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FAQ About Cocaine

Cocaine addiction is one of society's greatest problems today. Individuals addicted to cocaine will do almost anything to get the drug. It has penetrated all levels of our society infecting the rich, poor, and everyone in between. Family members connected to individuals with a cocaine addiction live in chaos and confusion because they do not understand the underlying mechanics of cocaine addiction. At Narconon we do understand cocaine addiction. Narconon United Kingdom is a leader in the field of cocaine addiction treatment since 1966. If you have a loved one addicted to cocaine, we can help.

What is Cocaine? What are the slang terms commonly associated with cocaine?
How much does Cocaine cost? How is cocaine used?
What are the symptoms of Cocaine use? What Paraphernalia is Commonly Associated with Cocaine?
What is Cocaine addiction? How does Cocaine effect the brain?
What are the symptoms of Cocaine addiction? Why would anyone become addicted to Cocaine?
How does cocaine produce its effects? What are the physical effects of cocaine addiction?
COCAINE HEALTH EFFECTS What are the short term effects of Cocaine?
What are the long term effects of cocaine? What are the medical complications of cocaine use?
What are the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal? What are the symptoms of a cocaine overdose?
What is the History of Cocaine? Can taking a hot bath triple the effects of cocaine use?

Q) What is Cocaine?

A) Cocaine, the most potent stimulant of natural origin, is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca), which is indigenous to the Andean highlands of South America. It is a potent brain stimulant and one of the most powerfully addictive drugs. Cocaine is produced as a white chunky powder. It is sold most often in aluminium foil, plastic or paper packets, or small vials. Cocaine is usually chopped into a fine powder with a razor blade on a small mirror or some other hard surface, arranged into small rows called "lines," then quickly inhaled (or "snorted") through the nose with a short straw or rolled up paper money. It can also be injected into the blood stream.

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Q) What are the slang terms commonly associated with cocaine?

A) Street drug language changes all of the time, so as soon as a list is published it’s somewhat out of date. The slang used for cocaine in your area may include some of these terms and/or some totally new terms. Big C, Big Flake, Blow, Bump, C, Caine, Candy, Charlie, Coca, Coke, Do a Line, Dust, Nose Candy, Powder, Snort, Sniff, Soda, Speedball, and Yeyo (Spanish).

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Q) How much does Cocaine cost?

A) Cocaine prices depend upon the purity of the product. In 2001, cocaine purity declined by 8 percent, from 86 percent pure in 1998 to a 78 percent pure in 2001. The decrease in purity indicates a decrease in the supply of cocaine in the United States. Cocaine remained low and stable, which suggests a steady supply to the United States. Nationwide, prices ranged from $12,000 to $35,000 per kilogram.

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Q) How is cocaine used?

A) There are four primary methods of ingesting cocaine. These are:

  1. "Snorting" - absorbing cocaine through the mucous membranes of the nose.
  2. Injecting - users mix cocaine powder with water and use a syringe to inject the solution intravenously.
  3. Freebasing - Cocaine hydrochloride is converted to a "freebase" which can then be smoked.
  4. Crack Cocaine - Cocaine hydrochloride is mixed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and other ingredients, causing it to solidify into pellets or "rocks". The crack is then smoked in glass pipes.

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Q) What are the symptoms of Cocaine use?

A) The symptoms of Cocaine use include but are not limited to:

  • anxiety
  • panic
  • bloody nose
  • increased energy
  • talking rapidly
  • rapid pulse and respiration
  • paranoia
  • confusion
  • dilated pupils
  • hallucinations
  • altered motor activities (tremors, hyperactivity)
  • stuffiness
  • runny nose

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Q) What Paraphernalia is Commonly Associated with Cocaine?

A) Paraphernalia associated with inhaling cocaine includes mirrors, razor blades, straws, and rolled paper money. Paraphernalia associated with injecting the drug include syringes, needles, and spoons, along with belts, bandanas, or surgical tubing used to constrict the veins. Scales are used by dealers to weigh the drug. Sometimes substances such as baking soda or mannitol are used to "cut" cocaine in order to dilute the drug and increase the quantity of the drug for sale.

