Cocaine & Crack Use & Abuse

Cocaine is a stimulant that comes in powder form and crack cocaine form. Powder cocaine is a crushed from the coca plant leaf, often mixed with local anesthetics and is snorted or injected. Crack comes in the form of small rocks mixed with ammonia or baking soda and water and is smoked.

Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine prevents the brain from reabsorbing neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, leading to a build-up of these naturally occurring brain chemicals. In the short term, this leads to the faster firing of neurons – the user speaks faster, moves faster and experiences an increase in heart rate. This neurotransmitter buildup can also induce feelings of euphoria (I’m at the top of the world!) or paranoia (they’re out to get me!), decreased appetite and anxiety.

Once the user comes down from the high, they may experience a crash – feelings of sluggishness or depression, making them want to use the drug again to get the good feelings back. This cycle makes cocaine a highly addictive drug. Some users explain it as a “compulsion” associated with cocaine use – they feel that they must have another dose of the drug.

One study of dependent cocaine users showed a greater loss of grey matter in the frontal lobes of their brains, compared with a control group. Grey matter is the part of the brain that contains neuronal cell bodies. It’s involved in muscle control and sensory perception.

This BBC video clip shows another potentially dangerous and disfiguring side effect of cocaine use.

Signs & Effects of Cocaine Use

  • Dilated pupils
  • High levels of energy and activity
  • Excited, exuberant speech
  • Nosebleeds or constant sniffing (as with a runny nose)
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