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:
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:
People who use cocaine often may also have more serious side effects and health problems, like:
- Convulsions and seizures
- Heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
- Mood problems
- Sexual trouble
- Lung damage
- HIV or hepatitis if you inject it
- Bowel decay if you swallow it
- Loss of smell, nosebleeds, runny nose, and trouble swallowing, if you snort it
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.
Counseling and other types of therapy are the most common treatments for cocaine addiction. You may need to stay in a rehabilitation center (also known as rehab). Sessions with a trained therapist can help you make changes to your behaviors and thought processes. No medicines are approved to treat cocaine addiction. Learn more about treatment for cocaine addiction.
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:
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased hunger
- Cravings for the drug
- Chills, nerve pain, muscle aches
A cocaine overdose is more difficult to treat. Physical signs include:
- Increased sweating, body temperature, or heart rate
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion, seizures, tremors
Watch for these mental signs of overdose, too: