The number of drug addicts are steadily increasing across the US, with vulnerable sections of the population; youngsters having easy access to drugs. Substance abuse is rampant, and brings unspeakable burden on societies due to the cascading effects and outcomes of drugs and intoxicants. Most individuals addicted to drugs do not receive any kind of treatment or de-addiction, and remain addicts. Around 21 million people in the US are addicted to drugs and substances that intoxicate. Drug overdose related fatalities has increased by more than 300% over thirty years. Cocaine is one among the more preferred drugs and intoxicants for addiction. The dubious distinction of being a drug considered as one among the highest levels of intoxication or addiction makes it a popular choice for addicts. This compilation of side effects of cocaines is intended to help heal broken families and contribute to a stronger society.

Is it true that cocaine was once used as anesthetic?

Cocaine was earlier used as an anesthetic during surgical procedures of the eye. Despite the efficacy of cocaine in blocking pain, and its natural anesthetic properties, its use was discontinued. The main reasons for the discontinuation of cocaine as an anesthetic were the addictive nature that ultimately resulted in withdrawal symptoms among youngsters.  Cocaine is present in the leaves of a plant that grows in South America; namely the coca shrub.

Cocaine is a stimulant, belonging to the category of the strongest stimulants, and true to claims that it was used in surgery, it was the main anesthetic for eye surgeries till its discontinuation. The powerful anesthetic later ended up as an illegal drug, making its presence in parties and becoming one of the drugs that were dealt the most, globally.

How does the stimulant enter the body?

The stimulant, when inhaled/smoked, enters the lungs and through the lungs enters the blood stream. When injected with hypodermic needles, the stimulant directly enters the blood stream. Finally, the nasal tissues in the nose absorb the substance when it is snorted and this will then enter the bloodstream.

Depending on how it is taken, the substance may appear different. For instance, the original color of the crystalline powder is white. It may appear a little off-white at times, and its color changes further when it is diluted with other substances.

How does it work?

Stimulants and drugs that give users the high feeling is associated with the effects, properties and mechanism of action in the brain. The substances flood and overpower the nervous system with dopamine release. Dopamine is naturally released in the body as a result of certain feel-good actions; however, this release is limited to certain levels. Stimulants and drugs trigger dopamine release at extraordinary levels, resulting in ultimate pleasurable feelings. As a consequence of this, the individual becomes controlled by the feeling, with a desire for a greater or more intense feeling.

How does a high from drugs differ from pleasure from food/other feel-good actions?

The dopamine release associated with food or other feel-good actions is different from that of drugs and stimulants. When dopamine is released as a result of any feel-good action, it returns to the neuron after completing the signalling action. However, when dopamine is released due to drug intake, its does not return to the neuron. Thereby, the signalling action of dopamine continues for an extended period of time, and the individual experiences uncontrollable sensations of pleasure. It is this pleasure that is known as a high or a fix. The euphoria from this high, this fix, actually creates the feeling of extra energy in addicts, who may then proceed to carry out actions that may never have been carried out under usual circumstances.

Is crack and cocaine the same? 

A carefully crafted narrative continues to lead individuals to assume that crack and cocaine are the same. Consequently, users who are initiated into drug addiction often end up taking crack, with the wrong perception that the effects of crack will be lesser when compared with cocaine. This is wrong as crack is nothing more than a street name for cocaine and is another form of cocaine. The hydrochloride is removed from cocaine, and this makes it easier to smoke. It is this form of cocaine that is called as crack.

Crack gets its name from the cracking sound that is set off, when it is heated up.  The hydrochloride separation process involves mixing with baking soda followed by a heating process. This is also achieved by mixing with ammonia and water, followed by heating.  As outlined earlier, when the hydrochloride is removed from cocaine, it is easier to smoke, and consequently, addicts consume relatively higher dosages. Another reason for the popularity of crack is the almost instant high or fix that addicts experience after smoking crack.

Is cocaine illegal or banned?