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Q) What is Cocaine addiction?

A) Cocaine addiction can occur very quickly and can be very difficult to break. Animal studies have shown that animals will work very hard (press a bar over 10,000 times) for a single injection of cocaine, choose cocaine over food and water, and take cocaine even when this behaviour is punished. Animals must have their access to cocaine limited in order to prevent taking toxic or even lethal doses.

Researchers have found that cocaine stimulates the brain's reward system inducing an even greater feeling of pleasure than natural functions. In turn, its influence on the reward circuit can lead a user to bypass survival activities and repeat drug use. Chronic cocaine use can lead to a cocaine addiction and in some cases damage the brain and other organs. An addict will continue to use cocaine even when faced with adverse consequences. Dependency can develop in less than 2 weeks. Some research indicates that a psychological dependency may develop after a single dose of high-potency cocaine. As the person develops a tolerance to cocaine, higher and higher doses are needed to produce the same level of euphoria.

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Q) How does Cocaine effect the brain?

A) Through the use of sophisticated technology, scientists can actually see the dynamic changes that occur in the brain as an individual takes cocaine. They can observe the different brain changes that occur as a person experiences the "rush," the "high," and finally the craving of cocaine. They can also identify parts of the brain that become active when a cocaine addict sees or hears environmental stimuli that trigger the craving for cocaine.

Researchers know that certain kinds of experiences, such as those involved in learning, can physically change brain structure and affect behaviour. Now, new research in rats shows that exposure to stimulant drugs such as cocaine can impair the ability of specific brain cells to change as a consequence of experience.

“The ability of experiences to alter brain structure is thought to be one of the primary mechanisms by which the past can influence behaviour and cognition,” says NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “However, when these alterations in brain structure are produced by drugs of abuse, they may lead to the development of compulsive patterns of drug-seeking behaviours that are the hallmark of addiction.”

The researchers conducted a series of experiments to examine how drugs of abuse and experience might interact to produce changes in brain structure. To accomplish this, they administered amphetamine, cocaine, or saline repeatedly for 20 days to individually housed rats. This pattern of drug administration was previously shown by these investigators to produce both behavioural changes in response to the drugs and structural changes in several brain regions. However, in the current study, the researchers went one step further. After the 20-day drug exposure, the rats were housed in a new environment for 3 to 3.5 months. Half of the drug- and saline-injected animals were placed in standard laboratory cages; the other animals in each group were housed in a complex environment. The environment contained a variety of stimuli: multiple levels with ramps, bridges, a climbing chain, tunnels, and toys that were rearranged once a week to encourage continued exploration of the environment. At the end of 3 or 3.5 months, the rats’ brains were analyzed for changes in dendritic branching and spine density. Specifically, the researchers examined the spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens and the pyramidal cells in the parietal cortex. These areas were shown in previous studies to be altered by experience and/or drugs of abuse. The nucleus accumbens is involved in motivation and reward, and the parietal cortex is important for sensory-motor function.

Remarkably, animals that had been given amphetamine and then placed in the complex environment did not show the same environmental-induced structural changes in the nucleus accumbens and parietal cortex as did saline-treated animals in the complex environment. The results for those animals treated with cocaine were similar, in that prior treatment with cocaine blocked the environment-induced changes in the medium spiny neurons of the nucleus accumbens (the only region examined).

“The findings from this study indicate that at least some of the cognitive and behavioural advantages that accrue with experience may be diminished by prior exposure to psychostimulant drugs,” says Dr. Kolb. “This impairment of the ability of specific brain circuits to change in response to experiences may help explain some of the behavioural and cognitive deficits seen in people who are addicted to drugs. More research is warranted to determine whether certain experiences, such as exposure to complex or rewarding environments, can alter the ability of drugs to induce structural changes in the brain. If exposure to psychostimulant drugs can alter the effects of subsequent experience, experience may be able to influence the later effects of drugs. It may even be possible for certain experiences to counteract the effects of psychostimulant drugs.”

