The Facts Behind Cocaine

One of the most commonly abused drugs of the past quarter-century, cocaine has wreaked considerable devastation on countless users and those who love, care for, or depend upon them.

Cocaine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, primarily by impeding the re-absorption of dopamine, the brain chemical that has been associated with pleasure and movement. Most often abused in either powder form (which is snorted) or rock/crack form (which is smoked) cocaine provides a short-lasting euphoric “rush” that is often accompanied by a state of hyper-stimulation and increased energy.

The substance is classified as a Schedule II drug by the U.S. government, which means that it has a high potential for abuse, but some legitimate medical purposes.

Cocaine’s addictive properties are among its greatest danger, though it has also been associated with a wide range of additional damage to the body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cocaine’s negative effects can include the following:

  • Acute cardiovascular or cerebro-vascular emergencies, including heart attack or stroke
  • Constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature and blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal complications
  • Malnourishment and bowel problems
  • Irritability, anxiety, and paranoia
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis

Addiction can result from first-time use (especially for users of crack cocaine, as the inhaled smoke enters the body more quickly and produces a more intense albeit shorter-lasting effect). First-time use can also be deadly, as even one dose can lead to cardiovascular failure.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that annual number of new cocaine users has increased significantly over the past three decades. Experts estimate that about 30,000 people tried cocaine for the first time in; ten years later, the number of annual first-time users had risen to 300,000. In 2000, it is estimated that more than 360,000 people used cocaine for the first time.

According to the 2007 Monitoring the Future survey – the latest in a series of annual reports about drug behaviors and attitudes among young people in the United States, cocaine use remains at what NIDA describes as “unacceptably high levels.” About three percent of U.S. eighth graders, 5.3 percent of 10th graders, and 7.8 percent of 12th graders report having tried the drug at least once, while 0.9 percent of eighth graders, 1.3 percent of 10th graders, and 2.0 percent of 12th graders claimed to have used the drug within the 30 days that preceded their participation in the survey.

If you or someone you care about is struggling to overcome an addiction to cocaine, help may be as close as a phone call away. To speak confidentially with a counselor who can help you find the treatment program can best meet your specific needs, call 866-323-5608.