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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

Cocaine Use and Its Effects

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Cocaine -- a high-priced way of getting high -- has a mystique. Called "the caviar of street drugs," Cocaine is seen as the status-heavy drug of celebrities, fashion models, and Wall Street traders. Movies like "Blow" and books like Killing Pablo sensationalize the business and use of cocaine.

The reality of cocaine hits after the high. Cocaine has powerful negative effects on the heart, brain, and emotions. Many cocaine users fall prey to addiction, with long-term and life threatening consequences. Even occasional users run the risk of sudden death with cocaine use. Read on for the not-so-glamorous truth about cocaine use and its effects.

Coca, Cocaine, and Crack

Cocaine is a purified extract from the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca bush. This plant grows in the Andes region of South America. Different chemical processes produce the two main forms of cocaine:

  • Powdered cocaine -- commonly known on the street as "coke" or "blow" -- dissolves in water. Users can snort or inject powdered cocaine.
  • Crack cocaine -- commonly known on the street as "crack" or "rock" -- is made by a chemical process that leaves it in its "freebase" form, which can be smoked.

About 14% of U.S. adults have tried cocaine. One in 40 adults has used it in the past year. Young men aged 18 to 25 are the biggest cocaine users, with 8% using it in the previous 12 months.

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