Cocaine is a purified extract from Erythroxylum coca bush leaves, which mostly grows in South America at the Andes region. These extract go through chemical processes that result into two different forms of cocaine, the powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. Powdered cocaine usually dissolves in water. Users may decide to inject or snort it. Crack cocaine, on the other hand, undergoes through a process that leaves it is a freebase form for smoking. Cocaine is currently one of the most abused stimulants in the United States of America. A recent study shows that, at least 15% of the Americans had used it at some point in their lives, 6% of whom used it while in high school senior year (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010). Young men between the ages of 18 and 25 are the main cocaine users.
A common myth among many people is that cocaine is not as addictive and harmful as other drugs; since, it does not have physical withdrawal symptoms seen in heroin and alcohol addictions. However, cocaine has strong psychological, addictive features. Cocaine has strong negative effects on the brain, emotions and the heart. Many users of cocaine fall prey to addiction with long-term life threatening effects. Even the occasional cocaine users risk sudden death due to the effects on the heart and the brain. Injection of smoking of the drug results into almost instantaneous effects. Fast absorption through the nasal tissues enables snorting cocaine as fast acting. Whichever method used in taking in cocaine, it travels quickly to into the bloodstream and moves to the brain. Once in the brain, the drug tampers with the neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers, which the nerves in communicating with each other. It blocks the neurotransmitters from reabsorption, resulting in a chemical buildup in the nerves causing euphoria, or the feeling of being high.
Physical and Emotional Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine causes intense, short lives highness, immediately followed by an intense edginess, depression and craving for more of the drug. Users of the drug do not sleep or eat properly and often experience muscle spasms, convulsions, and an increased heart rate. In addition, the drug results in dilated pupils, hyper-stimulation, nausea, irritability, erratic and bizarre behaviors, and intense euphoria, panic and psychotic. Cocaine tends to make its users hostile, angry and hostile even when they are not high on the drug (Agarwal, 2011). The drug increases the chances for developing stroke, heart attack, and seizure resulting in sudden deaths.
Long-term effects of the drug include sleep deficiency and excessive loss of appetite resulting in malnutrition. It causes permanent damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidney, and the brain. Continued use may also result in sexual problems, damage of the reproductive system and infertility. Disorientation confused and apathy may result because of prolonged use of the drug. Smoking of the drug causes paranoid and aggressive behavior. Continued use of the drug causes massive depression, which may sometimes push the user to commit murder or suicide. All these conditions result in the loss of self-control for the user. The person is constantly living in an unrealistic world with unrealistic visions and expectations. This affects the relationship between the person and every other person (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010).
Suspiciousness and paranoia are usually the initial symptoms of psychosis that the cocaine users undergo. Paranoia affects 68-84% of cocaine users, which may last for few days or even for days or weeks. Such people fail to trust the people surrounding them, and they feel that such people are up to something sinister against them. According to Agarwal (2011) cocaine users also experience delusions and hallucinations due to imbalance of dopamine. This affects how such users relate with their families, close friends and colleagues.
Physiological Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine produces euphoria or the feeling of high by acting on the user’s brain, though as the drug moves through the blood; it may affect the whole body. Cocaine is responsible for most emergency visits compared to all other illegal drugs. It harms the heart, the brain, blood vessels, and the lungs, which can cause instant death. As noted earlier, the use of cocaine affects one’s brain by constricting the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood (Respero et al, 2007). When the brain lacks blood supply, a stroke occurs killing the user almost instantly if not immediately. According to Morton (1999), the drug also causes seizures, which may lead to violent or bizarre behaviors.
Cocaine is extremely disastrous to the user’s heart because it increases the blood pressure and the heart rate while constricting the arteries to the heart. The result of this is that the users if the drugs get a heart attack regardless of their age. It can also result in arrhythmia, a deadly and abnormal heart rhythm (Respero et al, 2007). Research shows many young people have lost their lives because of the heart conditions triggered by the use and abuse of cocaine. Pulmonary complications arising from the use of cocaine depend on the administration method, the dose size, presence of associated substances and frequency of exposure.
