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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Cocaine Abuse
      Category : Health Centers > Addiction and Substance Abuse

Cocaine Abuse

Alternate Names : Cocaine Addiction

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Cocaine is a strongly addictive stimulant drug that comes from the leaves of the coca plant. Some forms of cocaine are used in medicines, such as local anesthetics for eye, ear, and throat surgery. Cocaine is usually sold on the street as a fine white powder. It is generally either sniffed into the nose or injected by needle into a vein. When cocaine is boiled with sodium bicarbonate, it is converted into a freebase form called crack cocaine. This can then be smoked and results in a brief, intense high. Crack is relatively cheap and extremely addictive.

What is going on in the body?

A person can introduce cocaine into the body through these routes:

  • absorption through the skin after it is rubbed on mucous tissues
  • inhaled from smoking, which includes crack
  • injected into the vein, which is called mainlining
  • intranasally, which means snorting the cocaine through the nose
  • orally, which is called chewing
  • After it is introduced into the body, cocaine passes readily into the brain. In the brain, it causes a buildup of dopamine by blocking the normal recycling process. These high levels of dopamine continuously stimulate nerve cells, causing the euphoria, or high.

    The effects of cocaine can be felt within seconds. Cocaine provides a dramatic high that lasts 3 to 5 minutes with crack cocaine. The high lasts for up to 30 to 60 minutes when cocaine is snorted or injected. Afterward, the user feels an intense craving for the drug.

    Dependency can develop in less than 2 weeks. Some research indicates that a psychological dependency may develop after a single dose of high-potency cocaine. As the person develops a tolerance to cocaine, higher and higher doses are needed to produce the same level of euphoria.

    What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    Cocaine abuse is more likely if family members or friends abuse drugs or alcohol.


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    Cocaine Abuse: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 07/06/01

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