What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that ups your levels of alertness, attention, and energy. You may hear it called a stimulant. It’s made from the coca plant, which is native to South America. It’s illegal in the U.S. Other names for it include:

  • Coke
  • Snow
  • Rock
  • Blow
  • Crack

It comes in a few different forms. The most common is a fine, white powder. It can also be made into a solid rock crystal.

Most cocaine users snort the white powder into their nose. Some rub it onto their gums or dissolve it in water and inject it with a needle. Others heat up the rock crystal and breathe the smoke into their lungs.

How It Works

The drug sends high levels of dopamine, a natural chemical messenger in your body, into the parts of your brain that control pleasure. This buildup causes intense feelings of energy and alertness called a high.

Other short-term effects of cocaine may include:

  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, sound, and sight
  • Intense happiness
  • Anger/irritability
  • Paranoid feeling
  • Decreased appetite

People who use cocaine often may also have more serious side effects and health problems, like:

You may have strong cravings for the drug and the high it brings. But the more you use cocaine, the more your brain will adapt to it. You’ll need a stronger dose to feel the same high. This can lead to a dangerous addiction or overdose.

Stronger, more frequent doses can also cause long-term changes in your brain’s chemistry. Your body and mind begin to rely on the drug. This can make it harder for you to think, sleep, and recall things from memory. Your reaction time may be slower. And you’re at risk for more heart, stomach, and lung problems.

Treatment

Counseling and other types of therapy are the most common treatments for cocaine addiction. You may need to stay in a rehabilitation center (or rehab). Sessions with a trained therapist can help you make changes to your behavior and thought processes. Medical detox centers can help your body adjust to treatment, but you’ll probably have to pay for them out of your own pocket. Most insurers don’t cover hospitalization for withdrawal anymore. No medicines are approved to treat cocaine addiction.

Continued

The most important part of any treatment plan is that you give up the drug right away. Many people who are addicted to cocaine go through a phase called withdrawal when they first do this. Symptoms can include:

A cocaine overdose is more difficult to treat. Physical signs include:

Watch for these mental signs of overdose, too:

An overdose often leads to a stroke or heart attack. An ER doctor will test for those conditions and try to treat them first. He may also use medication to treat other complications you have.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on September 26, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach: Treating Cocaine Addiction,” “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction,” “What Are Stimulants?” “What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?” “What is Cocaine?”

Foundation for a Drug-Free World: “Effects of Cocaine.”

Center for Substance Abuse Research: “Cocaine (Powder).”

SAMHSA/CSAT Treatment Improvement Protocols: “Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment.”

Narconon: “Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use.”

UpToDate: “Cocaine use disorder in adults: “Epidemiology, pharmacology, clinical manifestations, medical consequences, and diagnosis.”

The University of Arizona Methamphetamine and Other Illicit drug Education: “Cocaine Overdose.”

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