Cocaine is a stimulant drug that’s made from the leaves of the coca plant mainly found in South America. It is one of the oldest, most potent and dangerous stimulants in the world derived from a plant. Researchers found that the indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest and Andes mountain used the coca leaves for its energetic high. They were found to usually chew the leaves of the plant during religious ceremonies. The users felt an exhilarating sensation and an increase in energy. The coca leaf also had a special use in the Inca cultural and religious ceremonies.
The Evolution of Cocaine
A German chemist Albert Niemann was the first to isolate cocaine from the coca leaves in 1859. It was however popularized in the medical community around the 1880s. In 1886, the popularity of the drug got a boost when John Pemberton included coca leaves as an ingredient in his new soft drink, coca-cola. The euphoric and energizing effects on the consumer helped boost Coca-Cola’s popularity by the turn of the century.
In the period from 1850 -1900 cocaine and opium-laced tonics and wines were broadly used by people of all social classes. The drug became more popular in the silent film industry and the pro-cocaine messages portrayed by Hollywood at that time influenced large masses. In 1912, the United States government reported over 5,000 cocaine-related deaths in one year and by 1922 it was officially banned. Traditionally cocaine was referred to as a rich man’s drug but in the 1980s it was no longer the case and it had gained the reputation of being one of the most dangerous and highly addictive drugs in the world. Around the same time, there was the emergence of crack cocaine which was a crystallized form of the drug. It was produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of ammonia and water which was then boiled down until a solid formed. The solid was then broken down into smaller chunks which could be smoked.
How the drug works
The drug is mainly ingested by snorting it through the nose, dissolved into water then injected into the body and also rubbed on the gums. The crack which is a form of cocaine is also ingested into the body by smoking and also added to marijuana and tobacco. Once inside the body, it increases the levels of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for the rewarding feeling as well as controlling a person’s movement.
Once the dopamine is released it is recycled back into the cell that released it shutting off the signal between the nerve cells. Cocaine, however, prevents the recycle and causes a build-up of the dopamine between the cells. The build-up of the brain rewarding chemical strongly reinforces the constant repetition of its use. Due to the high amounts of the dopamine levels with time the nerves become less sensitive to normal amounts of dopamine hence larger doses are required each time the act is repeated to get the same “high” and to escape the withdrawal effects that come when the drug wears off. The duration of the effects of the drug depends on the way it is administered into the system. When injected or smoked the more intense the high but it may last 5-10 minutes. When snorted it has a slower onset but it may last for 15-30minutes.
The Medicinal benefits of Cocaine
Before cocaine began to be used for recreational purposes it was first used for medicinal purposes. It was first used to perform surgical operations where it made the patient be immune to the surgical procedure as it paralyzed the pain detectors in the body and kept them in a relaxed state throughout the procedure. It’s pain relieving abilities have also been beneficial in helping ease the pain of soldiers in the world wars where it was sprinkled on wounds. It was also used as an effective sedative or pain reliever to chronic pains which are most common among the elderly in society.
The Physical and Mental effects of Cocaine
There are mental as well as physical effects of using the drug. The physiological effects include constricted blood vessels caused by the toxicity of the drug. Dilated pupils are also an effect of the use of the drug. Other effects include increased body temperature, irregular heart rates as well as high blood pressure, seizures, and strokes. Gastrointestinal complications come about when there is a reduction in blood flow which then leads to ulceration and tears in the system. There are medical complications that also arise from the use of cocaine such as cardiovascular effects where the heart rhythms are not constant as well as heart attacks. The continued use of the drug may even lead to deterioration of the heart’s ability to contract and may lead to overall aortic ruptures. In some cases, users may also experience tremors and muscle twitches as well. The use of the drug over a period of time also takes a mental toll on the user as well. Some of the neurological effects may cause the user to showcase erratic and violent behavior. Some users also display restlessness, irritability, anxiety and at times even paranoia. Research has also found that long-term use may lead to impairment of various cognitive functions such as sustained attention, memory as well as decision making where one has to decide between reward or punishment. It may also lead to a diminished ability to perform motor-related tasks.
Regularly snorting the drug can lead to a loss of the sense of smell, hoarseness, nosebleeds and even an overall irritation of the nasal septum. When this happens it may lead to a chronically inflamed runny nose. People who choose to inject the drug into their systems are at a higher risk of contracting diseases like HIV or even hepatitis.
