What is Cocaine


Cocaine is a bitter, addictive pain blocker that is extracted from the leaves of Erythroxylon coca, also known as the coca scrub, a plant that comes from the Andean highlands in South America. Cocaine is the most powerful stimulant of natural origin. The name of "cocaine" came from the plant "coca". When Coca-Cola first came out it contained nine milligrams of cocaine per glass - in 1903 it was removed, but the drink still has coca flavouring.

William S. Halstead (1852-1922), an American surgeon, injected cocaine into nerve trunks and demonstrated its numbing effect. It soon became used as an anesthetic agent. In 1898 August Bier, a German surgeon used cocaine as a spinal anesthetic. Not long afterwards the medical profession became aware of the addictive nature of cocaine and safer anesthetics were developed. Cocaine in its basic form stopped being used clinically as a pain blocker.


Today, cocaine is commonly used as a recreational drug

Recreational cocaine, often termed illicit cocaine, and informally known as "powder, snow, ski, soft, blow, slopes, coca, and nose candy", is presented as a white crystalline powder or as an off-white chunky substance. In powder form it is usually cocaine hydrochloride (C17H21NO4), which is then diluted with other substances, such as local anesthetic (lidocaine), sugars (lactose), inositol, and mannitol. By adulterating the cocaine in this way the seller can make more profits.

Cocaine can be:

  • Snorted - inhaled through the nose. It enters the bloodstream via the nasal tissues.
  • Injected - where it is released directly into the bloodstream.
  • Smoking - cocaine is inhaled as vapour or smoke into the lungs, where it rapidly enters the bloodstream.

 Crack is the street name for a type of cocaine that has had the hydrochloride removed, making it possible to smoke. When the mixture is heated it makes a crackling sound, hence the name. It is processed with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or ammonia and water, and heated to remove the hydrochloride. The crack smoker receives large doses of cocaine - the effect is virtually immediate, as with injected cocaine. The extremely intense feelings derived from smoking crack are short-lived.

Overdosing on cocaine can lead to seizures, and life-threatening heart failure, cerebral hemorrhage, stroke and respiratory failure. There is no specific medication for cocaine overdose. Some studies have shown that those who inject or smoke cocaine have a greater risk of complications than individuals who snort it. Smokers will typically become compulsive cocaine users more rapidly than those who snort it.

Smoking cocaine increases the risk of developing respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and lung trauma (including bleeding).

Colombia is the world's largest producer of coca (plant) - however, its government's anti-drugs policy has succeeded in bringing this down significantly. Peru is the second largest producer, followed by Bolivia. The USA is by far the world's largest consumer of cocaine. Many experts say that the war on illicit drugs, such as cocaine, will only succeed if authorities combat demand, and not just the supply. (Source: United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime - UNODC)

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"I had to use just to feel okay. Wherever I went anywhere I had to first get high."


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