Cocaine is a white, powder-like substance that numbs the tongue if tasted directly. There are two distinct forms of cocaine that are abused. These are the water-soluble hydrochloride salt and the water-insoluble cocaine base which is the derivative called ‘crack cocaine.’ The salt is used by either snorting or by injecting.
The base is processed by mixing it with baking soda or ammonia and water, and then subjecting the mixture to heat to produce a smokable substance. This is where the drug gets its street-name ‘crack’, which pertains to the cracking noise that comes from heating the base.
Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that causes its user to feel elevated and euphoric. The high reaches its peak within minutes after the dose, but the effects are short-lived. And while the experience might feel pleasant and exciting, crashing from the high may leave users feeling far less satisfied.
Some of the short term effects of cocaine include:
- Numbness at the site of use
- Heightened energy levels
- Talkative and sociable
- Loss of inhibitions
- Mental alertness
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Decreased hunger and appetite
- Decreased need for sleep
In cases where a large dose was used, individuals may also experience bizarre, violent, or intense behaviors. It’s not uncommon for long-term users to experience emotional volatility, irritability, anxiety, panic, and paranoia. Others will react more violently and disproportionately to minor inconveniences or interactions.
There are also physiological signs that come with the high. These include:
- Increased temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Blood vessel constriction
- Dilation of the pupils
While the experience during the high might feel desirable, the crash that follows the high can be the opposite. Strong feelings of unwell, discomfort, and pain among others, prompt users to repeat the use of the stimulant in order to avoid the unwanted symptoms of the crash. In doing so, a cycle is created in which users attempt to chase the feeling of the high and avoid the resulting discomfort.
The frequent, repetitive use of cocaine will lead to dependence, abuse, and addiction. This extended exposure to the stimulant drug may result to some, if not all, of the following long term effects:
- Heightened reaction to stress
- Development of a tolerance requiring higher doses to experience the same effect
- Panic attacks
- Consistent chest pain
- Increased risk of stroke and seizures
- Increased risk of movement disorders like Parkinson’s