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Q) What are the symptoms of Cocaine addiction?

A) The symptoms of Cocaine addiction include but are not limited to:

  • cardiac problems
  • neglect of family responsibilities
  • ignoring job demands
  • social isolation
  • neglect of body needs and hygiene
  • disintegration of the mucous membrane
  • collapse of the nasal septum
  • selling of personal property
  • mood swings
  • weight loss
  • change in friends
  • change in daily schedule (staying out all night)
  • always having a stuffy, runny nose
  • constant loss of appetite

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Q) Why would anyone become addicted to Cocaine?

A) The effects of cocaine are immediate, extremely pleasurable, and brief. Cocaine produce intense but short-lived euphoria and can make users feel more energetic. Like caffeine, cocaine produces wakefulness and reduces hunger. Psychological effects include feelings of well-being and a grandiose sense of power and ability mixed with anxiety and restlessness. As the drug wears off, these temporary sensations of mastery are replaced by an intense depression. The drug abuser will then "crash", becoming lethargic and typically sleeping for several days.

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Q) How does cocaine produce its effects?

A) A great amount of research has been devoted to understanding the way cocaine produces its pleasurable effects, and the reasons it is so addictive. One mechanism is through its effects on structures deep in the brain. Scientists have discovered regions within the brain that, when stimulated, produce feelings of pleasure. One neural system that appears to be most affected by cocaine originates in a region, located deep within the brain, called the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Nerve cells originating in the VTA extend to the region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, one of the brain's key pleasure centres. In studies using animals, all types of pleasurable stimuli, such as food, water, sex, and many drugs of abuse, cause increased activity in the nucleus accumbens.

Cocaine in the brain

Cocaine in the brain - In the normal communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse, where it can bind with dopamine receptors on neighbouring neurons. Normally dopamine is then recycled back into the transmitting neuron by a specialised protein called the dopamine transporter. If cocaine is present, it attaches to the dopamine transporter and blocks the normal recycling process, resulting in a build-up of dopamine in the synapse which contributes to the pleasurable effects of cocaine.

Researchers have discovered that, when a pleasurable event is occurring, it is accompanied by a large increase in the amounts of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens by neurons originating in the VTA. In the normal communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse (the small gap between two neurons), where it binds with specialised proteins (called dopamine receptors) on the neighbouring neuron, thereby sending a signal to that neuron. Drugs of abuse are able to interfere with this normal communication process. For example, scientists have discovered that cocaine blocks the removal of dopamine from the synapse, resulting in an accumulation of dopamine. This build up of dopamine causes continuous stimulation of receiving neurons, probably resulting in the euphoria commonly reported by cocaine abusers.

As cocaine abuse continues, tolerance often develops. This means that higher doses and more frequent use of cocaine are required for the brain to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. Recent studies have shown that during periods of abstinence from cocaine use, the memory of the euphoria associated with cocaine use or mere exposure to cues associated with drug use, can trigger tremendous craving and relapse to drug use even after long periods of abstinence.

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Q) What are the physical effects of cocaine addiction?

A) With the accumulating medical evidence of cocaine's deleterious effects and the introduction and widespread use of cocaine, the public and government have become alarmed again about its growing use. To many, especially health care and social workers who deal with cocaine users and have witnessed the personal and societal devastation it produces, cocaine addiction is by far the most serious drug problem.

Cocaine use increases the risk of sudden heart attack and may also trigger stroke, even in users who otherwise are not at high risk for these sometimes fatal cardiovascular events. The risk is related to narrowing of blood vessels and increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Recently, NIDA-supported researchers at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Centre at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, have identified changes in blood components that may also play a role in cocaine-related heart attack and stroke.

