The short and long term effects of cocaine are lost on some people. Sure, drugs can be fantastic....but the long lasting health effects can totally suck! Here is the skinny on cocaine, mostly because I have had a bunch of readers email me AND I have had a few friends ask me as well about cocaine use now that it has become pretty commonplace. It is illegal worldwide, but yet found on most street corners everywhere.
What exactly is it?
Its a drug made from the leaves of the coca plant, and it is a stimulant for the central nervous system and also a topical anesthetic. It is a serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine re-uptake inhibitor...basically a make-you-feel-really-good-by-stimulating-all-the-fun-stuff-in-your-brain drug! The leaves of the coca plant were originally chewed by aboriginal tribe members while working or on long treks to increase their energy levels. It was part of the original recipe for Coca-cola until 1906 when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed. And, it was one of the first anesthetics used topically and in epidurals.
Routes of ingestion:
Smoking: free base, or crack cocaine in pipes * crack is just cocaine with baking soda added
orally: rub on gums and teeth, "snow bombs" (wrap cocaine in rolling papers and swallow), chew coca leaves, brew coca tea
Insufflation (fancy name for snorting!): most common form of ingestion and about 60% of the drug is absorbed in the nasal mucous membranes.
Injection: directly into the vein, the high only lasts approx 3.1 minutes and can be mixed with heroin (a speedball).
Why do people do it?
You feel great! You get an amazing rush of energy, you are the life of the party, you have a decreased appetite, and life feels amazing. There is an extreme sense of euphoria, increased libido, a sense of competence (like you can do anything, and sustained endurance and attention. I know many people who use cocaine strictly for the appetite suppression means and they won't eat for days....which is horrible! And, that increases the risk of addiction, FYI, because you are more addicted to the results of the drug than the feelings of the drug. The high itself (depending on route) only lasts 15-30 minutes.
What is actually happening?
Short term side effects (Acute):
- Increased blood pressure
- dilated pupils
- mental alertness
- increased energy
- increased heart rate
- Increased temperature
- Decreased appetite
*even one dose can lead to seizures, coma, tachycardia (fast heart rate), tachyarrythmias (fast misbeating of the heart), hallucinations and paranoid delusions, strokes, and heart attacks.
Long term (Chronic):
- Heart attacks (significant increased cardiac risk due to strain)
- Respiratory failure
- auditory hallucinations
-tooth decay (it ruins enamel)
*dysphoria and depression can occur from a change in the bodies serotonin and dopamine levels, chronic insufflation can cause spreading of the septum( eventually it will completely wear away), smoking can cause hemoptysis (coughing blood), bronchospasms (spasms of the little airway paths in your lungs), and it can physically remodel your lungs. Over time, it causes severe renal imparment leading to failure and significantly increases your risk of lupus, Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a life threatening skin infection), Goodpastures disease (causes renal failure and hemorrhaging of the lungs), and vasculitis (inflammation of the vasculature).
depression, fatigue, insomnia or hypersomnia, erectile dysfunction, increased appetite, nightmares, psychomotor retardation, agitation, and anxiety.
How long it is in your system?
Cocaine is metabolized through the liver, and mostly excreted through urine, so it will show up on urine drug tests. The metabolites can be detected for 60 hours after a single dose and with repeated use (even in one night) it can be detected for 22 days (on average).
Do you think you have a problem?
Talk to your HCP about your addiction, and we can get you into a rehabilitation program to suit your needs (inpatient, outpatient), Narcotics anonymous meetings, call a free addiction hotline (866)535-7050, cocaine anonymous meetings , talk to a friend. If you think that your friend has a problem, please talk to an HCP about ways to help (i.e set up an intervention or how to talk to your friend).
Cocaine addiction can very easily lead to death, and due to the euphoria felt with the drug and the way it works on your neurotransmitters, it is highly addictive. So, not to be a debbie downer, but I want you to think about the effects that that weekend of fun is having on your body over time, and urge you to rethink that last bump!