Cocaine is a very addictive stimulant drug. Stimulants are drugs that increase the activity of the brain on the body. This means that it can make a person feel more energetic, more alert, etc. It is a fine white powder, it can also be found in crystal form as crack cocaine, a variant of cocaine. There are a few ways that people consume the drug:
1. Intranasal, also called snorting, where a person inhales cocaine powder through their nose and the substance is then absorbed in the body through the tissues in the nose.
2. Oral, where a person rubs cocaine onto their gums, and it is absorbed in the body through the tissues of the gums.
3. Intravenous, where a person dissolves cocaine in water and then injects it with a needle directly into the bloodstream.
4. Inhalation, this is done through smoking. To be able to do that, the regular cocaine powder is transformed so that it becomes 100% pure cocaine, this is called freebase cocaine (because the base of the cocaine is freed from the other components). This form of cocaine can be smoked and is absorbed very quickly by the body.
How is cocaine produced and brought in the United States?
Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant. This plant grows in South America. The process of creating cocaine consists of extracting coca from the coca leaves and then transforming that in cocaine. Here is an overview of how it is produced. The first step is soaking the coca leaves in gasoline, then taking that gasoline and filtered with acid. This way the gasoline can be removed and then ammonia or other substance added to create the cocaine base. This is then filtered through a cloth and dried. The next step is to dissolve that substance in a solvent and heat it. The excess solvents are then removed with a hydraulic press and using microwave ovens. This creates the cocaine bricks which are usually about 50 percent cocaine and then it is trafficked in that form.
Most of the cocaine comes from Colombia, but other South American countries also produce quite a lot of cocaine, such as Peru and Bolivia. According to the DEA, more than 90% of the cocaine seized going to or in the US that was analyzed in labs were from Colombia. These are then shipped, often through Central America, and Mexico and arrive in the United States by land, sea, or air.
Cocaine street name and slang terms
There are many street names and terms that refer to cocaine. Here are some of them.
- Aunt Nora
- Big C
- Big flake
- Bouncing powder
- Boy Bump
- Chicken scratch
- Cocaine blues
- Dama Blanca
- Florida snow
- Happy dust
- Happy powder
- Happy trails
- Lady caine
- Late night
- Mama coca
- Marching dust
- Marching powder
- Nose candy
- Sweet stuff
- White horse
- White lady
- White powder
There are also street names that refer to cocaine mixed with other drugs or specific kinds of cocaine. Here are just a few of them:
- Bazooka - cocaine paste
- Caviar - mix of cocaine and marijuana
- Flamethrowers - cigarettes with cocaine and heroin
- Goofball - cocaine and heroin
- P-dogs - cocaine and marijuana
- Smoking gun - cocaine and heroin
- Speedball - cocaine and heroin
A brief history of cocaine
The coca plant has been around for a very long time in South America. In the beginning, thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the natives used to chew on coca leaves and get some stimulating effect from it. But cocaine itself didn’t come onto the scene until the 1800s. In 1860, a chemist by the name of Albert Nieman extracted cocaine from coca leaves for the first time. One of the first uses of cocaine was as a painkiller. An ophthalmologist discovered that if the eye was soaked with a cocaine solution, the patients wouldn’t feel their eye and the surgery could be done with no twitching on the patient’s part. This caused a surge in popularity, but as the number of overdose deaths started mounting, its popularity decreased drastically.
Sigmund Freud, psychoanalyst, also praised cocaine as a magical substance. He used cocaine and developed a dependence to it and also encouraged others to do the same and would even prescribe it. Around the same time, in 1884, Coca-Cola was designed. In 1899, the cocaine-laced soda became available in bottles to all Americans and was incredibly popular. Four years later, cocaine was removed from the recipe.
The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act
The sale of cocaine was first restricted in the United States in 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act on coca and opium and their derivative products, which states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person required to register under the terms of this Act to produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, any of the aforesaid drugs without having registered and paid the special tax…”
This act stated that only healthcare professionals, in the course of their normal work, could distribute coca or opium products through a prescription. However, if the company or the individual registered and paid the special tax, it would technically be legal for them to distribute or use cocaine. In 1922, serious restrictions were put in focusing on the manufacturing of cocaine, limiting it to medical use only. By the end of the 50s, the popularity of cocaine in the US had decreased significantly but resurfaced from the 60s to now.
