The lore of cocaine is long and storied. In the late nineteenth century it was used for medicinal purposes - as a stimulant of the central nervous system, people took products laced with cocaine to aid headaches, boost energy, and suppress the appetite. Doctors and dentists used cocaine as a form of anesthetic, while a growing soft drink company took its name from the very ingredient included in its original recipe.
In the early 1900s, it became apparent that cocaine was habit-forming, to the point of dangerous addiction. Coca-Cola ceased using the stimulant in 1906, and in 1914 a law passed in the United States making it illegal to use cocaine for any purpose.
However, cocaine use in the United States remains prevalent to this day. Cocaine is the number two recreational drug in the country, yielding as much as $35 billion annually to dealers. According to the 2006 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report, the United States leads the world in cocaine use among people aged 15 to 64. It is glamorized in film and song and touted as a “celebrity" drug, often associated with a decadent lifestyle.
Yet, one doesn't have to be rich to afford a five-dollar “hit" of crack cocaine, or be a movie star to become addicted. Regardless of your station in life, constant cocaine use can lead to serious health and personal problems.
As a stimulant, cocaine is known to heighten euphoria and awareness, and increase the heart rate. Users will experience an increase of dopamine and seratonin in the brain, which enhances the “high" feeling people get after taking the drug. It powdered form, cocaine is usually scraped into thick lines and snorted into the nasal passages - either directly or via a small cylinder like a rolled-up dollar bill. Cocaine may also be injected into the bloodstream or smoked in freebase or rock (crack) form.
As such, regular use may also promote restlessness and high blood pressure, paranoia, and ensuing depression and addiction during short periods of withdrawal. Excessive use may prove damaging to the heart, causing cardiac arrest or stroke. Users who snort the drug to excess may eventually experience nosebleeds and damage to the cartilage in the nose.
Signs that somebody may be abusing cocaine include:
- Prolonged dilation of the pupils
- Rapid, unexplained weight loss
- Twitching, jittery behavior and/or sleeplessness
- Sudden paranoid and/or personality
- Possible *** performance problems
- Constant sniffling and watery eyes
- Unexplained financial troubles
Stephanie Loebs is the executive director of Williamsburg Place, one of the top drug rehab clinics in the nation. Williamsburg Place aids those who suffer from drug and/or alcohol addiction, and specializes in caring for health care professionals. For over twenty years Williamsburg Place and its joint rehabilitation center, the William J. Farley Center, have helped thousands of people from all walks of life take back their lives and overcome substance abuse.