Cocaine is one of the most powerful and addictive drugs known to man. The drug creates a tremendous amount of psychological dependence in those who use it. Oftentimes, people become addicted to cocaine after the first use. Additionally, people who use cocaine develop a tolerance to the drug over a short amount of time.
Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca plant which is found throughout South America. For thousands of years, the native people of South America would chew on the leaves of the plant to feel is powerful stimulant effects. Cocaine hydrochloride—the chemical form of cocaine—has been made in labs for well over a century. Interestingly, cocaine hydrochloride was used in cough medicines and other elixirs for medicinal uses.
Types of Cocaine
There are two main types of cocaine—powder cocaine and crack cocaine (or freebase). Cocaine hydrochloride is the powder form of cocaine. Depending on how it is made and how it is “cut” with other products, the purity of powder cocaine can differ. The whiter the cocaine powder, the more potent the drug—and more expensive. In general, the purity of cocaine sold on the street ranges from five to 40 percent.
Crack cocaine is the combination of cocaine hydrochloride and products such as ammonia or sodium bicarbonate. This mixture is cooked and takes on a rock-like appearance. Smoked via pipe, crack cocaine is usually more potent and addictive than powder cocaine. The high produced by crack cocaine is more intense than powder cocaine but shorter lived. As a result, crack cocaine users must take multiple doses in succession—and it increases the chances of overdose.
Harm of Cocaine
Cocaine produces a sense of extreme euphoria by causing the brain to release higher than normal amounts of dopamine throughout the brain. As a result, it has profound and negative effects on the body. Cocaine constricts blood vessels, dilates pupils, increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea.
Because cocaine tends to decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished. Over time, snorting cocaine will seriously damage the cartilage in your nose that separates the
nostrils; it is not unknown for heavy users to lose their cartilage and end up with just one really big nostril and a misshapen nose. However, the most serious physical risk of cocaine’s effect can be deadly. Cocaine causes your heart to speed up, in some cases resulting in cardiac arrest; and there is no correlation between how many times or how much you’ve ingested.
The Cost of Cocaine for the User
Drug addiction is often a very expensive “hobby”. As a person becomes more dependent on their substance of choice, they spend more and more money to procure the drug. This is especially true with cocaine. Cocaine is a very expensive drug to buy, with prices reaching as high as $150 per gram. The typical gram of cocaine can be broken down into 10 lines (about 25 “bumps”). On average, hardcore cocaine users consume up to 5 grams per day. At this rate, the user would spend nearly $170,000–though most spend much less. While crack cocaine is usually cheaper in regard to street value, many users need to buy bigger supplies due to the short-lived but intense high. On average, crack cocaine users spend about half of what powder cocaine users spend—although some may spend less money.
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