Cocaine / Crack
Cocaine is a stimulant drug. Stimulants make people feel more alert and energetic. Cocaine can also make people feel euphoric, or “high.” Pure cocaine was first isolated from the leaves of the coca bush in 1860. As cocaine use increased, people began to discover its dangers. Cheaper “crack” cocaine became available in the 1980s.
Canada has laws restricting the importation, manufacture, sale and possession of cocaine.
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.
Cocaine is often used with other drugs, especially alcohol and marijuana. Cocaine and heroin, mixed and dissolved for injection, is called a “speedball.”
Effects of Use:
- Increase heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
- Heightened senses (sound, touch, sight and sexuality)
- Reduced Hunger and need for sleep
- Increase nervousness
What are the long-term effects of taking cocaine?
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 behavior problems. For example:
- Snorting cocaine can cause sinus infections and loss of smell. It can damage tissues in the nose and cause holes in the bony separation between the nostrils inside the nose.
- Smoking cocaine can damage the lungs and cause “crack lung.” Symptoms include severe chest pains, breathing problems and fever. Crack lung can be fatal.
- Injection can cause infections from used needles or impurities in the drug. Sharing needles can also cause hepatitis or HIV infection.
- Cocaine use in pregnancy may increase risk of miscarriage and premature delivery. It also increases the chance that the baby will be born underweight. Because women who use cocaine during pregnancy often also use alcohol, nicotine and other drugs, we do not fully know the extent of the effects of cocaine use on the baby.
- Cocaine use while breastfeeding transmits cocaine to the nursing child. This exposes the baby to all the effects and risks of cocaine use.
- Cocaine use is linked with risk-taking and violent behaviors. It is also linked to poor concentration and judgment, increasing risk of injury and sexually transmitted disease.
- Chronic use can cause severe psychiatric symptoms, including psychosis, anxiety, depression and paranoia.
Chronic use can also cause weight loss, malnutrition, poor health, sexual problems, infertility and loss of social and financial supports.