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The resulting side effects of cocaine and crack cocaine abuse can range from minor to fatal. It affects the brain and body in a variety of ways that can lead to serious problems.  These effects can be divided into two types: short-term and long-term, both of which can have life-threatening consequences.

The Short-Term Effects of Cocaine and Crack Cocaine Use

Cocaine and Crack CocaineThese effects appear just after ingestion of the drug.  In far too many cases, the user can die from sudden cardiac arrest, seizures, or respiratory failure.  Effects of cocaine use are unpredictable, and the user often thinks that because they used it before with no problems, the same holds true each time.  This is not the case, however, as many statistics prove. Everyone experiences a different level of effects when using the drug, and they also find that they themselves react differently from one use to another.

Users will experience the following short-term cocaine effects:

  • Boundless energy
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increased temperature
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Mental alertness
  • High blood pressure
  • Constricted blood vessels

Some of these cocaine and crack cocaine effects might seem like fun, such as the increased energy and alertness, and these are what draws first time users to try the drug, and what causes regular users to continue seeking out the drug.  To learn more about why and how cocaine gained such popularity, read the history of cocaine here.

The Long Term Effects of Cocaine and Crack Cocaine Use

Prolonged abuse of cocaine and crack cocaine results in increased tolerance levels and some of the long-term effects now become visible.  Contrary to popular belief, this is not a safe drug.  It is highly addictive and extremely dangerous  leading to such complications as respiratory failure, heart disease, strokes, seizures, and gastrointestinal problems.  Other  complications include blurred vision, nausea, fever, muscle spasms, and even coma or death.   Some of the psychological effects include:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Addiction

Not only does cocaine affect you physically and emotionally, the effects can extend to cause havoc in family life and social standing.  When you begin lying and stealing from family or friends to support your habit, everything in your life changes from that point on.  If you are constantly absent from work or school, everything seems to go downhill from there.  Not one good thing comes from cocaine and crack cocaine use, so it is best to not even begin to get caught up in the use, abuse, and addiction cycle.

Smoking vs Injection or Snorting

There is great risk whether cocaine is ingested by inhalation (snorting), injection or smoking. It appears that compulsive cocaine use may develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked rather than snorted. Smoking allows extremely high doses of cocaine to reach the brain very quickly and brings an intense and immediate high. The injecting drug user is at risk for transmitting or acquiring HIV infection/AIDS if needles or other injection equipment are shared.

The Two Different Forms of Cocaine:

  • White Crystalline Powder Cocaine

Powder cocaine is generally snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Snorting is the process of inhaling cocaine powder through the nose where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Injecting is the act of using a needle to release the drug directly into the bloodstream.

  • “Crack” or “Rock” Cocaine

“Crack” or “rock” cocaine is an off-white chunky material that is generally smoked and involves inhaling cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs where absorption into the bloodstream is as rapid as by injection.

“Crack” is the street name given to cocaine that has been processed from cocaine hydrochloride to a free base for smoking. Rather than requiring the more volatile method of processing cocaine using ether, crack cocaine is processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water and heated to remove the hydrochloride, thus producing a form of cocaine that can be smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked (heated), presumably from the sodium bicarbonate.

The effects of Crack are similar to those of Cocaine, although since Crack is smoked, additional risks exist. General effects include constricted blood vessels and increased temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and with long term use, violence and paranoia are noted. Additional risks of smoking crack include respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, chest pains, lung trauma and bleeding. As with cocaine, crack is highly addictive. Evidence shows that when cocaine and crack are smoked (as opposed to other methods), there is increased risk of compulsive cocaine-seeking behavior.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine and crack cocaine addiction can occur very quickly and be very difficult to break. Studies performed on laboratory animals addicted to cocaine have shown the animals will press a bar over 10,000 times for just one single injection of cocaine. Test animals also choose cocaine over food and water, taking cocaine even when scientists punished the behavior. To prevent them from taking toxic or even lethal doses, scientists had to limit their test subjects’ access to cocaine.

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