blow, C, coke, crack, flake, freebase, rock, snow
Pure cocaine was first isolated from the leaves of the coca bush in 1860. Researchers soon discovered that cocaine numbs whatever tissues it touches, leading to its use as a local anesthetic. Today, we mostly use synthetic anesthetics, rather than cocaine.
In the 1880s, psychiatrist Sigmund Freud wrote scientific papers that praised cocaine as a treatment for many ailments, including depression and alcohol and opioid addiction. After this, cocaine became widely and legally available in patent medicines and soft drinks.
As cocaine use increased, people began to discover its dangers. In 1911, Canada passed laws restricting the importation, manufacture, sale and possession of cocaine. The use of cocaine declined until the 1970s, when it became known for its high cost, and for the rich and glamorous people who used it. Cheaper “crack” cocaine became available in the 1980s.
Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the Erythroxylum (coca) bush, which grows on the slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. For at least 4,500 years, people in Peru and Bolivia have chewed coca leaves to lessen hunger and fatigue. Today, most of the world’s supply of coca is grown and refined into cocaine in Colombia. Criminal networks control the lucrative cocaine trade.
Cocaine hydrochloride—the form in which cocaine is snorted or injected—is a white crystalline powder. It is sometimes “cut,” or mixed, with things that look like it, such as cornstarch or talcum powder, or with other drugs, such as local anesthetics or amphetamines.
The base form of cocaine can be chemically processed to produce forms of cocaine that can be smoked. These forms, known as “freebase” and “crack,” look like crystals or rocks.
A 2009 survey of Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 reported that 2.6 per cent had used cocaine and 1.1 per cent had used crack at least once in the past year.
A 2007 survey of Ontario adults reported that:
How cocaine makes you feel depends on:
Cocaine makes people feel energetic, talkative, alert and euphoric. They feel more aware of their senses: sound, touch, sight and sexuality seem heightened. Hunger and the need for sleep are reduced. Although cocaine is a stimulant, some people find it calming, and feel increased self-control, confidence and ease with others. Other people may feel nervous and agitated, and can’t relax.
Taking high doses of cocaine for a long time can lead to:
With regular use, people may become tolerant to the euphoric effects of cocaine. This means they need to take more and more of the drug to get the same desired effect.
At the same time, people who use the drug regularly may also become more sensitive to its negative effects, such as anxiety, psychosis (hallucinations, loss of contact with reality) and seizures.
Cocaine also makes the heart beat faster, and raises blood pressure and body temperature.
Intranasal use, or “snorting,” takes effect within a few minutes, and lasts about 15 to 30 minutes.
When the cocaine high fades, the person may begin to feel anxious and depressed, and have intense craving for more of the drug. Some people stay high by “bingeing,” or continually using the drug, for hours or days.
It can be.
Not everyone who uses cocaine becomes addicted, but if they do, it can be one of the hardest drug habits to break.
People who become addicted to cocaine lose control over their use of the drug. They feel a strong need for cocaine, even when they know it causes them medical, psychological and social problems. Getting and taking cocaine can become the most important thing in their lives.
Smoking crack, with its rapid, intense and short-lived effects, is the most addictive. However, any method of taking cocaine can lead to addiction. The amount of cocaine used, and how often people use the drug, has an effect on whether people get addicted.
Cocaine causes people to “crash” when they stop using it. When they crash, their mood swings rapidly from feeling high to feeling distressed. This brings powerful cravings for more of the drug. Bingeing to stay high leads quickly to addiction.
Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can include exhaustion, extended and restless sleep or sleeplessness, hunger, irritability, depression, suicidal thoughts and intense cravings for more of the drug. The memory of cocaine euphoria is powerful, and brings a strong risk of relapse to drug use.
While many people use cocaine on occasion without harm, the drug can be very dangerous, whether it’s used once or often.
Cocaine increases the same chemicals in the brain that make people feel good when they eat, drink or have sex. Regular cocaine use can cause lasting changes in this “reward system” of the brain, which may lead to addiction. Craving and psychiatric symptoms may continue even after drug use stops.
Regular long-term use of cocaine is associated with many serious health and behaviour problems. For example:
Copyright © 2003, 2010 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
With your support, CAMH can fuel more life-saving mental health research and transform care for those living with mental illness.
Keep your finger on our pulse – latest CAMH news, discoveries and ways to get involved delivered to your inbox.
Please select a newsletter
Please complete the following:
We look forward to keeping you informed, inspired and involved in all things CAMH.
Before the new year, help us create hope for those living with mental illness.