How is it used?
Cocaine is a drug people make from the leaves of the coca plant that commonly grows in South America. The drug has its roots in the medical field. Doctors still sometimes use it for medical purposes because it tightens blood vessels to reduce bleeding and has some local anesthesia (numbing) effects.
However, most people know it as a street drug that people use to get high. Some people use it by itself while others mix it with other substances, like amphetamine, heroin, or opioids, such as fentanyl.
People abuse the drug by snorting it, smoking it, rubbing it on their gums, or injecting it. An estimated 1.4 percent of adults ages 18 to 25 years old report using cocaine in the past month – the highest percentage of any age group, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.1
Some of the common street names for cocaine include:2
It is a schedule II drug. This means it has some medical value but is highly addictive.3
Is cocaine addictive?
The high from this drug doesn’t last long – about 15 to 30 minutes when snorting and 5 to 10 minutes when smoking it.2 It floods the brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine. This effect causes a high effect, but also results in feeling very low during the crash.
As a result, it can be addictive. A person craves the high they felt and starts to use more and more to try and achieve the same effects. The results can be harmful health effects. An estimated 913,000 people in the United States are affected by addiction and dependence, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.1
Is it safe?
In a word: no. A person can overdose on it if they use too much. Overdose can occur the first time it’s used or the 100th time. It is always dangerous.
It’s also common for other things to be mixed with the drug to increase its potency and sell more. You can never really know what you’re getting when it is purchased. As a result, one might think they are snorting pure cocaine when in reality they are using other drugs and chemicals that could kill them.
What are the short-term effects of cocaine?
When a person uses the drug, they experience short-term effects that may include:
- Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
- Feelings of euphoria
- Feeling extremely alert and awake
As a general rule, the more a person uses, the more bizarre and unusual their behavior becomes.2
Long-term effects of cocaine
Long-term effects of using this drug include:2
- Loss of smell
- Collapse of the nasal passages
- Increased risks for infections like pneumonia
- Severe bowel damage due to decreased blood flow if a person consumes cocaine
- Increased risks for bloodborne infections, such as hepatitis and HIV if injected
Can you overdose on cocaine?
Yes. Cocaine can cause a person’s heart to go into an unusual rhythm and cause sudden cardiac death. A person can also have a heart attack, seizure, or stroke.2 There’s no medicine to reverse the effects of an overdose immediately. Doctors have to provide supportive care in the hopes of saving the person’s life.2
The drug was involved in an estimated 505,224 of the 1.3 million drug-related emergency room visits in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.1 In 2016, an estimated ten deaths in the United States were directly related to cocaine alone.
How do i stop using cocaine?
If you are ready to stop using this drug, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). They can help provide you with resources in your area and online that can help you quit.
What is withdrawal from cocaine like?
Cocaine withdrawals won’t kill you, but they can cause unpleasant symptoms. Examples include:
- Being very tired
- Feelings of depression
- Increased appetite
- Slower than usual thinking
- Unexplained fatigue
The FDA hasn’t approved specific medications to treat cocaine addiction. However, there are a lot of strategies doctors know to help a person who struggles with cocaine abuse. Examples include cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational incentives.2 Participating in support groups and community-based groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous, can help.