Cocaine abuse was a widespread drug problem back in early 1980s. Large shipments of cocaine were being smuggled into the U.S. from South America and it quickly became a glamour drug. It also started a movement to address addiction in the U.S. with programs like D.A.R.E and “Just Say No”.
Lawmakers took to hard criminal penalties to answer the rising problem and criminalization of addiction. The cultural impact of the cocaine epidemic can still be felt today, but now that we have entered the opioid epidemic, cocaine use is no longer publicized.
Cocaine addiction is still very widespread in the United States, and despite the lack of attention it has been getting compared with other drugs, it remains as dangerous as ever.
HOW ARE COCAINE AND CRACK DIFFERENT?
Cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the coca plant native to South America. The plant has been used by Peruvians for thousands of years as an energy supplement. However, when the psychoactive chemical is isolated, it is much more potent than its plant.
Cocaine is sold and used as a powder for inhalation. Cocaine is highly addictive because of its effect on the reward center of your brain. As it creates immediate euphoria and energy, the brain learns the perceived rewarding effects and leads to impulses for you to repeat that action.
As a freebase, cocaine is called crack. Crack has a lower melting point than powder-form cocaine and can be smoked. Smoking crack offers a more intense high that comes on quickly but wears off quickly. This effect often causes crack users to use more rapidly to continually achieve the intense euphoria.
During a crack spree, each high is weaker than the last but the user may continually seek the rush of the first hit. Because of this, many people point to crack as being more addictive than powder form cocaine. It is the same drug in different forms, administered in different ways. With protracted use, both crack and powder cocaine can be extremely addictive. However, the quick and powerful effects of crack can cause users to become dependent on it more quickly.
HOW DOES COCAINE AFFECT THE BRAIN AND THE BODY?
When cocaine enters the bloodstream, levels of dopamine spike in brain circuits that regulate pleasure and movement. In general, this dopamine release by neurons is in response to potential rewards, and is then recycled back into the cells that released it.
With regular cocaine use, there is no recycling of dopamine and thus disproportionate amounts build up. The dopamine signal is overstated and there are interruptions in normal brain functioning. Repeated use can change the brain’s reward system as well as other brain systems, which can lead to addictive behaviors.
Cocaine's Damaging effects to the body include:
In the most severe cases, those who use cocaine have a greater risk for suffering heart attacks or strokes. If cocaine is injected intravenously, there is a risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other illnesses. When inhaled, it can lead to nosebleeds, difficulties swallowing, and a loss in the sense of smell. If cocaine is eaten, it can lead to serious bowel issues. If injected, cocaine can carry an increased risk of contracting hepatitis C, HIV, and other blood-borne diseases.