- Cocaine raises body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Even one use causes heart palpitations or cardiac arrest.
- Street dealers generally dilute cocaine with such inert substances as cornstarch, talcum powder, and/or sugar, or with such active drugs as procaine (a chemically-related local anesthetic) or with such other stimulants as amphetamines.
- 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.
- Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest. An added danger of cocaine use is when cocaine and alcohol are consumed at the same time.
Cocaine Side Effects
Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca bush, which grows in South America. Widespread use and addiction led to government efforts against cocaine in the early 1900s. The danger associated with cocaine was ignored in the 1970s and early 1980s, and cocaine was proclaimed by many to be safe. With the accumulating medical evidence of cocaine's deleterious effects and the introduction and widespread use of cocaine, the public and government have become alarmed again about its growing use. To many Americans, especially health care and social workers who deal with cocaine users and have witnessed the personal and societal devastation it produces, cocaine addiction is, by far, the most serious drug problem in the United States.
Cocaine side effects include but are not limited to:
- Changes in blood pressure
- Heart rates
- Breathing rates
- Loss of appetite leading to malnutrition and weight loss
- Cold sweats
- Swelling and bleeding of mucous membranes
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Damage to nasal cavities
- Damage to lungs
- Possible heart attacks, strokes, or convulsions
Even though the public is often regaled with highly publicized accounts of deaths from cocaine, many still mistakenly believe the drug, especially when sniffed, to be nonaddictive and not as harmful as other illicit drugs. Cocaine's immediate physical effects include raised breathing rate, raised blood pressure and body temperature, and dilated pupils.
By causing the coronary
arteries to constrict, blood pressure rises and the blood supply to the heart
diminishes. This can cause heart attacks or convulsions within an hour after
use. Chronic users and those with hypertension, epilepsy, and cardiovascular
disease are at particular risk. Studies show that even those with no previous
heart problems risk cardiac complications from cocaine. Increased use may sensitize
the brain to the drug's effects so that less of the substance is needed to induce
a seizure. Those who inject the drug are at high risk for AIDS and hepatitis
when they share needles. Allergic reactions to cocaine or other substances mixed
in with the drug may also occur.