Native to South America, cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca plant. It is a drug that has one of the longest histories in existence. Cocaine is a white powder that is snorted or in it’s other form, crack cocaine; it is a small yellowish rock that is smoked. Cocaine is a stimulant drug, or an upper, which means that it speeds up the system and internal organs in the body. Information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] indicates that cocaine produces an effect described as ‘short-term euphoria.’ This is followed by increased energy, heart rate and blood pressure. Many people who use cocaine also experience paranoia when on the drug, as well as insomnia.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that in a survey done in the year 2008, 1.9 million Americans were cocaine users. Of those, 359,000 were crack cocaine users. Adults between the ages of 18 to 25 were in the age group that were the highest reported users of cocaine.

Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine is considered highly addictive and is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] as a Schedule II Narcotic.  These are characterized by their high potential for abuse, and that the abuse may cause severe dependence however it is recognized that there are some legitimate medicinal uses for the drug. This comes from the fact that in the 1900s cocaine was used as a general anesthetic and numbing agent for dental operations.

As stated above, cocaine has a history that dates back hundreds of years. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Indigenous peoples of South America have chewed the leaves of this plant for over a thousand years.  It was first noted in 1569 by Spanish explorers as being effective in warding off fatigue.  Finding some truth in these claims the crops were legalized to enable taxation of the crops.  Since that time Cocaine has enjoyed a very colorful history such as being used in the 1800’s medicinally for flatulence.  But possibly its greatest claims to fame are its use as a Key ingredient in the formula for Coca Cola and the use of the drug by Sigmund Freud.

But despite its colorful history and entertaining elements cocaine is a highly addictive and dangerous drug that can cause a number of side effects for anyone who uses it.  Every year, cocaine addiction claims the lives of people all over the world.  Though the statistics on drug related death may be staggering they are still probably grossly underestimated as the damage they do to the body goes on to cause other problems that then may be ruled as cause of death (i.e. heart attacks and strokes).

According to the Foundation for a Drug Free World long term effects of cocaine abuse include permanent damage to the blood vessels of the heart and brain, high blood pressure leading to heart attacks and strokes, liver, kidney and lung damage and this is just to list a few.  Further, the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that the way the drug is used can also produce long-term, undesirable effects including problems with the nasal septum and throat, causation of bowel gangrene and problems and infections related to injection sites for those injecting the drug.

Some of the signs of cocaine use include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Paranoia
  • Clammy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Intense cravings for more cocaine
  • Insomnia
  • Tolerance (having to use more of the drug to achieve the same effect)
  • Dilated (enlarged) pupils.

Cocaine Treatment

There is no time to think or contemplate when dealing with a loved one you feel may be using, or you know is using cocaine.  The best thing that anyone can do in this situation is reach out to a professional for consultation and advisement immediately.

Anyone who has been in addiction treatment for very long knows that there are only 3 ways out of an addiction.

  1. Effective rehabilitation that restores health and vitality to the individual and does not use drugs to get the user off drugs.
  2. Prison (for drug related crimes).
  3. Death (from over dose or criminal activity resulting in loss of life).

A cocaine addict will often become severely addicted to the drug and deny efforts for help. It is up to family members an other loved ones to convince the user to go into treatment, as this is the only viable solution to solving the abuse problem and helping the user to attain sobriety.