Understanding Cocaine and Crack
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. Cocaine
generally is sold as a fine, white, crystalline powder that came from the dried leaves
of the coca plant. Cocaine is also known as "coke," "C," "snow," "flake," or "blow."
Street dealers usually dilute it with inert substances (such as cornstarch, talcum
powder or sugar), with active drugs (such as procaine—a chemically related local anesthetic),
or with amphetamines. The powdered form can be snorted into the nose, or dissolved
in water and then injected into a vein.
"Crack" is the street name given to the drug's freebase form. This is processed to
form a rock crystal that can be heated in a pipe and the vapors smoked. Crack cocaine
resembles white or tan pellets. The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound heard
when the mixture is smoked. Because crack is smoked, the user experiences a high in
less than 10 seconds. The immediate effects and crack's low cost have made it popular.
Effects of cocaine
Cocaine use ranges from once in a while to nonstop. There is no safe way to use the
drug—any way it's taken can lead to a heart attack or stroke that could be fatal.
Cocaine is a stimulant. Its effects appear almost immediately after a single dose
and disappear within a few minutes to less than an hour. The drug usually makes the
user feel happy, excited, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert. It also can temporarily
decrease the need for food and sleep. The short-term effects also include increased
heart rate and blood pressure, constricted blood vessels, increased temperature, and
Cocaine also may cause bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior.
The health consequences of long-term cocaine abuse include disturbances in heart rhythm,
heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, convulsions, and coma. Cocaine
abusers are at increased risk for contracting HIV or AIDS. This is not only due to
the sharing of contaminated needles and other drug paraphernalia, but also as a result
of engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
Treatments for abusers
If you are addicted to cocaine, see your healthcare provider for help in breaking
your habit. Cocaine abuse and addiction is a complex problem involving changes in
the brain as well as social, familial, and environmental factors.