People who use cocaine also suffer serious respiratory problems. The combustion of the drug through smoke primarily affects the lungs and the related organs of the respiratory system. Coughing with production of black system and wheezing is the most common symptom of respiratory infection resulting from the use of cocaine. The tarry, dark residue left during freebasing that accumulates on the barrel or in the bowl of the smoker’s pipe, usually reheats and re-smoke. Frequent inhalation of these products deposits large amounts of intracellular and extracellular carbon pigment, which later affects the functions of the lungs.
The use of cocaine also affects other body organs like the kidney and the gastrointestinal tract. Cocaine can cause sudden kidney failure through the rhabdomyolysis, a process of breaking down the muscle fibers leading to the release of myoglobin into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is extremely harmful to the kidney and may cause sudden and serious kidney damage. People suffering from high blood pressure run the risk of accelerated long-term kidney damage because of the high blood pressure. In addition, cocaine contracts the blood vessels, supplying blood to the gut, resulting in oxygen starvation (Morton, 1999). The oxygen starvation results in ulcers or perforation of the stomach and even the intestines. All these physiological conditions resulting from the use of cocaine require many finances to treat, which leads to depletion of family finances since, at this point, many users are fully dependent on their families. Families have to support the users completely, and in extreme cases, they end up losing their family members. This is because, most of these conditions are fatal, and in situations where they are not fatal, they leave behind irreversible damage on the user’s health, their lives and extension, the lives of the people close to the user.
Social Effects of Cocaine Use
When the use of cocaine advances to dependence point, it can be terribly destructive. At this point, drug seeking becomes the only priority in a person’s life, and suddenly, families love, and work commitment becomes the second priority. Regular users of the drug tend to lose respect and trust for people who are beneficial to them. Stealing, lying and isolating themselves take a heavy toll on friends, families, and employment relations. While a single dose of the drug may cost as little as five dollars, an addition may go as high as hundreds of dollars every week. This can lead to massive financial crisis and indulgence in criminal activities as users become desperate for more and more drugs (Weiss and Mirin, 2002). These criminal activities include prostitution and robbery, which may land them into prison. Students may also get expulsion from schools for possession of drugs and disqualification from receiving loans and grants from federal colleges. Workers lose their jobs since they are no longer committed to their employers. In most cases, the addicted people will miss attending work resulting to indiscipline cases levelled against them by their employers. Eventually, employers fire them when they can no longer handle the indiscipline cases.
Cocaine users can also be violent towards other people because of the psychiatric symptoms induced by the use of cocaine. During a recent study of 31 cocaine users with psychiatric symptoms, 55% exhibited violent behaviors. A similar survey through telephone interviews revealed that 32% of the users exhibited violent behaviors. The studies also revealed that 46% of the violent crimes committed by cocaine users were to get the drug. This is dangerous for families and the people living near the drug users.
Cocaine use has been linked to with homicide cases. In New York City, a study on 2824 homicide deaths, 31% tested positive for crack or its metabolite benzoylecgonine. In addition, a marked number of residents with fatal injuries tested positive for the drug. Moreover, cocaine users also tend to exhibit suicidal tendencies, with almost 18-22% of the users committing suicide (Weiss and Mirin, 2002). This is because of depression arising from the use of the drug. These cases affect the families of the users. In addition, the people who commit suicide due to the use of the drug results in loss of lives, for some people who were the sole providers of their families. This results in children abandonment, thus pushing them into extreme poverty.
One of the most innocent victims of cocaine are infants born to women who use the drug during pregnancy. During the early months of pregnancy, the woman runs the risk of a miscarriage. It may also cause the unborn baby to have a heart attack, permanent brain damage or even a stroke. This is an impact on the entire development of the baby even maturity. In most cases, such babies fall under the care of close families and friends or even left for adoption since such parents can barely take care of them.
Use of cocaine destroys not just a person’s life, but also the lives of other people, among them family members, friends and colleagues at work. Cocaine use affects the population of a nation and labor power, which in turn affects productivity and amounts of income. It also corrupts the morality of a society resulting in increased social and criminal offenses. When people use cocaine or other drugs, they isolate themselves from life, and the rest of the loved ones. They stop attending school or even work. Such people end up engaging in criminal activities in an attempt to raise money for the drugs to sustain the addiction. Eventually, the person tends to lose everything. His or her own life deteriorates, becomes prone to fatal diseases and in extreme situations, the end their own lives due to depression and stress arising from the use of the drug. The result of cocaine use is that the users end up losing everything that is valuable in life, including family, friends and work.