The Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

One of the main effects of cocaine is that it hijacks the brain, helping to boost production of the "happy" chemical dopamine which controls the brain's pleasure centres. As a powerful stimulant it can produce a sense of well being, confidence and alertness and if taken before sex it can lead to a prolonged orgasm.

But the rush, known as the "Superman Syndrome", doesn't last for long. Users feel they can take on the world for about 30 minutes. Then comes the "downer" which leaves the user feeling depressed, often for several days.

The drug hooks some users into addiction within a matter of days but most say they never experience the intense pleasure of their first hit. Over a period of time the amount of cocaine needed and the frequency of use to achieve anything like that first high has to be increased and the resulting feelings of depression can become chronic.

Effects of Cocaine: Short and Long Term

In the short term as cocaine stimulates the brain, senses can be heightened and users become more talkative and energetic and don't feel the need for basics such as food, water and sleep. Because cocaine has a tendency to decrease appetite users can become malnourished.

Pupils become dilated, body temperature rises and the heart rate and blood pressure increase.

Heavy use of cocaine can cause chest pain, heart problems and convulsions and if taken in large enough doses it can be fatal.

Different means of taking cocaine can produce different effects. Regular snorting can lead to loss of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness and the "cocaine sniff" - a permanently runny nose.

Evidence from America 's National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that users who smoke or inject cocaine are at even greater risk of causing themselves harm. For example cocaine smokers can suffer from acute respiratory problems including coughing, shortness of breath and severe chest pains while those who inject are putting themselves at risk of catching HIV or hepatitis.

And it's not just the physical effects that users have to face. Possible long term psychological effects include "coke bugs" where the sufferer believes insects or snakes are crawling beneath their skin. Auditory hallucinations, the dulling of emotions, paranoia, feelings of isolation and impending death are all common adverse effects of coke use.

Not all users suffer ill effects and get addicted. Some people use it occasionally as a party drug and can go for a long period of time without it.

Dr Mark Gold at the University of Florida 's Brain Institute says that problems associated with the drug are considerable but that doesn't mean everyone who uses it automatically becomes addicted. "We have all heard stories of grandmothers who have smoked for 80 years and never got lung cancer so it doesn't surprise me that people come up with single case studies to show that cocaine is really OK."

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