Controlled Substance Act
In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act became effective and cocaine was classified as a Schedule II drug, which means:
“(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.
(C) Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
With this act, the importation or exportation of coca leaves and its derivatives became illegal except if it is deemed necessary for medical, scientific, or legitimate reasons. And this is tightly controlled by the Attorney General. It also made it illegal for someone to possess a controlled substance unless it was acquired through a legitimate prescription. And although cocaine can be used for medical purposes, it cannot be prescribed. Possession of any amount of cocaine in the United States is therefore illegal.
Cocaine Abuse and Addiction in the United States
Cocaine abuse has been a consistent problem in the United States since its introduction. After cannabis, cocaine is the most used illegal drug in the country. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, there were 5.5 million people in the United States who used cocaine at least once in 2018.
For both the years 2014 and 2015, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, around 1.7 million adults aged between 18 and 25 years used cocaine at least once with the past year. This represents almost 5% of all young adults in the United States. Some states were more affected than others, in terms of percentage of the young adult population. Some of the states included Arizona, where almost 7% of young adults used cocaine within the past year, Oregon (6.8%) and Colorado (8.62%). Another region deeply affected by cocaine use was the Northeast region. States like Vermont (9.3%), Rhode Island and Connecticut (7.6%), Massachusetts (7.3%) and Maine (6.4%). The state with the biggest percentage was New Hampshire, where 10.5% of the young adult population used cocaine with the past year.
What Does Cocaine Look Like?
COCAINE LINES WITH MONEY BILLS
ANOTHER SET OF COCAINE LINES
Effects of Cocaine
There are many effects related to cocaine use. Chief among them is a craving for the drug which can lead to addiction. It is important to note that cravings can happen even with just the first-time use of the drug. Here is a list of some of the short term effects:
- Bizarre or erratic behavior
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Increased rate of breathing
- Intense drug craving
- Intense euphoria
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle twitches
- Tactile hallucination (bugs burrowing under the skin)
- Violent behavior
With continued cocaine abuse, several other effects come into play. Here is a list of some of the long term cocaine effects:
- Bleeding in the wall of the aorta
- Chest pain
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Chronic nosebleeds (from snorting)
- Chronic renal failure
- Chronic runny nose (from snorting)
- Collapsed lung
- Contraction of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis (from injecting)
- Coughing up blood
- Deterioration of brain structure and function
- Difficulty swallowing (from snorting)
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Hoarseness of the throat (from snorting)
- Impaired movement of GI tract contents
- Infection of the heart valve
- Infection of the liver
- Inflammation of the heart muscle
- Irregular heartbeat
- Irregular periods
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Losing one’s sense of smell (from snorting)
- Lung damage
- Mood problems
- Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
- Narrowing of blood vessels to the brain
- Nose infection (from snorting)
- Perforation of intestines or stomach
- Permanent damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain
- Respiratory infection
- Scars, called “track marks” (from injecting)
- Severe depression
- Severe headaches
- Severe tooth decay
- Sexual problems, reproductive damage, and infertility
- Sinus inflammation
- Skin lesions
- Sudden death
- Vascular problems
Cocaine overdose can happen if too large a quantity is ingested (this quantity is different for each person and each body), so overdose can happen even if a person takes a quantity that another could tolerate. Mixing cocaine with another substance can also bring about overdose depending on how the substances interact with cocaine. When a person is going through cocaine overdose, the body (including the brain) become so overstimulated that it becomes life-threatening. Therefore, most signs and symptoms of cocaine overdose are similar to the regular side effects of cocaine abuse. However, these will present themselves to a more marked degree. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of cocaine overdose:
- Chest Pain
- High body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Irregular heart rhythm
- High blood pressure
What to do in the event of a suspected cocaine overdose?
The first thing to do if an overdose is suspected is to call 911 or drive the person to the nearest hospital right away. If you call 911, the person on the other might give you advice. While waiting for professional help, the best thing to do is manage whatever symptom is present. For example, if the person experiencing very high body temperature, this can be helped with cold compresses while waiting for the paramedics. If the person is experiencing more psychological symptoms, such as psychosis, the best to do while waiting for the professionals is to contain the person so that they can’t hurt themselves or others. If you call 911, describe to them the symptoms you are experiencing or witnessing and they can inform you on how to best help yourself or the other person.