The physical effects of cocaine addiction include but are not limited to:

  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rates, and breathing rates

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Anxiety

  • Convulsions

  • Insomnia

  • Loss of appetite leading to malnutrition and weight loss

  • Cold sweats

  • Swelling and bleeding of mucous membranes

  • Restlessness and anxiety

  • Damage to nasal cavities

  • Damage to lungs

  • Possible heart attacks, strokes, or convulsions

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COCAINE HEALTH EFFECTS

Even though the public is often regaled with highly publicized accounts of deaths from cocaine, many still mistakenly believe the drug to be non-addictive and not as harmful as other illicit drugs. Cocaine's immediate physical effects include raised breathing rate, raised blood pressure and body temperature, and dilated pupils.

By causing the coronary arteries to constrict, blood pressure rises and the blood supply to the heart diminishes. This can cause heart attacks or convulsions within an hour after use. Chronic users and those with hypertension, epilepsy, and cardiovascular disease are at particular risk. Studies show that even those with no previous heart problems, risk cardiac complications from cocaine. Increased use may sensitize the brain to the drug's effects so that less of the substance is needed to induce a seizure. Those who inject the drug are at high risk for AIDS and hepatitis when they share needles. Allergic reactions to cocaine or other substances mixed in with the drug may also occur.

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Q) What are the short term effects of Cocaine?

A) Cocaine's effects appear almost immediately after a single dose, and disappear within a few minutes or hours. Taken in small amounts (25 to 150 mg), cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. Some users find that the drug helps them to perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, while others can experience the opposite effect.

The short-term effects of cocaine include but are not limited to:

  • Increased energy

  • Decreased appetite

  • Mental alertness

  • Increased heart rate

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Constricted blood vessels

  • Increased temperature

  • Dilated pupils

  • A feeling of euphoria

  • Excitement

  • A feeling of strength and power

The duration of cocaine's immediate euphoric effects depends upon the route of administration. The faster the absorption, the more intense the high. Also, the faster the absorption, the shorter the duration of action. The high from snorting is relatively slow in onset, and may last 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes

The short-term physiological effects of cocaine include constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Large amounts (several hundred milligrams or more) intensify the user's high, but may also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behaviour. These users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, paranoia, or, with repeated doses, a toxic reaction closely resembling amphetamine poisoning. Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.

Various doses of cocaine can also produce other neurological and behavioural effects such as:

  • dizziness

  • headache

  • movement problems

  • anxiety

  • insomnia

  • depression

  • hallucinations

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Q) What are the long term effects of cocaine?

A) Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Once having tried cocaine, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug. Cocaine's stimulant and addictive effects are thought to be primarily a result of its ability to inhibit the re-absorption of dopamine by nerve cells. Dopamine is released as part of the brain's reward system, and is either directly or indirectly involved in the addictive properties of every major drug of abuse.

The long-term effects of cocaine include but are not limited to:

  • Irritability
  • Mood disturbances
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Addiction

An appreciable tolerance to cocaine's high may develop, with many addicts reporting that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first experience. Some users will frequently increase their doses to intensify and prolong the euphoric effects. While tolerance to the high can occur, users can also become more sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine's anaesthetic and convulsant effects, without increasing the dose taken. This increased sensitivity may explain some deaths occurring after apparently low doses of cocaine.

Use of cocaine in a binge, during which the drug is taken repeatedly and at increasingly high doses, leads to a state of increasing irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. This may result in a full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations.

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Q) What are the medical complications of cocaine use?

A) There are enormous medical complications associated with cocaine use.

Medical consequences of cocaine abuse:

Cardiovascular effects

  • disturbances in heart rhythm
  • heart attacks

Respiratory effects

  • chest pain
  • respiratory failure

Neurological effects

  • strokes
  • seizures
  • headaches

Gastrointestinal effects

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea

Cocaine use has been linked to many types of heart disease. Cocaine has been found to trigger chaotic heart rhythms, called ventricular fibrillation; accelerate heartbeat and breathing; and increase blood pressure and body temperature. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, nausea, blurred vision, fever, muscle spasms, convulsions and coma.

