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Get The Facts About Cocaine

Cocaine Facts for Teens

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Lots of people think of cocaine as a has-been '80s drug, but cocaine and teens are still a very popular pair. It's still causing lots of problems for teens, too. Get the facts about cocaine and other cocaine-based drugs such as crack and speedballs.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine--known as coke, crack, rock, Charlie, snow, flake, nose candy, powder, sneeze, toot and blow, among other things--is an extremely addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant. It can be snorted (powder cocaine), smoked (crack and freebase cocaine), injected or chewed.

Any form of cocaine can do lots of damage to your body because it targets your brain and central nervous system. It can also do a lot of damage to your wallet, not to mention your reputation.

Cocaine usually comes as a white, powder-like substance diluted ("cut") with sugar, crushed vitamins, flour, cornstarch and other powders. Crack comes in small "rocks," which are inserted into a pipe.

How Does Cocaine Work?

Cocaine makes a beeline for the pleasure center of the brain, disrupting the balance of chemicals that keep your moods and emotions in check.

The "high" cocaine produces typically lasts less than 20 minutes. The quicker the drug reaches the brain, the shorter the high:

• Injecting cocaine introduces the drug to the bloodstream immediately, and its effects on the brain are instant.

• Smoking crack brings cocaine into the bloodstream through the lungs. In less than five seconds, the drug travels to the heart and brain.

• When snorted, cocaine enters the bloodstream through mucus membranes in the nose and travels through the body. Some of the drug is processed by the liver and some reaches the brain.

What Are The Effects of Cocaine?

Cocaine’s high involves feelings of euphoria, heightened alertness and decreased desire for sleep and food. Some cocaine users feel hyper when they’re high, and others report feeling more powerful and/or aggressive. However, a great deal of people just feel anxious, angry, confused or hostile when using cocaine.

Physically, the drug constricts blood vessels, dilates the pupils and increases body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Some people get jitters or have seizures when using cocaine. Snorting cocaine often leads to nosebleeds, hoarseness, a persistently runny nose and other problems, while injecting cocaine even once can lead to severe allergic reactions, heart failure and/or death.

What Happens When Cocaine Is Combined With Other Drugs?

Cocaine and other drugs do not mix well. In fact, mixing cocaine with other substances is more likely to make it fatal.

The most common cause of death from cocaine overdose is respiratory failure. Respiratory failure is more likely when a depressant drug such as heroin has been taken as well, especially in a cocaine-heroin combination known as a speedball.

Cocaine is also particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol. Combining the two drugs creates a substance known as cocaethylene, which strengthens the high of cocaine and increases the risk of sudden death.

How Addictive Is Cocaine?

Smoking and/or injecting cocaine is extremely dangerous. Since the drug reaches the brain so quickly, the liver has no time to process it and the chemicals that protect the body and brain from poisonous substances don’t get a chance to work. The high that results is very powerful and addictive.

Snorting cocaine isn't safe either. Many people need more of the drug each time they snort it to achieve the high they're used to but don't realize they’re addicted. Others become more sensitive to its effects over time, putting them at risk for life-threatening seizures and other problems.

Is Coke Really That Dangerous?

Yes! Cocaine can kill you, especially if you overdose.

Cocaine-related deaths are often caused by respiratory failure, heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms, gangrene of the intestine, ruptured blood vessels and/or high body temperature. It's the source of lots of nasty chronic health issues, too, including heart problems, strokes, seizures, headaches, tremors, abdominal pain and nausea.

Frequent users of cocaine often experience agitation, depression and/or insomnia. They may become increasingly paranoid, restless and irritable. For some, these symptoms evolve into a mental illness that involves hallucinations and psychosis.

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