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 is where a person dissolves cocaine in water and injects it with a needle directly into the bloodstream.
4. Inhalation 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.
TIPS: If you feel you're going to use
- Call your sponsor or a friend who doesn’t use it and understands your situation.
- Extrovert your attention. Walking and spending time outside can be very therapeutic.
- Find a hobby or activity to take your mind off of using. (i.e., art, music, cooking, gardening)
- Find a purpose in your life and pursue it. (i.e., school, career, volunteering)
- Recognize the people in your environment who affect you emotionally. They could be one of the reasons for your emotional problems.
- Make sure to eat healthy foods. A deficiency in vitamins and minerals can create a drop in mental and physical energy.
TIPS: If you want to help someone
- Don’t enable the addict. This includes not giving him any money, not paying their rent, etc.
- Encourage the person to seek help. This can be done by finding a treatment or a form of support.
- Be aware of signs of overdose. If you see one of your friends blacking out, or showing other severe side effects, get help immediately.
- Support the person while they look for rehab since the process can be overwhelming.
- Don’t wait for rock bottom; it may be too late.
How is cocaine produced and brought to 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 into 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 filtering with acid. This way, the gasoline can be removed and ammonia or other substances 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 using a hydraulic press and 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 analyzed in labs were from Colombia. These are 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
Street names also refer to cocaine mixed with other drugs or specific kinds of cocaine. Here are just a few of them:
- Bazooka – cocaine paste
- Caviar – a 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 in South America for a very long time. 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 named 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 were 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, a psychoanalyst, also praised cocaine as a magical substance. He used cocaine, developed a dependence on it, and encouraged others to do the same and even prescribe it. Around the same time, in 1884, Coca-Cola was designed. In 1899, 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 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 everyday 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 to distribute or use cocaine. In 1922, severe restrictions were put on 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) Drug or other substance abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
With this act, the importation or exportation of coca leaves and their derivatives became illegal except if 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 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, 5.5 million people in the United States 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 in 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 the percentage of the young adult population. Some 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 in the past year.
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 just during 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 goes through a cocaine overdose, the body (including the brain) becomes 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. For example, if the person experiences a 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 the symptoms you are experiencing or witnessing to them, and they can inform you how to best help yourself or the other person.
Cocaine overdose statistics in the United States
Overdose is one of the main concerns regarding 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 combining cocaine with opioids, such as fentanyl, whether it was intentional by the user or not. There was a 62% increase in cocaine-opioid overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. One of the most dangerous opioids seen in the United States is fentanyl. This drug is highly potent. Therefore, even a tiny amount can cause an overdose. This is especially true since 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 it again 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 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 which 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 entirely understood. However, if a person has prior drug or alcohol problems, the likelihood of them getting hooked on cocaine increases 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 when dealing with a loved one addicted to cocaine.
- Learn about cocaine addiction. Education is vital to understanding 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 available treatments in your area.
- Let them know in no uncertain terms that you are there to support them and that they need to get help. When having a conversation about their cocaine problem, ensure they are sober and relaxed. If the person is under the influence or is preoccupied with 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 vital 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 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 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 cocaine rehab.
In all of this, it is essential to remember that the addict is responsible for their actions. However, many of the individual’s destructive behaviors are related to addiction. Who they were before their addiction is who they are. The only accurate help for them is to treat their addiction.
When one is addicted to cocaine, treatment usually starts with a detox. This is the process of stopping the intake of cocaine, 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 relapse or cause 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 person’s metabolism, how long they have been abusing cocaine, etc. Since many people who abuse cocaine also abuse other drugs, detoxing with the help of professionals can ensure the safety and well-being of the recovering addict since different drugs have different withdrawal symptoms.
Once detox is complete, cocaine rehab is strongly advised to handle the addiction’s issues 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 get assessed by an addiction professional to determine the best treatment course. A rehab program should be oriented to your specific needs; for example, if you have 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 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 significantly from one facility to the next, so contact them directly to get the information). Inpatient treatment provides 24/7 supervision and care from professionals in a setting built for recovery. The main advantage of inpatient and outpatient programs 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 preventing relapse while undergoing treatment. When choosing a residential, one should pay close attention to the services offered to ensure 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 ensure the transition back into normal life goes smoothly. Some rehab facilities will provide their aftercare support once the person graduates from the program. If not, one should look into aftercare services in their area.
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 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 smoked. 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.|