Fact Sheet on Cocaine

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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
Moraine Park Technical College
Amy Andrews
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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
Cocaine- Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the
coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming
cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a
topical anesthetic. Specifically, it is a serotonin–norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake
inhibitor, which mediates functionality of these neurotransmitters as an exogenous
catecholamine transporter ligand. Cocaine is a powerfully addictive central nervous
system stimulant that is snorted, injected, or smoked. Crack is cocaine hydrochloride
powder that has been processed to form a rock crystal that is then usually smoked.
("Cocaine-nida,") Cocaine is often sold in the form of little pellets, called rocks, or as
flakes or powder. Cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric and energetic, but also
increases body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Users risk heart attacks,
respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, abdominal pain, and nausea. In rare cases, sudden
death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly afterwards.
Prescription, OTC, common and illicit CNS Stimulants- Prescription medications
such as pain relievers, central nervous system (CNS) depressants (tranquilizers and
sedatives), and stimulants are highly beneficial treatments for a variety of health
conditions. Pain relievers enable individuals with chronic pain to lead productive lives;
tranquilizers can reduce anxiety and help patients with sleep disorders; and stimulants
help people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus their attention.
Most people who take prescription medications use them responsibly. But when
abused—that is, taken by someone other than the patient for whom the medication was
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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
prescribed, or taken in a manner or dosage other than what was prescribed—prescription
medications can produce serious adverse health effects, including addiction.
Therapeutic Uses of Prescription Stimulants- Although many prescription medications
can be abused, the following three classes are most commonly abused:

Opioids—usually prescribed to treat pain.

CNS depressants—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

Stimulants—prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. ("Nida infofactsprescription," )
Street Names for Cocaine- Coke, snow, flake, blow, toot, white lady, grid, cadillac,
nose candy, gold dust and stardust. (Hanson, Venturelli, & Fleckenstein, 2009)
Neurological (brain) Effects of Stimulant Abuse- For substances of abuse to exert their
effects, they must first get to the brain. The four most common routes of administering
psychoactive (mood-changing) substances are (1) oral consumption (i.e., swallowing), (2)
intranasal consumption (i.e., snorting), (3) inhalation into the lungs (generally by
smoking), and (4) intravenously via hypodermic syringe.
A swallowed substance goes to the stomach and on to the intestinal tract. Some
substances easily pass through the digestive tract into the bloodstream. Other substances
are broken down into their chemical components (i.e., metabolized) in the digestive
system, thereby destroying the substance.
Substances that are inhaled into the lungs adhere to the lining of the nasal passages (the
nasal mucosa) through which they enter directly into the bloodstream. Inhaled substances
are usually first changed into a gaseous form by igniting (e.g., marijuana) or volatilizing
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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
by intense heat (e.g., crack cocaine, the ice form of MA). The lungs offer a large surface
area through which the gaseous form may quickly pass directly into the bloodstream.
Injected substances obviously enter the bloodstream directly, although at a somewhat
regulated rate. In these last three routes of administration, substances enter the
bloodstream in their unmetabolized form.
Once a substance enters the bloodstream, it is transported throughout the body to various
organs and organ systems, including the brain. Substances that enter the liver may be
metabolized there. Substances that enter the kidney may be excreted. To enter the brain, a
substance's molecules must first get through its chemical protection system, which
consists mainly of the blood-brain barrier. Tight cell-wall junctions and a layer of cells
around the blood vessels keep large or electrically charged molecules from entering the
brain. However, small neutral molecules like those of cocaine and MA easily pass
through the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain. Once inside the brain, substances of
abuse begin to exert their psychoactive effects.
Physiological Effects from Stimulant Abuse- Drug abuse is the misuse of mind-altering
substances with the intention of altering consciousness. Prescription and over-the-counter
drugs can be abused in the same manner as illegal drugs and are capable of causing
equally serious physical effects. The physiological effects of drug abuse can be minor or
severe and vary according to the substance ingested. Stimulants speed respiration, heart
rate and metabolism. Common stimulant drugs include cocaine, ephedrine, piperazines
and amphetamines. Short-term stimulant abuse can cause elevated blood pressure,
tachycardia, vasoconstriction and appetite suppression, while the effects of long-term
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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
abuse include malnutrition, accelerated aging and bone loss; and increased incidence of
heart attack and stroke
Withdrawal Effects from Stimulant Abuse- Users who are withdrawing from
stimulants experience increased appetite, weight gain, the need for long periods of sleep
and extreme moodiness.
Withdrawal Effects from Cocaine- When cocaine use is stopped or when a binge ends,
a crash follows almost immediately. This crash is accompanied by a strong craving for
more cocaine. Additional symptoms include fatigue, lack of pleasure, anxiety, irritability,
sleepiness, and sometimes agitation or extreme suspicion. Cocaine withdrawal often has
no visible physical symptoms like the vomiting and shaking that accompanies the
withdrawal from heroin or alcohol.
Primary withdrawal symptoms may include:

