Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the Erythroxylon Coca bush found originally in South America. As well as its stimulant effect, it also acts as a local anaesthetic lasting up to 20-30 minutes.

Cocaine hydrochloride generally comes in the form of white crystalline powder with a numbing taste. If the drug is to be snorted, it is chopped with a razor blade on a smooth surface, and then drawn up the nose with a tube or straw. The drug enters the blood stream via the nasal membrane. As cocaine hydrochloride is water-soluble, it can also be injected. It can be injected on its own or mixed with other drugs. When mixed this way with heroin, it is called a “speedball”, and gives the user a sense of euphoria greatly surpassing that achieved by each drug taken alone. This combination is know medically as a “Brompton Cocktail” and is given to terminally ill patient suffering extreme pain.

Freebase cocaine is the most potent form, and is achieved by mixing cocaine hydrochloride with solvents and heating them. This separates the cocaine alkaloid from the hydrochloride salts and adulterants. The resulting substance is smoked through a water pipe or can be smoked off foil and the fumes inhaled.

The emergence of crack in the USA has given rise to much panic in the press. Crack is a cheap form of freebase cocaine achieved by treating the cocaine hydrochloride with household baking soda. When the resulting nuggets of freebase cocaine are crushed up and smoked, the residue of soda crackles as it is burnt off, so giving this form its name.



Once the drug is snorted, the user is likely to experience a sense of exhilaration within 2-3 minutes which tapers off after 30-40 minutes. Users are likely to feel a sense of well-being and increased sexual, mental and physical potency, reduced appetite and fatigue. The experience is said by regular users to be smoother than that of amphetamines, particularly when the dose is repeated every half hour or so to maintain the effect.

As the dose increases, users are likely to start feeling anxious, irritable and restless. On particularly high doses, users may reach a point of hyper-sensitivity and may experience the sensation of tingling all over the skin surface. Noises and lights can become sharp and uncomfortable as the user becomes over-sensitised.

If the cocaine hydrochloride is injected, some users describe the sensation as similar to a sexual orgasm, as the drug hits the heart and rapidly increases the blood pressure.

Recent research in the USA has examined the-cocaine experience and found that regular users were unable to tell the difference between cocaine taken intranasally and the same quantity of synthetic local anaesthetic lidocaine. They suggested that an overwhelming mythology exists surrounding cocaine.



Long term users are likely to experience rapid mood swings, disrupted sleep and eating patterns with possible malnutrition and suppressed appetite. Heavy use can give rise to bouts of paranoia, confusion and hyper-sensitivity. The chances of damaging the heart and arteries are increased due to the rapid change in blood pressure. Also, cocaine has been found to lower the threshold for seizures, such that a prolonged and heavy session of use could result in convulsions.

Much as with amphetamines, tolerance and withdrawal have not been attributed to the use of cocaine, but recent studies are suggesting a withdrawal syndrome involving sleep disorders, delirium, nausea, vomiting, chest pains and tremors.


[See also Drug profile Crack]



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