Cocaine is a very highly addictive stimulant drug that produces an intense short-lived sense of euphoria. Common names for the drug include: coke, blow, Charlie and snow. It can be sold in many different forms but is usually supplied as a white powder.
Most addicts will snort the powder up the nose. Some addicts dissolve the white powder in water and then inject it. Those that snort cocaine usually divide the powder into lines on a smooth surface, such as a mirror, or a piece of glass and the drugs are then inhaled through a straw, or very often a rolled up bank note. Cocaine also comes in crystal form and this is called crack cocaine or freebase cocaine, in this form the drug is normally smoked. When freebase or crack cocaine is taken in this way, it only takes seconds for the drug to enter the bloodstream and it then travels to the brain where it acts on the central nervous system to produce a euphoric feeling. This form of the drug is particularly addictive. When cocaine is snorted, the effect is slower as the drug first passes through the bloodstream from the nose, into the liver where it is be partly broken down, and then around the body to the brain where it acts on the central nervous system.
The psychological effects of cocaine include a feeling of well being, having lots of energy and being full of confidence. The physiological effects are an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, an increase in body temperature and a loss of appetite. The euphoric effects of the drug only last a short time. A hit typically lasts about ten minutes if crack cocaine is smoked and 30 minutes if cocaine snorted through the nose. When the high has ended and the effects wear off the user then experiences negative feelings and this usually drives them to take more cocaine.
Short-term use of cocaine can lead to irresponsible or overconfident behaviour but continued frequent use can cause paranoia, anxiety and panic attacks. Long term and continued use can change the physiology of the users brain leading to personality changes. The long-term physiological effects are an increase in the likelihood of heart attack or stroke, together with an increase in the rate of seizures and respiratory problems. A loss of libido is common and in women who are pregnant taking cocaine can increase the risk of miscarriage. Snorting cocaine can permanently damage the nose and smoking it can lead to lung damage.
Because cocaine is so addictive the body quickly develops a psychological need for the drug. Very often the user will believe that he or she needs the drug just to function normally. Because of this a tolerance to the drug develops very quickly and the user needs more and more of the drug to experience the same effect. Most sufferers of cocaine addiction will need professional help to stop using the drug.
Once a user has seen a GP and a referral has been made treatment will include counseling and cognitive behavioural therapy. This involves helping the user come to terms with their habit and to try and get them to understand why they use cocaine and what affect it has on them. Coping strategies will be developed to enable the user to change their behaviour. Social support in a variety of forms is also important. Medication can also be prescribed and this will help to reduce the craving for the drug. It is common for users to also suffer from severe depression whilst they are being treated.