Cocaine Term Paper

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POTENTIAL ORGANIC DAMAGE: YES (Conflict of opinion among experts)

Cocaine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that heightens alertness, inhibits appetite and the need for sleep, and provides intense feelings of pleasure. It is prepared from the leaf of the Erythroxylon coca bush, which grows primarily in Peru and Bolivia.

Pure cocaine was first extracted and identified by a German chemist, Albert Neimann and was introduced as a tonic/elixir in patent medicines to treat a wide variety of real or imagined illnesses. Later it was used as a local anesthetic for eye, ear, and throat surgery and continues today to have limited use in surgery. Currently, it has no other clinical use having been largely replaced by local anesthetics such as lidocaine.

Cocaine is generally sold on the street as hydrochloride salt – a fine, white crystalline powder known as coke, C, snow, flake, or blow. Street dealers dilute it with inert (non-psychoactive) but similar looking substances such as cornstarch, talcum powder, and sugar or with active drugs such as procaine and benzocaine or other central nervous system stimulants such as amphetamines. Illicit cocaine has actually become purer over the years and in 1988 its purity averaged about 75%.

The effects of any drug depend on several factors:

 The amount taken

 The user’s past drug experience

 The manner in which the drug is taken

 The circumstances under which the drug is taken (the place, the user’s psychological and emotional stability, the presence of other people, the use of other drugs or alcohol at the same time)

Cocaine’s short term effects appear soon after a single dose and disappear

within a few minutes or hours. Taken in small amounts, cocaine usually

makes the user feel energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the

sensations of sight, sound and touch. Some people find that the drug helps

them perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly while

others experience just the opposite effect.

Large amounts may lead to bizarre, erratic and violent behavior. The user

may experience tremors, muscle twitches, paranoia or with repeated doses,

a toxic reaction resembling amphetamine poisoning.

Physical symptoms may include chest pain, nausea, blurred vision, fever,

muscle spasms, convulsions, and coma. Death can occur from convulsions,

heart failure, or the depression of vital brain centers controlling breathing.

With repeated use over time, a user experiences the long term effects of the

drug such as restlessness, extreme excitability, insomnia, and paranoia and

eventually hallucinations and delusions. These conditions disappear rapidly

in most cases after cocaine use is ended. Other effects of a heavy user may

be mood swings, loss of interest in sex and weight loss.

Experiments with animals suggest that cocaine is perhaps the most powerful drug of all

in producing psychological dependence. Rats and monkeys made dependent on cocaine

will always strive hard to get more. Psychological dependence exists when a drug is so

central to a person’s thoughts, emotions, and activities that it becomes a craving or

compulsion. A user will suffer severe depression if the drug is unavailable, which lifts

only when they take it again.

In the 1960’s, cocaine use was largely limited to the wealthy because it was at that time

quite expensive. Today, people from all walks of life use cocaine. Young single people

are the most frequent users, with male users outnumbering female users two to one.

There are no connections between cocaine use and education, occupation or social

economic status.

Most people who use cocaine use it only occasionally. Even though cocaine costs less

today and is generally of higher quality than in the past, fewer that 10% of those who

ever try the drug use it once a week or more.



Addiction Research Foundation (Internet)

New Standard Encyclopedia

Word Count: 642

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