What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug, although health care providers can use it for valid medical purposes such as local anesthesia for some surgeries, recreational cocaine use is illegal. As a street drug, cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder. Street dealers often mix it with things like cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to increase profits. They may also mix it with other drugs such as the stimulant amphetamine, or synthetic opioids, including fentanyl. Adding synthetic opioids to cocaine is especially risky when people using cocaine don’t realize it contains this dangerous additive. Increasing numbers of overdose deaths among cocaine users might be related to this tampered cocaine.
Popular nicknames for cocaine include:
How do people use cocaine?
People snort cocaine powder through the nose, or they rub it into their gums. Others dissolve the powder and inject it into the bloodstream. Some people inject a combination of cocaine and heroin, called a Speedball. Another popular method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called “freebase cocaine”). The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are inhaled into the lungs. This form of cocaine is called Crack, which refers to the crackling sound of the rock as it’s heated. Some people also smoke Crack by sprinkling it on marijuana or tobacco and smoke it like a cigarette. People who use cocaine often take it in binges—taking the drug repeatedly within a short time, at increasingly higher doses to maintain their high.
What Plant Does Cocaine Come From?
Cocaine comes from the coca plant scientifically known as Erythroxylum coca, which is mostly grown in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. South Americans have cultivated coca plants for about 8,000 years. Valuing the leaves as highly as gold, the Inca treasured coca not only for its myriad medicinal properties but also for the integral part it played in their sacred rites and rituals. According to a study, it is widely recognized for its action in enhancing work capacity, including the reduction of fatigue and the mitigation of thirst and hunger. Coca leaf tea is commonly used as an anecdote by travelers and climbers to South American countries for its apparent symptomatic relief to acute mountain sickness
The drug is manufactured mainly in South American countries in clandestine laboratories with a number of different chemicals. Once processed, it is trafficked through South and Central America to Mexico to be smuggled into the United States, or shipped to markets in other parts of the world. The Colombian cartels were historically the biggest players in the cocaine trade. But Mexico has seized a larger foothold in recent years. READ: How Long Does Crack Cocaine Stay in Your System
How does cocaine affect the brain?
Cocaine increases levels of the natural chemical messenger dopamine in brain circuits related to the control of movement and reward. Normally, dopamine recycles back into the cell that released it, shutting off the signal between nerve cells. However, cocaine prevents dopamine from being recycled, causing large amounts to build up in the space between two nerve cells, stopping their normal communication. This flood of dopamine in the brain’s reward circuit strongly reinforces drug-taking behaviors, because the reward circuit eventually adapts to the excess of dopamine caused by cocaine, and becomes less sensitive to it. As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses in an attempt to feel the same high and to obtain relief from withdrawal. SEE: Crack Cocaine Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms