Cocaine and the Brain
Whether it is snorted, injected or smoked, cocaine is a stimulant which affect’s the body’s production of dopamine, the brain chemical governing pleasure and movement.
Effects and Risks
As a short-term effect of cocaine ingested is constriction of the blood vessels, an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature may be experienced along with dilation of pupils. Whereas a user may argue that he feels less tired and more mentally alert, the repeated and long-term use of the drug has devastating effects on the body. In these cases, chest pain, irregular heart rhythms and seizures can ensure. More fatal injuries can include: stroke, heart attack and respiratory failure. The least threatening effects of cocaine ingestion can be anxiety, irritability, restlessness, muscle spasms, auditory and visual hallucinations, loss of sexual desire and paranoid psychosis.
Eventually the user develops a tolerance to the drug and must ingest larger amounts of cocaine to achieve the same ‘high’. Chronic cocaine abusers may also experience weight loss as the drug decreases appetite.
Each method of abusing cocaine also comes with its own dangers. The most common, snorting, may result in injury to the membrane lining the nostrils. Recurrent nosebleeds and chronically runny nose as well as a loss of smell and eventual swallowing difficulties may result. Ingesting (by mouth) may lead to gangrene of the small bowel as blood flow to the intestines is greatly reduced. Injections of cocaine carry the highest risk for contracting hepatitis and HIV as ‘shooters’ frequently share needles.
After the initial 30-minute high or when the drug is stopped, a cocaine user will experience a “crash” in the form of depression, fatigue, anxiety or irritability.
Crack and Alcohol
Cocaine is an extremely addictive drug , with crack (the smoked version) being the most highly addictive drug on the illegal market. Crack has initially been associated with lower income individuals as it was less expensive than the powdered cocaine. However, today its use is widespread and that stereotype is no longer valid. Frequently cocaine and alcohol abuse are combined. It is this combination that is the most frequent cause of death in cocaine abusers.