Cocaine overdose statistics in the United States
Overdose is one of the main concerns when it comes to cocaine abuse and addiction. According to the DEA’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, there was an estimated 65% increase in cocaine overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. In Florida, cocaine was the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in 2016.
This huge increase in overdoses from 2015 to 2016 is mainly due to the combining of cocaine with opioids, such as fentanyl, whether it was intentional by the user or not. There was a 62% increase of cocaine-opioid overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. One of the most dangerous opioids seen in the United States is fentanyl. This drug is extremely potent, therefore even a small amount can cause an overdose. This is especially true since the cocaine is often laced with fentanyl, unbeknownst to the user. As an example of the fentanyl problem in the United States, in Connecticut, Maine and Virginia, fentanyl was involved in more than 50% of all fatal cocaine overdoses.
Cocaine is an addictive substance. Some people can get hooked on it from the very first use. Cocaine is a stimulant that creates a high very quickly. The overstimulation created by the drug quickly fades, which can be an unpleasant feeling for some people, which will cause them to use again in order to reach the high. This is how the cycle of abuse and addiction can start. Over time, the withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine will also play a part. The person wants to experience the high and avoid the withdrawal symptoms. Another phenomenon related to continuous abuse of cocaine is the tolerance that will develop. Tolerance means that the body “has become used to the drug”. Therefore higher doses are necessary to feel the full effect of it. This can lead to dangerous doses of cocaine and can also lead to the user mixing cocaine with other drugs, both of these scenarios can become life-threatening.
It should be understood that while cocaine is addictive, not everybody who tries it once will develop a dependence. The factors that make one more likely to become addicted are not completely understood at this point. However, if a person has prior drug or alcohol problems, the likelihood of them getting hooked on cocaine goes up significantly if they ever use it. It should also be noted that there are usually underlying issues when one becomes addicted, it stands to reason that if a person were to have issues that make it difficult to cope in life (such as anxiety, depression, low self-confidence, etc.), they might be more at risk of developing an addiction. Whether or not a person becomes addicted to it, the health risks related to cocaine use are such that the drug should be avoided, even if one intends to use it just once.
How to help a loved one addicted to cocaine
Here are some steps to take if you are dealing with a loved one addicted to cocaine.
- Learn about cocaine addiction. Education is a vital step to understand what cocaine does to the person and how people struggling with addiction will react to life situations. It is also helpful to learn about the treatment options for cocaine abuse and addiction. Speaking to a professional such as one of our counselors can help you understand the treatment steps recommended for cocaine addiction and the treatments available in your area.
- Let them know in no uncertain terms that you are there to support and that they need to get help. When having a conversation concerning their cocaine problem, make sure they are sober and in a relaxed state. If the person is under the influence or is very preoccupied by other issues, the message might not get through and might be counterproductive.
- Do not enable the behavior associated with addiction. As you support your loved one, it is essential not to let this become enabling behavior. It is important to support the person, but just as important to not support the addiction. Boundaries should be set to show the person that his cocaine abuse will not be supported. This can include cutting off all financial assistance, for example. It is crucial to uphold these boundaries. The same concept applies to consequences. As you let the person know of the consequences they will face if they keep using cocaine and don't get help, the consequences have to be met. Although it may seem unkind, you are helping the person. The real enemy is the addiction.
- Persist in communicating with your loved one about their cocaine problem and getting help. If you need help in this regard, you can hire a professional interventionist. Some rehabilitation facilities will provide an interventionist to help with the process. An intervention is a specific process with steps designed to make the person realize they have a problem and need treatment.
In all of this, it is important to remember that the addict is responsible for their actions. However, a lot of the destructive behaviors of the individual are related to addiction. Who they were before their addiction is who they really are. The only true help for them is to treat their addiction.
When one is addicted to cocaine, treatment normally starts with a detox. This is the process of stopping the intake of cocaine and letting the body eliminate the cocaine and going through the withdrawal symptoms and getting the person physically and psychologically stable before undergoing rehabilitation. This is best done in a professional setting where the recovering addict can be monitored and receive help to be as comfortable and safe as possible during the withdrawal phase. Although cocaine withdrawal is not as physically hard as other drugs such as heroin or prescription drugs, the psychological symptoms are quite taxing. If these are not managed properly, the person could either relapse or cause themselves physical harm.
Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal:
- Cocaine cravings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to experience sexual arousal
- Increased appetite
- Lack of pleasure
- Mood swings
- Nightmares and/or vivid dreams
- Slowed thinking
- Suicidal thoughts
The severity of the withdrawal and length of detox will differ from person to person. Depending on the metabolism of the person, how long they have been abusing cocaine, etc. Since a lot of people who abuse cocaine also abuse other drugs, detoxing with the help of professionals can ensure the safety and wellbeing of the recovering addict, since different drugs have different withdrawal symptoms.
Once detox is complete, a rehabilitation treatment is strongly advised to handle the issues surrounding the addiction and give the person the tools necessary to handle life without drugs. Each person is different and will need different services to recover fully. The best thing to do is to get assessed by an addiction professional to figure out the best course of treatment. A rehab program should be oriented to your specific needs, for example, if you always had trouble holding a job before and are still unemployed, it would be great to have some vocational training/services along with the other therapies to ensure that you can handle this part of your life when you finish treatment.
Inpatient treatment for cocaine addiction
The recommended setting for cocaine rehabilitation is an inpatient/residential treatment. This is where you stay at the facility while undergoing treatment. These facilities often offer a wide variety of services (these services differ greatly from one facility to the next, so contact them directly to get the information). An inpatient treatment provides 24/7 supervision and care from professionals in a setting built for recovery. The main advantage of an inpatient program vs an outpatient program is that the recovering addict is taken out of his environment, away from any day-to-day triggers, to focus solely on his recovery and sobriety. This can make a huge difference in terms of preventing relapse while undergoing treatment. When choosing a residential, one should pay close attention to the services offered to make sure that they are tailored to one’s needs.
Following treatment, whether one attends a long-term or short-term rehab, it is wise to look into aftercare services, to make sure the transition back into normal life goes smoothly. Some rehab facilities will provide their own aftercare support once the person graduates from the program. If not, one should look into aftercare services in their area.
Cocaine Abuse and Addiction Statistics
Cocaine abuse can start at any age. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cocaine abuse is most prevalent in people aged 18 to 25 years old. While 2% of those surveyed that are 12 years old or older reported using cocaine in the past year, almost 6% of those aged 18-25 years old reported using cocaine. This represents around 2 million young adults. These numbers have been pretty stable for the last few years, which is problematic in itself.
According to this same survey, over 850,000 people were new users of cocaine in 2018. This represents almost 2,500 new people trying cocaine for the first time every day. And although that number is less than the year before (which was over 1 million), the upward trend seen since 2013 (a little over 600,000) is quite alarming.
Over 975,000 people were struggling with a cocaine use disorder within the past year. Of these, over 750,000 of them were aged 26 years old or older. This shows how addiction can happen over time. Per the statistics above, cocaine use is more prevalent in 18 to 25 years old’s, but the vast majority of those with an actual problem with cocaine are over 26 years old.
Per this report, around 400,000 people received treatment for their addiction (excluding alcohol addiction). Of those, almost 20% had a cocaine abuse disorder and were treated for it. Seeing as that represents a little over 75,000 people and that close to a million people reported having a cocaine addiction problem, there is a lot of work to be done with regards to treatment and prevention.
Definitions of common terms related to cocaine
|Binge and crash||a cycle where the person uses high doses of a stimulant (such as cocaine) to make the high last as long as possible, this is the binge part. Following this, the person crashes and will feel depressed, anxious, exhausted and with intense cravings for the drug.|
|Cocaine overdose||an amount of cocaine (different for each person) that causes an overstimulation of the brain and body which can lead to severe health problems and death. Overdose can also happen through interaction with another substance.|
|Cocaine use disorder||cocaine dependence or addiction, a psychological desire to use cocaine on a regular basis.|
|Comedown||this is a phase of decreased energy and mood deterioration once the cocaine, or any other stimulant, is eliminated from the body. This is part of the withdrawal process. It is also called crashing.|
|Crack cocaine||a free base form of cocaine that can be smoke. It is known as crack or rock. It is the most potent form of cocaine.|
|Freebase||cocaine salt (powder) that is heated or boiled in order to extract the base. The base can be smoked or its fumes inhaled.|
|Speedball||a mixture of cocaine and heroin usually injected.|
|Stimulant||a substance that increases the nervous and physiological activity in the brain and/or body.|