Even though cocaine is widely viewed as a popular partying drug, its effects still remain harmful to both your mind and body. The drug has been in use forhundreds of years, with modern forms dating back to the 1800s during the United States civil war. Its original intention was to act as a pain killer or anesthetic.
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Despite its beginnings, it started off as a derivative of the coca shrub, which is located in South America, and has grown to become one of the most abused drugs in the world today. Its effects are dependent on several factors, but they can be severe – and that also means its use leads to many health problems for you. You may be familiar with these effects thanks to the many people that use cocaine, and we will outline some of them.
What is cocaine?
Before starting off with its effects, it is important to know what cocaine is. The drug itself is a stimulant drug, meaning that it has the same effects as narcotic drugs or caffeine – but at a stronger level. It is highly addictive, and estimates show that about 14 to 21 million people worldwide abused the drug in 2012, according to statistics from the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
The substance has a very high potential for abuse, poses a serious health risk for its abusers, and carries a high degree of psychological and physical dependence. This is the main reason the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) classifies it as a Schedule II substance in the United States. Its uses apart from a hard drug is a few medicinal uses in local anesthesia, which is why the agency does not classify it under the tightly-controlled Schedule I drugs like heroin.
Because it is a stimulant of the CNS (Central Nervous System), it ends up increasing vital life functions like your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. In a way, its effects are similar to that of other stimulant drugs – you need less sleep after taking it, you have greater levels of energy ad focus, and your appetite reduces. The person may end up showing greater levels of self-confidence, become more excitable and talkative, and they feel good.
Short term effects of cocaine
There are two different sets of effects from using cocaine, but the set you encounter depends mostly on the habits of the addict. Cocaine still acts very quickly on the nervous system, so its effects begin to show immediately, depending on the method of consumption. However, the effects wear off quickly as well – usually from one to two hours after using it.
The first sign is someone experiencing a euphoric feeling, which makes them more talkative, looking happier, and increasing awareness of colors and objects. This is accompanied by a feeling of restlessness, and the user wants to stay awake for as long as possible, even if it is days at a time – of course this will depend on the amounts of the drug they have consumed.
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Of all the methods of consumption, injection and smoking the drug gives a faster high, compared to snorting it. Even though psychological effects are there, you cannot ignore the physical effects either, and you need to take them seriously.
Methods of abuse in relation to the risk level
Cocaine exists in two forms – the rock form and powder form, with the rock form being referred to as ‘crack cocaine’, which is a term very familiar to many people. Users usually snort the powder form, in addition to mixing it with water and injecting, and also smoking. However, crack is exclusively smoked.
It is important to note that the method you use to consume the substance will determine the side effects and risks you get to your health. For instance, if your primary consumption method is smoking, you are more likely to suffer from breathing and respiratory issues, while a snorting user will have problems in their nasal cavity, leading to nosebleeds, and damage to the sinus cavity and nasal tissue. Those that prefer injection are likely to share the syringes and other drug paraphernalia, so they are more likely to use dirty needles and increase their risks of getting infectious diseases, collapsed veins, scarring, and irritation of the skin.
All methods of consumption are dangerous at the end of the day, and they contribute to your risk of overdosing. The overdose is due to dangerously high levels of the substance in the bloodstream, which increases the rate of your vital signs. It is common to see someone getting seizures as a result, as well as a stroke or a heart attack.
Generally, the signs you should look for and that affect all cocaine users regardless of the method include muscle twitching, dilated pupils, tremors (even involuntary ones), anxiety, increasing body temperature, blood pressure and heartbeat; vertigo, coma, and seizures. Others include nausea, vomiting, chest pains, and hallucinations.
These are even more serious than the short-term effects of the drug since the drug gradually dominates the chemistry of your brain. It does this by reducing the brain production of dopamine, an important chemical that regulates your emotions, movement, and your pain threshold.
When dopamine levels reduce, it can lead to severe depression, which increases your chances of committing suicide or self-harm. Other effects include infectious diseases (especially for users that prefer injection), tooth decay, permanent damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs; permanent damage to the blood vessels in your brain, sexual issues, and constant fatigue. If you use injection methods, you can develop abscesses (swellings) at the injection points.
Getting short term users to stop cocaine abuse is easier than stopping long term users. In all of these, identifying the triggers is important; and that will involve counselling and therapy sessions.
Cocaine is among the most used drugs in the world today, and the statistics behind it are discouraging, to say the least. However, it still remains essential to know the effects of the drug, so that you are in a better position to help a user, whether they be short or long term users.