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Cocaine is a white crystalline powder in the pure state produced from the leaves of the coca plant, grown in the South America. Known as “snow”, “blow candy” or “his lady” it has enjoyed varying degrees of popularity amongst users since the early 19th century.

Normally a fine line of powder was inhaled or snorted through the nose from where it was transmitted to the brain to obtain the desired effects. Recently a new form of solid cocaine has been developed known as “crack” or “rock” which is smoked producing the desired effects in a matter of seconds as against the 3 to 4 minutes for the powder form to be absorbed after snorting. Cocaine can also be injected through the veins.

The use of cocaine produces a feeling of euphoria or acute well being, the mind becomes intensely clear with an over response to sexual stimulation. These stimulating effects can lasts up to 30 minutes and if the dose is not repeated then there is a let down which can lead to a craving for more cocaine.

Some users of small “recreational” amounts of cocaine would claim that the dangers of cocaine use have been over exaggerated. However, with the appearance of crack with its cheapness and quickness of onset, the progress to compulsive drug use is much more rapid and the danger of drug addiction more likely.

Sudden death is the most serious result of cocaine abuse. It can be due to a serious of savage convulsions, paralysis of the breathing or sudden heart failure. In people with heart, lung or blood pressure problems, low doses, no matter how they are administered, can produce sudden death. People who are allergic to cocaine can go into fatal shock with small doses. The sudden surge of blood pressure associated with cocaine use may produce a stroke.

Chronic complications with the regular use of cocaine include nasal congestion, inflammation and even perforation of the septum of the nose, dental problems and an eventual loss of sex drive. Malnutrition can also occur because of the drugs anti-appetite effects.

Smoking of crack can produce chronic inflammation and soreness of the throat with hoarseness of voice and lung complications.

Cocaine use in pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and is linked with low birth weight, still birth and congenital defects and the new born baby can be already addicted and experience withdrawal symptoms. If taken via the veins then there is a risk of AIDS and hepatitis from the use of an infected needle.

Treatment of dependency necessitates withdrawal. This can be associated with acute depression which can lead to suicide. Intense nausea and drowsiness can occur and supportive institutional care may be needed.

If you require help or want more information on cocaine please contact the alcohol and drug information service. The phone number is listed in the front pages of your local telephone directory.

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