What is cocaine?
Cocaine is a very addictive drug made from the leaves of the coca plant. It affects the brains chemical nerves. Cocaine users feel more energy and are more alert. There is an elevated or euphoric mood.
How is cocaine used?
Cocaine can be either a white powder that is snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack cocaine is a form of freebase cocaine that can be smoked. The effect of snorting cocaine lasts about 30 minutes. Smoking crack or injecting cocaine produces a quicker and more intense effect and lasts about 10 minutes. Cocaine is often repeatedly used in short periods called “binging”. After using cocaine repeatedly tolerance or, needing higher amounts to attain the same effect develops. There is no “safe” cocaine use.
How does cocaine affect health?
There can be short and long term effects on your health.
• Heart: Cocaine increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It constricts
the arteries that supply blood to the heart. It can also trigger an abnormal
heart rhythm. Heart attack risk increases with cocaine use.
• Lungs: Snorting cocaine damages the nose and sinuses leading to loss of
smell, nosebleeds and problems swallowing. Smoking crack cocaine irritates
the lungs and can lead to infection.
• Brain: Cocaine can block the blood supply to the brain causing loss of brain
function or strokes. Cocaine can also lead to seizures.
• Mood: Cocaine use makes people feel restless and may produce panic
attacks and paranoia.
What to expect with cocaine withdrawal:
The initial “crash” of cocaine withdrawal can happen within hours of last using it. Withdrawal symptoms may last up to several days. The most common symptom is a strong craving to use cocaine again. Mood changes are common including feeling more depressed or anxious and irritable. Many people feel very tired yet have trouble sleeping or have vivid and unpleasant dreams. Some people feel achy and chilled. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help ease symptoms for a few days.
Once you decide to quit, now what?
Congratulations! It can be a hard decision to quit. There is help and you don’t have to do it alone. Counseling has proved to be very effective in helping people quit.
Counseling services in your area: www.samhsa.gov/treatment/index.aspx
Self help groups: Cocaine Anonymous - http://www.ca.org/
For more general information or to take a self quiz about addiction: www.ncadd.org/
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/28/2013
Copyright © 08/28/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7546
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