OTHER NAMES FOR COCAINE:
Some common names for Cocaine are: Beam, C, California Corn
Flakes, Candy C, Coca, Crack, Dream, Florida Snow, Foo-Foo
Dust, Happy Trails, Paradise, Sleigh Ride, Teenager, Zip.
The intensity and duration of cocaine’s effects—which
include increased energy, reduced fatigue, and mental alertness—depend
on the route of drug administration. The faster cocaine is absorbed
into the bloodstream and delivered to the brain, the more intense
the high. Injecting or smoking cocaine produces a quicker, stronger
high than snorting. On the other hand, faster absorption usually
means shorter duration of action: the high from snorting cocaine
may last 15 to 30 minutes, but the high from smoking may last
only 5 to 10 minutes. In order to sustain the high, a cocaine
abuser has to administer the drug again. For this reason, cocaine
is sometimes abused in binges—taken repeatedly within
a relatively short period of time, at increasingly higher doses.
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. The powdered
hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved
in water and then injected. Crack is the street name given
to the form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock
crystal, which, when heated, produces vapors that are smoked.
The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound
produced by the rock as it is heated.
How Is Cocaine Abused?
Three routes of administration are commonly used for cocaine:
snorting, injecting, and smoking. Snorting is the process
of inhaling cocaine powder through the nose, where it is absorbed
into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Injecting
is the use of a needle to insert the drug directly into the
bloodstream. Smoking involves inhaling cocaine vapor or smoke
into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is as
rapid as by injection. All three methods of cocaine abuse
can lead to addiction and other severe health problems, including
increasing the risk of contracting HIV and other infectious
What Adverse Effects Does Cocaine Have on Health?
Abusing cocaine has a variety of adverse effects on the body.
For example, cocaine constricts blood vessels, dilates pupils,
and increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications
such as abdominal pain and nausea. Because cocaine tends to
decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished as
Different methods of taking cocaine can produce different adverse
effects. Regular intranasal use (snorting) of cocaine, for example,
can lead to loss of the sense of smell; nosebleeds; problems
with swallowing; hoarseness; and a chronically runny nose. Ingesting
cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene as a result of reduced
blood flow. Injecting cocaine can bring about severe allergic
reactions and increased risk for contracting HIV and other blood-borne
diseases. Binge-patterned cocaine use may lead to irritability,
restlessness, and anxiety. Cocaine abusers can also experience
severe paranoia—a temporary state of full-blown paranoid
psychosis—in which they lose touch with reality and experience
Regardless of the route or frequency of use, cocaine abusers
can experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies,
such as a heart attack or stroke, which may cause sudden death.
Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest
or seizure followed by respiratory arrest.
Added Danger: Cocaethylene
Polydrug use—use of more than one drug—is common
among substance abusers. When people consume two or more psychoactive
drugs together, such as cocaine and alcohol, they compound
the danger each drug poses and unknowingly perform a complex
chemical experiment within their bodies. Researchers have
found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to
produce a third substance, cocaethylene, that intensifies
cocaine’s euphoric effects. Cocaethylene is associated
with a greater risk of sudden death than cocaine alone.
What Treatment Options Exist?
Behavioral interventions—particularly, cognitive-behavioral
therapy—have been shown to be effective for decreasing
cocaine use and preventing relapse. Treatment must be tailored
to the individual patient’s needs in order to optimize
outcomes—this often involves a combination of treatment,
social supports, and other services.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for treating
cocaine addiction; thus, developing a medication to treat
cocaine and other forms of addiction remains one of NIDA’s
top research priorities. Researchers are seeking to develop
medications that help alleviate the severe craving associated
with cocaine addiction, as well as medications that counteract
cocaine-related relapse triggers, such as stress. Several
compounds are currently being investigated for their safety
and efficacy, including a vaccine that would sequester cocaine
in the bloodstream and prevent it from reaching the brain.
Current research suggests that while medications are effective
in treating addiction, combining them with a comprehensive
behavioral therapy program is the most effective method to
reduce drug use in the long term.
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