Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that functions as a stimulant, appetite suppressant and an anesthetic. Commonly referred to as Blow, Coke, Snow and White lady, the drug is usually available in the form of a fine white powder. However, crack cocaine looks like oily shards of crystal. Cocaine is a Schedule II substance and is illegal for recreational use. With a few exceptions, the coca plant itself is prohibited within the U.S. When snorted, cocaine causes direct damage to nasal mucosa and nasal cavity. It travels through the bloodstream, resulting in various negative health effects.
In spite of the dangers of cocaine abuse and addiction, in 2016, an estimated 1.9 million people (aged 12 or older) were reported to be its current users, including about 432,000 users of crack cocaine. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) further stated that 28,000 adolescents (aged 12 to 17) used cocaine, while 3,000 used crack.
Perils of addiction
Recurrent and prolonged use of the drug can lead to life-long dependence or addiction, along with other adverse mental, physical, personal and social consequences. A widely abused and euphoria-producing substance, cocaine affects the entire cardiovascular system and can even cause death. In fact, cocaine use is one of the leading causes of heart attacks in healthy young adults. Long-term or heavy cocaine use can lead to intense drug cravings, agitation and exhaustion, severe depression, disorientation and respiratory failure. If an individual suddenly stops the intake, he or she can experience severe drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, with the accompanying discomfort causing a relapse.
Whether snorted, ingested, smoked or injected, cocaine is psychologically addictive and dangerous. Habitual cocaine use causes the neurotransmitters in the brain to develop tolerance to the drug. The resulting malfunction in the brain’s reward center prevents such individuals from feeling happy in the absence of the drug.