Cocaine

Cocaine belongs to a group of drugs known as "psychostimulants". These drugs speed up the messages to the central nervous system. Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca bush, which is native to South America. The coca leaf extract is then processed to create cocaine hydrochloride, freebase and crack. The leaves of the coca bush have long been chewed and brewed into tea by indigenous people in South America for stimulant and appetite suppressant properties.

What does cocaine look like?

The most common from of cocaine is cocaine hydrochloride. This is a white, crystalline powder with a bitter, numbing taste. Cocaine hydrochloride can be further processed to produce cocaine base, known as "freebase" and "crack". Freebase is a white powder, while crack generally comes in the form of crystals.

How is it used?

Cocaine hydrochloride is most commonly ‘snorted' (sniffed through the nose). It can also be injected. Some people rub it into their gums, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Others add it to a drink or food. Freebase and crack are usually smoked.

Immediate effects

The effects of cocaine can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on its purity and how the cocaine is taken and the metabolism of the person using it. Immediate effects that may be experienced include:

  • Physiological arousal, including increased body temperature and heart rate
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Exhilaration
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased talkativeness or quiet contemplation and rapture
  • Feelings of great physical strength and mental capacity
  • Increased libido and elevated sexual arousal
  • Feelings of well-being
  • Anxiety, agitation, panic and paranoia
  • Unpredictable violent/aggressive behaviour

Withdrawal

If a person who is dependent on cocaine suddenly stops using it, or significantly cuts down the amount they are using, they can experience withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms can include:

  • Agitation, depression and anxiety
  • Feelings of intense hunger
  • Intense craving for cocaine
  • Insomnia or prolonged, but disturbed, sleep
  • Extreme fatigue and exhaustion

Cravings for the drug may surface months or years after cocaine use has stopped.

Treatment

Treatment options include counselling, group therapy, withdrawal (detoxification) and medication (pharmacotherapy). Residential and supervised/home withdrawal programs are available. Treatment is more effective if tailored to suit a person's circumstances and usually involves a combination of methods.

Source of information: DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation

Cocaine information page by the DrugInfo Clearinghouse

DrugInfo Clearinghouse is a service provided by the Australian Drug Foundation. It functions as a drug prevention network providing information about alcohol, other drugs, and drug prevention. Their information page about cocaine details it's effects, withdrawal and treatment.

http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/drug-facts/cocaine

Information page about cocaine by DanceSafe

DanceSafe is a US based nonprofit, harm reduction organisation promoting health and safety within the rave and nightclub community. A link to their information page about cocaine contains some information about health risks.

http://www.dancesafe.org/cocaine/

It may be difficult to know what to do if you are worried that someone is using cocaine. Helping someone who is not ready to change their behaviour may be challenging, particularly when the decision for them to get help is ultimately theirs.

If you approach the person you are concerned about there are several things you may want to consider before doing so.

Be informed - Gather information about the drug and its effects so you can see the signs that someone has been using cocaine. It will also help if the person you are trying to assist knows that you understand the effects of the drug and what they might be experiencing.

Discuss cocaine use openly - Try and ascertain if the person has a pyhsical addicition to cocaine or is using it on a recreational basis. Try not to discuss your concerns whilst the person is affected by the drug or is ‘coming down'.

Let the person you are concerned about know that you are open to listening to them without being judgmental. 

Speak to a counsellor yourself first - Sometimes it is sensible to seek help and advice yourself if someone's drug-related behaviour due to a drug problem is impacting on your life.

Reference: Reach Out! website

DanceSafe

DanceSafe is a US based nonprofit, harm reduction organisation promoting health and safety within the rave and nightclub community.

http://www.dancesafe.org/

DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation

DrugInfo Clearinghouse is a service provided by the Australian Drug Foundation. It functions as a drug prevention network providing information about alcohol, other drugs, and drug prevention.

http://druginfo.adf.org.au/

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC)

NDARC conducts research and related activities that increases the effectiveness of Australian and international treatment and intervention responses to alcohol and other drug related harm.

http://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/

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