Depressed mood

Fatigue

Generalized malaise

Vivid and unpleasant dreams

Agitation and restless behavior

Slowing of activity

Increased appetite
Health Risks of the Abuse of Cocaine- Some users of cocaine report feelings of
restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. An appreciable tolerance to the high may be
developed, and many addicts report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as
they did from their first exposure. Scientific evidence suggests that the powerful
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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
neuropsychologic reinforcing property of cocaine is responsible for an individual's
continued use, despite harmful physical and social consequences. In rare instances,
sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. However,
there is no way to determine who is prone to sudden death. High doses of cocaine and/or
prolonged use can trigger paranoia. Smoking crack cocaine can produce a particularly
aggressive paranoid behavior in users. When addicted individuals stop using cocaine,
they often become depressed. This also may lead to further cocaine use to alleviate
depression. Prolonged cocaine snorting can result in ulceration of the mucous membrane
of the nose and can damage the nasal septum enough to cause it to collapse. Cocainerelated deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory
arrest. There also is an increased risk of HIV and other diseases. Pregnant woman who
still use during pregnancy increases the baby’s chances of becoming addicted to the drug
as well. This is called a Crack or Cocaine Baby. They are born addicted to the drug and
many times have the same withdrawal symptoms as the user itself. There are also more
health risks with a child who is born with this addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of CNS Stimulant and Cocaine DependenceSigns of Cocaine use include constricted peripheral blood vessels, dilated pupils,
increased temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, hyper-alertness, lack of
fatigue/sleeplessness, panic, extremely talkative; fast speech, runny nose or bloody nose,
seizures from high doses or bad reaction, white powder seen on face or clothes, small
spoon-like items used for snorting, mirrors and razor blades used for making lines, rolled
money bills used for snorting, small bottles with screw on lids for storing and possession
of small plastic packets with white residue.
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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
Signs of CNS Addiction- During use, these drugs generally make the user feel euphoric,
super human even, as if they can accomplish anything. The talk fast, move fast and do
whatever they’re doing with a focus and speed that is out of character. Their blood
pressure, heart rate and body temperature also increase. Addiction to CNS stimulants is
apparent when the following symptoms are seen regularly, whether or not the user is
“high” on their drug of choice:

Decreased appetite and extreme weight loss

Irritability and depression

Restlessness and insomnia

Paranoia and, in extreme cases, psychosis

In those who snort their drugs, a damaged mucous membrane, regular nose bleeds
and nasal congestion are common.
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Fact Sheet on Cocaine and Other Stimulants
Resources
Hanson, G, Venturelli, P, & Fleckenstein, A. (2009). Drugs and society. Sudbury MA:
Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC.
Cocaine-nida. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/cocaine.html
Nida infofacts- prescription and over-the-counter medications. (n.d.). Retrieved from
http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/painmed.html
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