Cocaine is a banned substance globally, and its possession, handling or dealing attracts legal action worldwide. As a banned psychotropic and narcotic substance, possession of cocaine can result in possible death penalty in certain nations, while in certain countries imprisonment terms are lengthy.

In addition to the banned nature of the substance, cocaine poses a health hazard, affecting the heart and bringing about changes in the brain. These changes in the brain are the reason behind addiction. Most substances have limits that are considered as safe, beyond which it could turn into an addiction. However, there are no such limits for cocaine, as this could differ from person to person. In other words, it is not possible to ascertain if a particular limit is safe for single consumption or safe when consumed intermittently. Consequently, even occasional users turn addicts. Dependence and withdrawal symptoms severely affect socially and psychologically. Deaddiction of drug addicts who consume cocaine in some form is one of the biggest challenges for societies and families.

What happens when an addict overdoses?

The lack of any clear information about the safe limits has another serious impact. Addicts who consume a dose that is not safe may experience a quick adverse effect that can also be fatal in nature. For instance,  heart attacks or strokes are a possibility and depending on various conditions, this could be fatal in nature. Additionally, health hazards include seizures, possible respiratory failure, and hemorrhage. One of the reasons why this is considered as serious is the absence of any antidote that can neutralize or mitigate the effects of an overdose.

Does intake method have an impact on risk?

As outlined above, cocaine is consumed in one of many different methods. Each method of consumption brings different levels of risks. When cocaine is either smoked or taken through injections, addicts are at higher risk when compared with addicts who snort the substance. Addiction is also dependent on the manner in which it enters the bloodstream. For instance, addiction is relatively higher among smokers of cocaine. There are other health hazards of smoking cocaine, that are similar in nature to cigarette smokers. The list of possible complications includes respiratory issues, coughing, and lung damage/bleeding.

How does cocaine affect the brain among addicts?

The impact on the brain due to cocaine results in many different complications, apart from addiction. Addicts are known to have an unusual frontal lobe structure and discernible reduction in grey matter. This depends on the length of substance use or abuse.  Individuals who have been addicted to the substance for a long term are known to have a proportionately different size. Another change in the brain of addicts is the size of that area of the brain with the reward pathways. As the reward pathways are continually stimulated with dopamine release, that does not return to the neurons, this portion is abnormal in size.

What are the possible side effects of cocaine?

Adverse effects of cocaine include possible constriction of blood vessels, and this could in turn result in increased body temperature and a possible rise in heart beat rate. When combined with rise in blood pressure levels, the rise in heart beat rate can trigger heart failure and stroke. Drug addicts are known to have frequent headaches as a result of the non-stop action in the brain. Abdominal pain is another manifestation that is experience by drug addicts.

Psycho social impact and effect on behavior/routines

Drug addicts are known to have serious behavioral changes. For instance, there is a possible change in appetite, with the possibility of malnourishment and weakness witnesses among most addicts.  Additionally, drug addicts live in a surreal world, and consequently experience paranoia, hallucinations and a feeling of hearing imaginary sounds.

The sense of smell is affected when addicts snort the substance, as a result of nosebleeds and the damage to the nose. In addition to losing the sense of smell, addicts who snort cocaine are also likely to experience difficulty in swallowing, apart from running nose, and nasal septum decay. Addicts are considered to be unhygienic with no focus on health, as all the actions are generally focused on getting the fix at the right time. As a result, addicts may contract diseases/infections that are linked to contaminated hypodermic needles. It is common to learn that the prevalence of AIDS and Hepatitis infections are higher among drug addicts.

In addition to the above, addicts are known to combine intoxicants, and this results in serious, fatal consequences. Cocaine when combined with alcohol produces cocaethylene in the liver. This is responsible for a quick “high”, but jeopardizes health seriously, exposing the addict to the risk of sudden death. Families and societies need to be constantly on guard and prevent younger generations from turning into addicts that often starts with a recreational drug.

Leave a Reply