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Cocaine Facts

  • According to information collected in 1902, 92% of all cocaine sold in major cities in the United States was in the form of an ingredient in tonics and potions available from local pharmacies.
  • Near half of all drug related emergency room visits are due to cocaine abuse.
  • The negative side effects of habitual cocaine use that was responsible for coining the phrase, "dope fiend".
  • Pure cocaine was first used in the 1880s as a local anesthetic in eye, nose, and throat surgeries because of its ability to provide anesthesia as well as to constrict blood vessels and limit bleeding.

Cocaine Side Effects

Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca bush, which grows in South America. Widespread use and addiction led to government efforts against cocaine in the early 1900s. The danger associated with cocaine was ignored in the 1970s and early 1980s, and cocaine was proclaimed by many to be safe. With the accumulating medical evidence of cocaine's deleterious effects and the introduction and widespread use of cocaine, the public and government have become alarmed again about its growing use. To many Americans, especially health care and social workers who deal with cocaine users and have witnessed the personal and societal devastation it produces, cocaine addiction is, by far, the most serious drug problem in the United States.

Cocaine side effects include but are not limited to:

  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Heart rates
  • Breathing rates
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite leading to malnutrition and weight loss
  • Cold sweats
  • Swelling and bleeding of mucous membranes
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Damage to nasal cavities
  • Damage to lungs
  • Possible heart attacks, strokes, or convulsions

Even though the public is often regaled with highly publicized accounts of deaths from cocaine, many still mistakenly believe the drug, especially when sniffed, to be nonaddictive and not as harmful as other illicit drugs. Cocaine's immediate physical effects include raised breathing rate, raised blood pressure and body temperature, and dilated pupils.

By causing the coronary arteries to constrict, blood pressure rises and the blood supply to the heart diminishes. This can cause heart attacks or convulsions within an hour after use. Chronic users and those with hypertension, epilepsy, and cardiovascular disease are at particular risk. Studies show that even those with no previous heart problems risk cardiac complications from cocaine. Increased use may sensitize the brain to the drug's effects so that less of the substance is needed to induce a seizure. Those who inject the drug are at high risk for AIDS and hepatitis when they share needles. Allergic reactions to cocaine or other substances mixed in with the drug may also occur.

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