What is cocaine?

A powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. It looks like a fine, white, crystal powder. Cocaine is used orally, intranasally, intravenously, or by inhalation. Any route of administration can potentially lead to the absorption of toxic amounts of cocaine, causing heart attacks, strokes, or seizures—all of which can result in sudden death. 

Facts about cocaine

Cocaine is highly addictive and can seriously increase the risk of negative psychological and physical consequences. Some people can become addicted after a short period of use. Even first-time cocaine use can be fatal.

Street dealers often mix cocaine with things like cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to increase profits. It is sometimes mixed with other drugs such as the stimulant amphetamine, or synthetic opioids, including Fentanyl. Adding synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl to cocaine is incredibly dangerous as people often do not realize there is an additive to the substance they are consuming. 

Short-term side effects

  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure - can put you at risk of heart attacks, seizures, and strokes
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Bizarre or violent behavior
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Tactile hallucinations - sensation of something crawling on the skin
  • Intense high followed by intense depression
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle spasms

Long-term side effects

  • Changes in the brain chemistry
  • Liver, kidney and lung damage
  • Addiction

Some long-term health effects of cocaine depend on the method of use and include the following:

  • Snorting: loss of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing
  • Smoking: cough, asthma, respiratory distress, and higher risk of infections like pneumonia
  • Consuming by mouth: severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow
    needle injection: higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases, skin or soft tissue infections, as well as scarring or collapsed veins

How to tell if a friend may be using cocaine

While it can be difficult to identify if someone is using cocaine, versus another type of illicit substance, below are some indicators that a person may be using:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness and/or high energy
  • Inability to sleep
  • A runny nose and nosebleeds
  • A hoarse voice
  • Weight loss without exercising
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Mood swings
  • Decrease in personal hygiene
  • Burn marks on lips or fingers
  • White powder around the nose or even mouth
  • Financial problems