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What are the signs and symptoms of Cocaine Abuse?

Cocaine hydrochloride is the powdered form of cocaine, made into a salt by combining raw cocaine paste extracted from coca bush leaves with an acid than an alkaline. Cocaine is a CNS (Central Nervous System) Stimulant. Cocaine has legitimate medical uses, such as an ocular (eye) and nasal anesthetic. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cocaine was sold OTC (Over the Counter) and was put in the original Coca-Cola. It is also widely popular as a drug of abuse.

What type of a drug is cocaine?

Cocaine is a crystalline white powder, which may appear off- white or cream colored, depending on what adulterants, or inert substances are added by the dealer to increase weight and volume, thereby increasing profit.

How cocaine is used?

Cocaine is typically used by snorting, also known as IN administration, (Insulfation). It can be used IV (intravenously, or injected directly into a vein), or by the Buccal route (absorption via the gums and cheek).

How long cocaine takes to work, and how long it lasts?

The effects of cocaine appear seconds after IV or IN administration, and last for about 20 or 30 minutes.

Effects of cocaine on the user: 

Cocaine will produce the following effects in the user: 

  • Feelings of euphoria, energy and confidence
  • Hyper-sexuality, or increased sexual desire
  • Loss of appetite and insomnia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Rapid, pressured speech
  • Dramatic, obnoxious, exaggerated speech and behavior
  • Agitation and restlessness

Cocaine produces these effects by activating the alertness center and the reward/reinforcement center in brain, but it teases your brain so to speak. It produces ecstasy without satiety or it excites and titillates without a climax, and is therefore, very compelling to re-use. Cocaine produces a flood of certain neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, called:

  1. Da (Dopamine), which is associated with reward and pleasure.
  2. Ne (Norepinephrine), associated with alertness and energy
  3. Se (Serotonin) also associated with pleasure. 

The flooding or brain chemical eventually causes depletion of these chemicals, as they are produced and used faster than the brain can replenish them. The tanks run dry so to speak.

Short-term and long-term risks of using cocaine

Heavy, prolonged abuse of cocaine can produce psychotic symptoms; paranoid delusions, the sensation of things crawling on or under your skin, seeing flashing lights, or hearing your name being called. When the user stops taking cocaine abruptly, due to the supply or money to produces more running out, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Coke withdrawal causes clinical depression and anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure.

There are three phases of cocaine withdrawal

  1. The Crash: extreme exhaustion following a cocaine binge, in which the user is “tired but wired” . They may use alcohol or a tranquilizer to sleep, 
  2. Binge eating between hours of sleep, which may last 24 hours to one week- or longer
  3. The Inverse of cocaine’s stimulant effect, which will worsen, as time goes on.
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Apathy and indifference
  • Depressed mood
  • Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
  • Intense cravings for cocaine will appear (Often cravings are absent for the first  12-96 hours of withdrawal.) 
  • Extinction- brief, episodic cravings for cocaine, for months years, that may be resisted or indulged

Another risk is the intravenous method of administration. Through and through penetration of a vein will result in a hematoma, or  bleeding under the skin, resulting in a linear bruise commonly referred to as a track mark. Using a dirty needle, or not swabbing the injection site with alcohol or another disinfectant can produce an infection. If this abscess or infection is not properly treated by a physician, it can progress to gangrene, in which the tissue dies, resulting in amputation of the involved limb. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome) and AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) as well as Hepatitis C are all blood borne diseases that can result from sharing infected needles.

Conclusion

Cocaine is not a harmless, safe drug. As with any rewarding, psychoactive substance, prolonged abuse can lead to dependence, and life will become unmanageable as the drug becomes the focus of attention in one’s life, at the exclusion of all else.