The deadly allure of cocaine comes from its intense near-immediate effects,along with its lofty price tag and its reputation as a celebrity drug. Extracted from the leaves of the South American coca plant, “coke” is produced in the form of a fine white powder – snorted or injected – or a white rock crystal (crack) – fumes inhaled (alias freebasing). Some users even rub this substance into their gums.1
What Can Be Expected Immediately After Taking a Hit?
Cocaine’s active chemicals cross the blood-brain barrier rapidly. While small amounts of coke typically make users feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, mentally alert, and hypersensitive to sight, sound and touch, large amounts can lead to bizarre, unpredictable and violent behavior.
Some users find that they feel sexy and confident while under this chemical’s influence. For others, it brings on restlessness and agitation. Still others experience a multi-sensory distortion of reality. Some unfortunate souls become subject to psychological damage that torments them the rest of their lives.1
Since the euphoric rush of this addictive drug usually wears off within minutes up to an hour, users must keep taking hits to sustain the high. This short-acting effect can lead users to take several hits in a single session – referred to as a “binge.” Freebase inhaling coke produces effects almost as quickly as mainlining, while snorting will usually produce a longer-lasting high.
Street dealers often mix coke with other white powdery substances, such as cornstarch, talcum powder or flour, in an effort to increase their profit. With chemical potency so uncertain, the resulting effects upon users can,consequently, be quite unpredictable. No substances should be purchased from illicit sources.1
While dangers exist with any use of coke – even under the best of circumstances – introducing this potent substance during the developmental stages of youth may cause brain changes that are even more profound, with long-lasting consequences.2
A Plethora of Physiological Symptoms Point to Possible Cocaine Abuse
From a physical standpoint, the negative effects of cocaine abuse can range from unpleasant to fatal:
- Numbness or tingling
- “Coke bugs” (crawling sensation on the skin)
- Muscle spasms
- Nausea, appetite loss or stomach pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart attack
- Sudden death
Coke’s Impact on the Brain Is Fast, Furious…and Possibly Forever
The brain’s reward centers are activated by all types of reinforcing stimuli, like food, sex, success and helping others, as well as many drugs of abuse, such as cocaine.This neurological circuitry regulates emotions and motivation, among other things.
Normally, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse (the small gap between two neurons), where it binds to specialized proteins called dopamine receptors on the neighboring neuron. In this process, dopamine acts as a chemical messenger, carrying a signal from neuron to neuron. Another specialized protein called a transporter removes dopamine from the synapse to be recycled for further use.
Drugs of abuse can interfere with this natural communication process. For example, cocaine acts by binding to the dopamine transporter, blocking the removal of dopamine from the synapse. An excess of dopamine thus accumulates in the synapse to produce an amplified signal to the receiving neurons. This produces the intensely euphoric effect.
While considered pleasurable by many users, coke can produce some scary or disastrous effects, such as:
- “Coke psychosis” (losing touch with reality, loss of interest in friends, family, sports, hobbies, and other activities)
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Agitation and the impulse to be violent
- Anxiety, panic and paranoia
- Homicidal or suicidal thinking
Such catastrophic results can be primary to the drug’s effect or secondary to exacerbation of comorbid psychiatric disorders.4
Immediate Effects from Coke Use Can Lead to a Disastrous Outcome
It can speed up infections, such as HIV, by impairing immune cell function and promotes reproduction of the HIV virus or other dangers. People who use cocaine and are infected with HIV also increase their risk for co-infection with hepatitis C, a virus that affects the liver.1
Mixing Other Drugs with Coke Can Create a Life-Threatening Cocktail
Many cocaine users also use alcohol, and this combination can be very dangerous. The two substances react to produce cocaethylene, which can amplify the toxic effects of cocaine and alcohol on the heart. In addition, drinking to intoxication can lead to a coke overdose.
The combination of cocaine and heroin is, likewise, potentially hazardous. Why this combination? The stimulating effects of cocaine are offset by the sedating effects of heroin. Unfortunately, this mixture can lead users down a deadly path. Since cocaine’s effects wear off sooner than heroin’s, polydrug users maytake too much heroin without initially realizing it. A lethal overdose of heroin may result from users’ respiration suddenly and dramatically slowing down to the point of death.4
Seek Immediate Help if Cocaine Abuse Is Suspected
Addiction is one of the greatest risks with the intake of cocaine. Even first-time or occasional users can quickly be drawn into this drug’s enticing trap. If you suspect coke addiction, we encourage you to call The Canyon on our 24/7 toll-free line to learn more about our unique and highly successful recovery services in Malibu and Santa Monica, California.
A wide variety of addiction treatment services exist. Do your research. Why? Because we’re confident that the more you learn about today’s best practices, the more you’ll come to view The Canyon as the wise choice. We’re here to serve you – the whole you.
1“Cocaine”, National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine , (June 2016).
2 “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction”, National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preface , (July 2014).
3 “Physical and Psychological Effects of Substance Use”, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, https://www.ncsacw.samhsa.gov/files/TrainingPackage/MOD2/PhysicalandPsychEffectsSubstanceUse.pdf .
4 “Cocaine”, Research Reports, National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine, (May 2016).