What is cocaine?
Cocaine is a short-acting and highly addictive stimulant drug derived from the coca leaf. Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system and works as an appetite suppressant and topical anesthetic. Cocaine works to reduce the re-absorption of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which results in the user feeling euphoric, alert and energized. Illegal cultivation, possession and distribution of cocaine occur throughout the world.
What is the historical significance of cocaine?
The coca leaf has been chewed for over 4,000 years for its energizing properties in countries such as Brazil and Peru. In the mid-19th century doctors successfully extracted cocaine from the coca leaf and began finding several uses for the drug. It began to be used for treating depression, fatigue and as a local anesthetic. This led to wider usage of the drug until awareness spread of its dangers and health risks, which eventually resulted in the majority of countries banning its sale by the early 20th century.
How can cocaine be administered?
Cocaine can be snorted, injected or smoked. Snorting cocaine produces a high with an onset of a few minutes that can last anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. Injecting cocaine produces a high with an onset of a few minutes and can last anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour. Smoking crack cocaine produces a instant high that only lasts a few minutes.
Does the way in which cocaine is administered as well as the frequency and severity of use play a role in its detection?
Careful interpretation of test results can sometimes differentiate between passive and active use. Some tests can discern whether the cocaine metabolite present in the urine sample was smoked or ingested through other means. How and to what degree cocaine is detectable in urine depends on liver and kidney function, which varies from person to person. The major cocaine metabolite, Benzoylecgonine, can be detected in urine as early as four hours after cocaine intake and can be detected in concentrations greater than 150ng/ml for up to eight days after use. The cocaine test we offer, the Fastect II Urine Drug Test for cocaine, detects Benzoylecgonine in urine at a detection level of 300ng/ml for cocaine used in the last 72 hours.
How does the body metabolize cocaine?
Cocaine is metabolized mostly in the liver and only approximately 1% is excreted in human urine. As previously mentioned, the rate of detection depends on kidney and liver function, but it also depends on the user’s history of use. All of these factors must be considered when interpreting the results of a cocaine test. Additionally, chronic cocaine users tend to have strong baseline values of cocaine metabolites in their systems that a first-time user theoretically does not, which also may alter the results of the test.
How does cocaine affect the brain?
As mentioned previously, cocaine works to reduce the re-absorption of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which results in the user feeling euphoric, alert and energized. This reaction is relatively short-lived, and as the drug wears off the brain finds itself completely depleted of dopamine. There is a stark contrast between how great users feel when experiencing high dopamine levels and how terrible they feel once they have been depleted. This low period is referred to as “dysphoria” which is defined as the feeling of intense depression, discontent and indifference. This is what prompts users to binge on cocaine, as they become desperate to feel good again. Heavy cocaine use can result in a reduction of dopamine receptors in the brain. Because the brain is not used to being in a constant state of stimulation, regular cocaine use can lead to a neural adjustment in the brain. The reduction of dopamine receptors and neural adjustment results in the user having to forever increase how much cocaine they ingest in order to experience normal levels of pleasure. These factors contribute directly to users developing a tolerance for the drug, which in turn often leads to cocaine addiction, making cocaine one of the hardest drugs to quit.
What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?
Short-term effects of cocaine include euphoria, increased energy, loss of appetite, insomnia, irritability, mental alertness and heightened sensations in relation to sight, sound and touch. It can make the user more talkative and productive. Short-term physiological effects may include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils; increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. High doses can cause psychosis, paranoia, restlessness, anxiety, aggressiveness and/or antisocial, erratic or violent behaviour. Users that ingest large amounts of the drug could experience tremors, vertigo, muscle spasms, high blood pressure and pulse. As the risk of overdosing increases as more of the drug is ingested, so does the risk of seizure, hallucination, unresponsiveness, convulsion, stroke, fever, unconsciousness, respiratory arrest, heart failure and death.
What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
Long-term effects of cocaine use include tolerance, binging, physical and psychological dependency and/or or paranoid psychosis, wherein the user has lost touch with reality and is experiencing auditory and empirical hallucinations. As tolerance levels increase, users try to compensate by increasing their level of consumption. Users often resort to binging, perpetually trying to attain their original high. Some users have reported experiencing a heightened sensitivity to the drug’s anesthetic and convulsive effects without increasing their dosage. This state of increased sensitivity may be the cause of many deaths, even in a situation where a relatively small amount of the drug is consumed.
How detrimental is cocaine use during pregnancy?
Very. Using cocaine while pregnant can cause irreparable harm to a growing fetus. Prenatal exposure to cocaine can cause a baby to suffer long-term cognitive delays, attention deficits, facial malformations and disfigurements, lower IQs and reduced motor skills. Prenatal cocaine exposure can also affect fetal development, normal growth rate, low birth rates and can increase risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Additionally cocaine use by injection can put the baby at risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitis C.