origin, and the impurities present in it. The texture could be crumbly, extremely oily, hard, or like a crystal.
In the form of white crystal powder, this is normally snorted or sniffed through the nose. It is also mixed with water and injected intravenously or taken orally into the mouth or rubbed on the gums. The color of pure cocaine is pearl white. It appears like salt when powdered and can also be off-white or pinkish in color.
In the form of leaf infusions in the coca producing countries as a herbal and medicinal infusion. However, this is very mild and does not create a rush like the cocaine.

Working of Cocaine

Cocaine influences or triggers the neurotransmitters called dopamine in the brain. This dopamine is responsible for the regulation of movements, motivation, emotion, and are the pleasure center of the brain. Various neurons of the brain release this dopamine, which is then transmitted to various receptors during pleasurable and happy moments and the dopamine return to their respective neurons where they came from.

When cocaine enters the dopamine areas, it blocks the dopamine which are transmitted from returning back and as a result dopamine gets accumulated for a longer period, which in turn retains the pleasure for a long period.

Reports state that cocaine not only affects the dopamine parts of the brain but also affects almost 90 parts of the brain. The nature of the drug is that the first-time users feel like wanting more of the drug or repeat the use of the drug. Hence, this drug is extremely addictive.

Abuse of Cocaine

Cocaine is currently the most abused drug in America. It is much used in the street after its conversion into cocaine salt illegally. Though the pure form of the drug would have 95% of cocaine content, the final product after several additives would contain anywhere between 1% and 95% cocaine.

The various methods of administration of cocaine include snoring, smoking, injecting, etc., and all these methods involve in high health risks and can lead the person into addiction.

Once the tolerance for cocaine is increased in a human body, the person would want to increase the dosage to receive the same effect that was created for the first time. This eventually causes dependency on the drug and gradually becomes an addictive.

Effects of Cocaine in the Body

Cocaine abuse is caused due to the combination of external and internal factors. It could be due to family history, genetic predisposition, environment, etc.

Short-term effects of cocaine are:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Euphoria
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Increase in energy levels
  • Increased alertness or anxiety

Long-term effects of cocaine are:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Weight loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Addiction and dependency
  • Restlessness

Long-term effects also include ulcers or sores in the mouth and throat. Symptoms of asthma, mucus, and coughing arise with prolonged use. Lung-bleeding or crack lung might occur causing fever and breathing pain. There could be holes in the bowel requiring surgeries. Very severe cases do end lethal.

Pregnant woman administering cocaine is bound to have malformed babies and a huge range of fetal issues. Babies of women who take cocaine during pregnancy are bound to have withdrawal symptoms. Babies who are breastfed when the mother uses cocaine are bound to have seizures, violent reactions, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. They are also bound to have behavioral issues when they grow up.

Cocaine when administered through injection could have adverse effects of exposing one to HIV/AIDS and other blood-related diseases. There could even be severe allergies caused and sever bowel gangrene could also be caused.

Regardless of the method of administration, abusers of cocaine are bound to experience cerebrovascular or cardiovascular emergencies like stroke, heart attack, and at times death.

Overdose of Cocaine

Though overdose of cocaine is very rare, a little more quantity of cocaine does have its adverse effects such as convulsions, respiratory troubles, and effects on blood vessels and heart.

The symptoms of cocaine overdose, which requires immediate medical attention, are:

  • Head pain or chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Excess sweating
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Extreme hallucinations

Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal happens when a person quits the drug suddenly after prolonged usage. This sudden discontinuation could cause adverse effects in the body. The common cocaine withdrawal symptoms include; paranoia, itching, mood swings, insomnia, anxiety, depressions, fatigue, general malaise, unpleasant dreams, slow activity, exhaustion, irritability, and extreme anger, etc.

The cocaine withdrawal symptoms can last for several weeks or months. Some might even have the urge to have the drug after some years. Hence, cocaine addiction, is a huge struggle to overcome for many, and in most cases, it relapses. Proper professional help and care, however, can help people overcome this.


People who want to stop using the drug must approach professional help centers and caregivers to gradually overcome the problem. This is necessary because, the withdrawal symptoms have to be handled with enough care and attention without getting affected physically as well as psychologically. Knowing the adverse effects caused by cocaine, it is wise for people to keep away from the abuse of the drug and lead a happy life.