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.
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
- 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
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 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
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