WHAT IS COCAINE?
The word cocaine refers to the drug in a powder form or crystal form.1 The powder is usually mixed with substances such as corn starch, talcum powder and/or sugar or other drugs such as procaine (a local anesthetic) or amphetamines.
Extracted from coca leaves, cocaine was originally developed as a painkiller. It is most often sniffed, with the powder absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. It can also be ingested or rubbed into the gums.
To more rapidly absorb the drug into the body, abusers inject it, but this substantially increases the risk of overdose. Inhaling it as smoke or vapor speeds absorption with less health risk than injection.
Cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs known to man. Once a person begins taking the drug, it has proven almost impossible to become free of its grip physically and mentally. Physically it stimulates key receptors (nerve endings that sense changes in the body) within the brain that, in turn, create a euphoria to which users quickly develop a tolerance. Only higher dosages and more frequent use can bring about the same effect.
Today, cocaine is a worldwide, multibillion-dollar enterprise. Users encompass all ages, occupations and economic levels, even schoolchildren as young as eight years old.
Cocaine use can lead to death from respiratory (breathing) failure, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) or heart attack. Children of cocaine-addicted mothers come into the world as addicts themselves. Many suffer birth defects and many other problems.
Despite its dangers, cocaine use continues to increase—likely because users find it so difficult to escape from the first steps taken down the long dark road that leads to addiction.
- 1. In its crystal form, it is called crack cocaine. For more information see The Truth About Crack Cocaine in this series.