Cocaine is a drug extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows in Peru, Bolivia, and other South American countries.  Like the amphetamines, it is a central nervous system stimulant and is a mind-altering drug that produces an intense adrenaline rush of energy.  Cocaine appears in several different forms.  Cocaine hydrochloride is the most available form of the drug and is used medically as a local anesthetic.  It is usually a fine white crystal-like powder, although at times it comes in larger pieces, which on the “street” are called “rocks.”  Cocaine is usually sniffed or snorted into the nose.  Some users inject it or smoke forms of the drug called freebase and “crack.”

Text Box: Dangers:
The dangers of cocaine use vary, depending on:
·	How the drug is taken
·	The dosage
·	And the individual

Injecting cocaine with un-sterile equipment can cause:
·	Hepatitis
·	Other infections
·	Possibly contracting the AIDS virus

Furthermore, because the preparation and use of freebase involves combustible solvents, the possible injuries or conditions may occur:
·	Death
·	Serious injuries from fire or explosion

An overdose death can occur by:
·	Injection
·	Smoking
·	And even snorting

Symptoms of Use:
·	Trouble sleeping
·	Runny or sore nose
·	Headaches
·	Loss of appetite
·	Decreased sexual drive
·	Restlessness, irritability
·	Depression, fatigue
·	Anxiety, rapid heart beat, talkativeness, fever
·	Social problems, problems at home, or financial problems
·	Scratching (hallucinates “coke bugs” on the skin)
·	Dilated pupils, tremors, nausea

In some people, even low doses of cocaine may create psychological problems.  People who use high doses of cocaine over a long period of time may become paranoid or experience what is called a “cocaine psychosis.”  This may include hallucinations of touch, sight, taste, or smell.

Is cocaine really the drug of choice?

Yes.  It is very dangerous, dependence-producing drug.  People use cocaine repeatedly, because they crave its effect and center their lives on seeking and using the drug.  Sometimes people who have been using the drug over period of time continue to use it in order to avoid the depression and fatigue they would feel if they stopped.  Those working in the upper class have found it to be their drug of choice.  Actors, accountants, musicians, pro-athletes, and the wealthy are susceptible to use, as well as kids, pre-teens, students, factory workers, and even grandparents.  Cocaine has attracted just about every economic and social group in the Untied States.  Those who cannot afford the addiction, resort to crimes to obtain the powdery substance.


What about psychological effects?

These may include profound personality changes, particularly in those who use cocaine or crack daily, or those who subject themselves to periods of uncontrollable use or “binges.”  These users describe themselves as being “coked out.”  Their thinking is generally impaired, and they are confused, anxious, or depressed.  Tempers are often short, panic attacks common, and suspiciousness frequently characterizes relationships with friends, loved ones, and co-workers.  The more crack and cocaine they take, the more likely these users are to develop psychosis.  Continued use of cocaine and crack can bring on a partial or total break with reality.


Text Box: Freebasing: Freebasing is a process used for smoking cocaine.  Cocaine is dissolved with ether and baking soda (sodium hydroxide), which separates the active drug from its salt base.  The remaining granules of pure cocaine are smoked in a glass pipe that is filled with water or rum.  To prevent the pure cocaine from escaping, the bowl of the pipe is lined with several layers of mesh.  Heat is applied to the base of the pipe, which vaporizes the freebase.  The inhaled vapor provides a ten-minute “high.”  Continued “hits” must follow to maintain the “high” sensation.  Fire is a risk associated with freebasing.  Users can be severely burned if the open flame from matches, lighters, or butane torches that are used to heat the mixture, are set too close to the rum or ether.  Because of the intensity of freebasing, a user has the potential for severe mental problems and paranoia as well as a psychological and physical addiction or dependency.Is cocaine or crack used in combination with other drugs?

Yes.  Many cocaine and crack users turn to other drugs to alleviate the severe depression that occurs as the drug wears off.  By combining substances, users may be placing their health or their lives in increased jeopardy.


·  Alcohol, the drug most commonly used with cocaine, produces a deadly compound called cocaethylene.  Produced in the liver, cocaethylene scrambles regulating signals from the brain to the heart and is reported to be 30% more lethal than cocaine alone.


·  Marijuana, barbiturates, and tranquilizers used with or after cocaine are also dangerous.


·  When cocaine is combined with heroin the mixture is called a “speedball” and is usually injected.


·  Speedball is now associated with the mixture of crack and heroin that can be smoked in a pipe.  Because of the fear of AIDS from injecting, many drug users are turning to smoke-able forms of drugs.  Heroin, which is a depressant, is used to lengthen the crack high and lessen the severe depression that follows.  As the user’s first intense “high” from the crack wears off, the heroin “high” begins and provides the user with an extended, but drowsy “high.”


·   Recent reports indicate that users may be increasingly combining cocaine or crack with the hallucinogenic drug phencyclidine (PCP), forming a preparation called “space base.”




Reference Material:

·         National Drug & Safety League (A non-profit charitable organization).