Cocaine (also cocain) is a drug that is made from coca leaves. Cocaine is usually a white powder. Most cocaine is used as an illegal drug. Because it is a stimulant, cocaine gives people energy. It also makes people feel very happy when it is taken. When used this way, cocaine is very addictive. However, cocaine can also be used as a local anesthetic if it is applied topically (onto the skin or gums).
Origin and effects
Where cocaine comes from
Cocaine is taken from the leaves of the coca plant. Coca plants are mostly grown in South America, in countries like Brazil or Argentina. When Spanish conquistadors (explorers) discovered coca plants, they sent them back to Europe. People started using cocaine as a medicine, as well as in drinks and food. This was because they did not know how damaging and addictive the drug could be when used.
In America, cocaine was used during surgery, or to treat toothaches. It was also put into drinks. When Coca-Cola was first made in 1885, it got the first part of its name from the "handful of coca leaves" added to the drink for energy. (The caffeine in the drink came from the kola nut, so the name "Coca-Cola" was chosen.) Cocaine was taken out of Coca-Cola completely by the 1920s because of pressure from groups in the United States.
Effects of cocaine
When cocaine is applied topically (onto the skin or gums), it causes numbness.
When cocaine is chewed or eaten, inhaled into the nose ("snorted"), or injected into the veins, it causes people to feel euphoric (very happy), alert, very confident, and full of energy. This feeling is called being "high." Some people who take cocaine also have unpleasant feelings. They may feel worried, anxious, or even paranoid. They may also have physical symptoms, like shaking, a high heart rate, and high body temperature.
Cocaine cannot be smoked in its normal form. It must react with another chemical to form crack cocaine, which can be smoked. This is because burning normal cocaine destroys it, so the user does not get the effect they want.
Cocaine as an illegal drug
In most countries, it is illegal to make, sell, or use cocaine (unless it is being used for approved medical reasons).
As an illegal drug, cocaine can be used in its powder form, or it can be made into crack cocaine. Usually, crack is made by adding baking soda and water to cocaine and then heating the mixture. Crack is usually less expensive than the normal form of cocaine. Crack is usually smoked. It gives users a high that is very strong, but does not last as long as the high from regular cocaine. Both forms of cocaine are addictive, although crack cocaine is thought to be more addictive as it is usually smoked.
Dangers of using cocaine
If people use cocaine, they may take too much and get sick or even die. This is called an "overdose". When people take cocaine, they get intoxicated as well. When a person is intoxicated, they may do dangerous things, such as having unsafe sex with a person they do not know, or getting into a violent fight with a person.
If a person uses cocaine for a long time, they can start to get strange feelings, like there are bugs crawling under their skin, or they can get paranoia (a feeling that there are people that want to hurt them).
Cocaine is a very addictive drug. It can lead to psychological and/or physical dependence. When a person is addicted to a drug, they might do bad or criminal acts in order to get money for more drugs, such as crimes (for example theft, robbery, fraud, or prostitution). If the person tries to stop using cocaine, they will go through cocaine withdrawal.
Another danger from using cocaine is the risk of infection when using unsafe ways of taking cocaine (like using dirty needles when injecting cocaine). A person can get infectious diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C when they use cocaine in these ways.
Cocaine as a legal medicine
Cocaine is also occasionally used as a legal medicine in Australia and some parts of Europe, if a person has a prescription from a doctor. Doctors sometimes prescribe cocaine for people who want to lose weight, because cocaine decreases the appetite.
Dentists in countries like Australia sometimes use forms of cocaine in dental operations, as an anaesthetic. Anaesthetics are medicines or drugs which stop a person from feeling pain. Doctors, surgeons, and dentists use anaesthetics when they are doing operations, so that the patient will not feel pain. Dentists put the cocaine on the patient's mouth so that the patient will not feel pain in their mouth during the operation.
Notes and references
- Macmillan Dictionary for Students Macmillan, Pan Ltd. (1981), page 192. Retrieved 2010-7-21.