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Drug facts: Cocaine


Cocaine is a stimulant drug (speeds up the brain and nervous system) made from the leaves of coca plant Erythroxylum coca. Due to its relatively high price as compared to other drugs it is sometimes referred to as the rich man’s drug.

Crack, coke, snow, nose candy, blow

Cocaine is produced in 3 forms as per the processing technique.               

  1. Cocaine hydrochloride (most common form): it is an odorless, white powder that is sniffed through the nose using a rolled up piece of paper or a straw, injected or rubbed into gums. This form can’t be smoked as burning destroys it.               
  2. Freebase cocaine: it is a chemically modified form enabling smoking producing a quick high          
  3. Crack cocaine: it is a type of freebase cocaine in the form of small crystals or rocks. It is smoked. It is called crack cocaine because of the crack sound it makes when heated. Some users sprinkle it on marijuana cigarettes and smoke in cigarettes.

Potency, mode of administration and the user (experience of use, physiology and psychology) obviously impact on the onset and duration of effects.               

  • Through the nose: peak effects 5-20 mins and lasts 15-30 mins.               
  • Smoked or injected: effects within seconds and lasts 5-10 minutes

It is the second most commonly abused illegal drug with approximately 15-19.3 million users in the world (about 0.4% of the population).

Powerfully addictive even after just one try. 4 out of 10 who use cocaine will get addicted. Why this high rate for cocaine as compared to other drugs? Its desired effects are felt very fast, increased pleasure (that mask the bad ones), high level of discomfort when trying to stop (withdrawal effects) and the effects are short lived (hence repeated use to feel high).

The effects of cannabis will vary depending on the person (physical size, health status, previous experience), the drug (amount used, type used, how it was used), the environment when taken (social setting, at work, when driving…)

  • Super excitement and overly confident               
  • Reduced appetite               
  • Feel alert and energetic               
  • Increased need for sex               
  • Increased heartbeat               
  • Increased body temperature               
  • Indifference to pain sensation               
  • Dilated (bigger) pupils              
  • Feel aggressive               
  • Hypersensitivity to sound, sight and touch               
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness               
  • Insomnia               
  • Aggressiveness               
  • Heart attack               
  • Overdose-and worst case death. Can occur to anyone at anytime even small doses for someone who is is over reactive to cocaine.               
  • Lose of interest in sex
  • Chest pain               
  • Convulsions               
  • Headaches and feeling dizzy
  • Malnourished               
  • Addiction               
  • Problems at with the law, work, school, finances and relationships
  • Sexual dysfunction               
  • Movement disorders
  • Snorting: nose bleeding, loss of smell, frequent runny nose, sinus problems               
  • Injecting: blood poisoning, skin abscesses, blocked vessels, increased risks of HIV, hepatitis B, Hepatitis C      
  • Mouth: bowel decay from reduced blood flow.               
  • Smoking: chest pain, long term cough, increased risk of infections like pneumonia

Women who take cocaine during pregnancy are more likely to lose the baby, give birth much earlier than planned or have low birth weight babies (increasing the chances of  infections). The baby may also suffer withdrawal effects when born.

It is used medically as a local anesthesia for some surgeries

As of now, no medication to treat cocaine addiction or overdose. Learn more in subsequent posts. Remember to seek professional help from your health care provider.

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Ekwoge Hilda

Dr. Ekwoge Hilda is a trained pharmacist from Cameroon and Co-founder of HILPharma. When she is not busy creating content, she slings pills to pay the bills.

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