What is cocaine?
Cocaine (C17H21NO4) is a powerfully addictive, psychoactive, stimulant drug. They speed up messages traveling between the brain and body. Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca bush (Erythroxylum coca), native to South America. The leaf extract is processed to produce three different forms of cocaine:
- Cocaine hydrochloride: a fine white powder with a bitter, numbing taste. Cocaine hydrochloride is often mixed, or ‘cut’, with other substances such as lidocaine, talcum powder, or sugar to dilute it before being sold. Cocaine hydrochloride is most commonly snorted
- Freebase: a white powder that is purer than cocaine hydrochloride. Freebase and crack cocaine are usually smoked.
- Crack: crystals ranging from white or cream to transparent with a pink or yellow hue. It may contain impurities.
In the U.S. cocaine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse but can be administered by a physician for legitimate medical uses.
In Nov. 2020, the state of Oregon voted in Measure 110 to decriminalize the use of all drugs, including drugs such as cocaine. The law does not legalize the drugs – it means that the state will remove criminal penalties and prison time for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. Instead, the penalty involves a $100 fine or a “health assessment” completed at an addiction recovery center, according to Vox. The sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine will still be illegal.
How is cocaine used medically?
Cocaine is available in the U.S. as a prescription solution for local mucosal anesthesia, and for some eye, ear, and throat surgeries, but is infrequently used because of safer alternatives, such as lidocaine or benzocaine. A nasal solution is used for the induction of local anesthesia of the mucous membranes when performing diagnostic procedures and surgeries on or through the nasal cavities in adults. Topical cocaine may be administered by using cotton applicators or packs, installed into a cavity, or as a spray.
Brands names for FDA-approved topical cocaine solution products include Goprelto and Numbrino.
Effects of cocaine
There is no safe level of drug use. The use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Cocaine affects everyone differently, based on:
- size, weight, and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch).
You may experience:
- happiness and confidence
- talking more
- feeling energetic and alert
- irritability and agitation
- feeling physically strong and mentally sharp
- reduced appetite
- dry mouth
- enlarged (dilated) pupils
- higher blood pressure and faster heartbeat and breathing
- higher body temperature
- increased sex drive
- unpredictable, violent, or aggressive behavior
- indifference to pain.
What are the symptoms of a cocaine overdose?
If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, you could overdose. cocaine overdose symptoms include:
- nausea and vomiting
- extreme anxiety
- chest pain
- extreme agitation and paranoia
- breathing irregularities
- kidney failure
- heart problems.
High doses and frequent heavy use can also cause ‘cocaine psychosis’, characterized by paranoia, hallucinations, unusual thoughts, and out-of-character/behavior. These symptoms usually disappear a few days or weeks after the person stops using cocaine.
Injecting cocaine can increase the risk of:
- vein damage.
Sharing needles increases the risk of:
- hepatitis B
- hepatitis C
In the days after cocaine use, you may feel:
- irritability and paranoia
- mood swings
- feeling uncomfortable
Regular use of cocaine may eventually cause:
- lung conditions such as bronchitis
- anxiety, paranoia and psychosis
- sexual dysfunction
- kidney failure
- hypertension and irregular heartbeat
- heart disease and death.
Snorting cocaine regularly can also cause:
- runny nose and nose bleeds
- nose infection
- damage to the tissue separating the nostrils (nasal septum)
- loss of sense of smell.
Giving up cocaine after a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Please seek advice from a health professional.
Phases of withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms usually start around 6-12 hours after the last use.
Withdrawal usually happens in three phases:
- Crash – feelings of depression or anxiety, cocaine cravings, extreme tiredness (experienced in the first few days)
- Withdrawal – cocaine cravings, lack of energy, anxiety, agitation, disturbed sleep, and an inability to feel pleasure (can last for several weeks)
- Extinction – withdrawal symptoms can occur over several months, gradually subsiding.