Cocaine is a stimulant because it increases the activity of the nervous system. It is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows in the Andes Mountains of South America. The native peoples of this region have chewed coca leaves for their stimulating effects for thousands of years. Cocaine purified from coca leaves is a powerful stimulant that can make users feel "on top of the world". Cocaine acts a bit like amphetamines, but its effects are stronger and don't last as long.
People use cocaine because it
- triggers strong feelings of well-being, pleasure, and happiness
- makes people feel wide awake, energetic, confident, and talkative
Other effects on behavior:
- loss of appetite
- difficulty sleeping
- jaw clenching and grinding of teeth
- feeling jittery and anxious
Common street names: Coke, blow, crack, snow, freebase, C, candy, Charlie, flake, rock, toot.
How is cocaine taken? Cocaine is snorted (inhaled through the nose), injected, or smoked in a form called crack. Crack is a crystalline form of cocaine that is heated and its vapors smoked. The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound heard when it is heated.
Risk of addiction: Cocaine is extremely addictive. Animals given unlimited access to cocaine and food will repeatedly select the cocaine until they starve to death.
Effects on the body: Stimulation of the nervous system by cocaine causes
- increased heart rate
- increased breathing rate
- increased blood pressure
- increased body temperature
- enlarged (dilated) pupils
Overdose: High doses of cocaine can cause seizures, stroke, heart failure, inability to breathe, and death. Heavy users may develop hallucinations and the feeling of imaginary insects crawling over the skin.
How are cocaine and crack produced? Pure cocaine powder is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. Crack cocaine is produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and ammonia or baking soda. The mixture is boiled until a solid substance forms. This solid substance is then removed from the liquid, dried, and broken into chunks (rocks).
Can cocaine be used legally? Procedures for extracting cocaine from the coca plant were first developed in 1860. This led to the use of cocaine in many health products and beverages. For example, Coca Cola was given its name in 1885 because the drink originally contained cocaine (the cocaine was not completely removed until 1929). Using cocaine for non-medical purposes is now against the law in most countries. The medical usefulness of cocaine is based on its ability to numb any body tissue it touches. This property makes cocaine useful as an anesthetic during eye, nose, and throat surgery.
How long does cocaine act? The effects of cocaine can be felt within a few minutes and usually last about half an hour.
Drug tests for cocaine: Cocaine can be detected in the urine beginning about 1 hour after use and it remains detectable for about 3 days.
How many students use cocaine? About 4% of high school seniors say they have used cocaine within the past year.