Different routes of cocaine administration can produce different adverse effects. Regularly snorting cocaine, for example, can lead to; loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and an overall irritation of the nasal septum. This can lead to a chronically inflamed, runny nose. Ingested cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene, due to reduced blood flow. Persons who inject cocaine have puncture marks and "tracks," most commonly in their forearms. Intravenous cocaine users may also experience an allergic reaction, either to the drug or to some additive in street cocaine, which in some cases can result in death. Because cocaine has a tendency to decrease food intake, many chronic cocaine users lose their appetites and can experience significant weight loss and malnourishment.

Research has revealed a potentially dangerous interaction between cocaine and alcohol. Taken in combination, the two drugs are converted by the body to cocaethylene. Cocaethylene has a longer duration of action in the brain and is more toxic than either drug alone. While more research needs to be done, it is noteworthy that the mixture of cocaine and alcohol is the most common two-drug combination that results in drug-related death.

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Q) What are the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal?

A) Regular use of cocaine can lead to strong psychological dependence (addiction). Those who abruptly stop their cocaine use can experience cocaine addiction withdrawal symptoms as they readjust to functioning without the drug. The length of cocaine addiction withdrawal varies from person to person and also depends on the amount and frequency of use.

Cocaine addiction withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • agitation
  • depression
  • intense craving for the drug
  • extreme fatigue
  • anxiety
  • angry outbursts
  • lack of motivation
  • nausea/vomiting
  • shaking
  • irritability
  • muscle pain
  • disturbed sleep

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Q) What are the symptoms of a cocaine overdose?

A) The symptoms of a cocaine overdose are intense and generally short in nature. Although fairly uncommon, people do die from cocaine overdose. The exact amount of cocaine that causes an overdose varies from person to person and is dependent on a variety of factors including weight, metabolism, health etc. Cocaine is often "cut" with various adulterants. This increases the risk of overdose, since the purity of cocaine is difficult to determine. An overdose from cocaine can cause a serious increase in blood pressure, which can cause bleeding in the brain leading to a higher possibility of a stroke. A cocaine overdose can cause heart and respiratory problems resulting in death.

Symptoms of cocaine overdose may include some or all of the following:

  • Dangerous or fatal rise in body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Repeated convulsions
  • Tremors
  • Delirium
  • Death

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Q) What is the History of Cocaine?

A) Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca bush, which grows in South America. Cocaine has been used for centuries by Indians to combat the effects of hunger, hard work, and thin air. In the mid 1800s its effects were praised by Freud, among others. Until 1906, this substance was a chief ingredient of Coca-Cola and was also used as a anaesthetic. Widespread use and addiction led to government efforts against cocaine in the early 1900s. The danger associated with cocaine was ignored in the 1970s and early 1980s, and cocaine was proclaimed by many to be safe. With the accumulating medical evidence of cocaine's deleterious effects and the introduction and widespread use of cocaine, the public and government have become alarmed again about its growing use.

Can taking a hot bath triple the effects of cocaine use?

We had the following letter from the mother-in-law of a girl who died from a cocaine overdose. We can't comment as to whether or not she's correct in her assertion that a hot bath can triple the effects of cocaine use but our staff members who are ex-addicts thought it was valid and that we should publish it as a warning.

"I wish I could have found this website to have maybe helped my 21yr. old daughter-in-law. She DIED in Feb. 2007 of a fatal overdose of cocaine, also had marijuana in system....she took a hot bath after doing these drugs which compounded the problem and which raised her temperature even more, resulting in a cocaine overdose. She had her little 22 month old boy at the time in the bathtub with her, he witnessed her death, and was in the bathtub with his dead mother for 2 to 3 hrs. before they were found. Thank God he is ok. I don't think many realise that taking a hot bath after using cocaine and marijuana can cause the effects of the drugs to triple, and cause death by overdose. It's too late for my daughter-in-law, she's dead, leaving behind a 2 yr. old little boy (my grandson) who doesn't understand now where his mummy is at.....it's heartbreaking! I think it would help if you could put on your website about this factor of taking a hot bath after using a lot of cocaine and marijuana, that it triples the effect and cause of a fatal overdose. Maybe it might help someone else before it's too late, if it just helps one person, that would be great."
Joan Seatton.

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