Cocaine: Definition and Guide

Cocaine Definition and Guide
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What is cocaine, and how does it affect the mind and body? Check out our guide to learn more about the effects of and treatment options for cocaine addiction.

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What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a Schedule II stimulant drug, which means it is classified as an extremely addictive substance that is often abused. Recreational use of cocaine is illegal, but some doctors may use the drug for local anesthesia in some cases.

How Is Cocaine Used?

The drug may be injected, smoked, rubbed into the gums, or snorted. It is typically sold as a white powder and may be mixed with flour or cornstarch on the streets (to stretch the drug and boost profit margins). Though the intensity of cocaine’s effects may vary depending on consumption method, any drug use can be dangerous or even deadly.

How Does Cocaine Work?

Cocaine affects the brain by boosting dopamine levels, which are neurotransmitters related to reward and movement control. Because the brain is flooded with feel-good dopamine, users are highly likely to continue taking the drug. However, frequent use creates a tolerance, meaning users must take stronger doses to obtain the same high.

Street Names for Cocaine

This stimulant is bought and sold under many different street names, which may vary depending on the region. Some of the most common street names include:

  • Coke
  • Charlie
  • Rock
  • Speedball (cocaine mixed with heroin)
  • Flake
  • Blow
  • Candy
  • Snow

Cocaine Short-Term Effects

The “high” that comes from cocaine use is typically very fast and short-lived, taking effect within seconds and lasting about 15-30 minutes. Here are some of the short-term effects of the drug on the mind and body:

  • Rush of happiness
  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Boost of energy
  • Mental alertness
  • Extreme sensitivity to surroundings, sounds, etc.
  • Sense of paranoia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Convulsions
  • Stroke

Cocaine Long-Term Effects

Those who use cocaine frequently may experience more severe long-term symptoms, such as:

  • Loss of smell
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Respiratory complications
  • Risk of pneumonia
  • Bowel decay
  • Risk of HIV and hepatitis C
  • Skin infections
  • Collapsed veins

Is Cocaine Addictive?

Yes, cocaine is considered a highly addictive drug because of the fast and intense rush of pleasure it sends to the brain. Those who use cocaine often are likely to develop a physical dependence and go through withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Withdrawal symptoms may include depression, paranoid thoughts, and other mental health issues, but the “crash” is the predominant symptom with strong cravings.

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Signs of Cocaine Use

Recognizing the signs of cocaine addiction or abuse allows friends and family members to help those struggling—before it’s too late. Here are some possible signs of cocaine use:

  • Appetite loss
  • Sleeping for short periods
  • Dilated pupils
  • Paranoia
  • White powder around the nose
  • Risky behavior such as lateness, financial trouble, etc.
  • Mood swings

Can You Overdose on Cocaine?

It is possible to overdose on cocaine. Because cocaine increases the heart rate, taking a strong or large dose of the drug can cause severe heart problems or even death. Some signs of cocaine overdose include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Chest pain
  • Body tremors
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attack

History of Cocaine

The first known use of cocaine traces back to the Inca people of the Andes mountains in Peru. These ancient people chewed coca leaves for energy and increased heart rate in a high mountain elevation and for religious ceremonies.

A German chemist named Albert Niemann first isolated the drug from the Peruvian coca leaves in 1859. In the late 1880s, the drug became popular for medical use, treating depression, sexual dysfunction, and more.

Researchers learned of the dangers of the drug over time, and by 1980, it became known as a drug linked with addiction, crime, and poverty.

Find Healing with Pinnacle Treatment Centers

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Overcoming cocaine addiction can be extremely difficult, but Pinnacle Treatment Centers is here to help those in need. We offer a compassionate approach to healing, helping you every step of the way. Contact us for the support you or a loved one may need to overcome this obstacle and enjoy a new life in recovery.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.