Social effects of Cocaine use
Cocaine is mainly referred to as a party drug but with long-term use it is known to render the user anti-social. It may also cause the user to lack empathy as well as find it difficult to judge the emotional state of the people around them. Long-term consumption of cocaine by an individual affects them as an individual but also the society around him/her. The workplace is greatly affected when there is a colleague who is a heavy user as they may cause work accidents when they are working under the influence of the drug. Excessive use of cocaine also reduces the amount of productivity of an individual in the workplace as they may suffer from low concentration as well as a lack of cognitive skills as the main causes of the loss in productivity.
The family unit is also greatly affected by cocaine abuse especially when one of the guardians is greatly affected by cocaine. The most greatly affected are the children who are emotionally scarred as they are more likely to face abuse and hurt by the parent who is mentally as well emotionally distant to the children. Children that come from a cocaine prevalent household are more likely to have poor academic performance as they do not get sufficient guidance and help from their parental figures. The constant exposure to a guardian using the drug may lead to depression of the children as well as the partner who may have constant arguments and still be forced to play both roles in the family unit. If the problem persists it can cause the parent to be viewed as unfit to parent and this may lead to a divorce or even the children sent to an orphanage or foster care where they are further disadvantaged as they may be moved from one household to another greatly affecting them mentally at their tender ages. This may lead to the children inheriting the drug using vice of their guardians. Sometimes, individuals require addiction treatment and rehabilitation.
Cocaine abusers have a higher chance of finding themselves in or below the poverty level. Poor work ethics may lead to a decrease in wages as they are in constant trouble with the management. Heavy cocaine use may contribute to missed employment opportunities due to being heavily intoxicated that one misses appointments. This may lead to stagnation in low paying jobs or continued unemployment. As one continually uses the drug their health deteriorates and one may find themselves using their money to cater for recurring medical expenses instead of investing their money in more profitable endeavors elsewhere. Drug-related offenses are also a major contributor to the rate of poverty experienced by cocaine users as they are more likely to commit offenses when they are under the influence due to having poor decision-making skills as well as a high irritability rate and end up paying for legal help which is costly.
An increase in the amount of crime can also be connected to the increase in cocaine intake among the general populous in the area. This is mainly caused by the reduction in inhibitions where people do not think about the consequences of their actions during the time they are committing the offense as they are intoxicated. People may also resort to crime to get sufficient money to maintain their cocaine habits when other channels of attaining the funds are closed. Violence is also a major social problem associated with the drug use where disagreements lead to the break out of fights which may lead to serious injuries as well as loss of life when they get out of control.
The spread of diseases is also made possible by excessive drug use where people engage in unprotected sexual behavior that may lead to the spread of STD’s and other diseases due to poor decision making when intoxicated. There are victims who wake up not remembering what happened and find themselves infected with an STD. Cocaine – use among the youth in high schools as well as college also affects their grades and if not put in check leads to dropping out of school. This would eventually lead to a decrease in the future workforce that would in the future help the economy and society as a whole. A high rate of accidents on the roads can also be attributed to drivers who drive while heavily intoxicated and do not observe road safety rules as well as have poor motor skills at the time. The rate of these accidents is usually seen to go up during parties where there is use and this leads to a higher mortality rate that greatly affects society.
The main causes of Cocaine use
There are various factors that may lead to one developing a drug use problem. Researchers have established that there are certain biological factors that may play a major role in influencing the use of the drug. Physiology has been identified to majorly contribute to the chances of one engaging in cocaine use where one develops impulses and feelings of pleasure encouraging the repeat of the behavior. This, in turn, may lead to the development of a cocaine problem as repetitive use is usually boosted by the strong impulse to get that rewarding “high” feeling.
Research has found that the proximity of a person to a cocaine riddled neighborhood also plays a major role in determining the chances of a person indulging in the use of the drug. Research has found that those people who live in such neighborhoods are more likely to have a positive outlook and are more likely to engage in the use as compared to those who live far from the areas where it is prevalent. Researchers also found that people within the higher income bracket are more likely to engage in the activity and have a higher chance to become hooked compared to those with a lower income in the society. This is due to the common belief that it is more of a rich man’s drug. Media in the form of series and movies have also been identified as a major influence as they decriminalize drinking and encourage its use as a party drug or to be as a business endeavor.
There are various social factors such as family, religion, and work that may influence the chances of an individual becoming a user. The family unit greatly influences the chances of one getting into the drug habits where if someone is exposed to it at an early age they are more likely to find themselves develop the want to engage in the activity. When getting into a new environment such as college or workplace where there is a culture of drug use among colleagues it may force one to engage in the use of unintentionally in order to fit in. This may lead to cocaine abuse with time if not kept in check. People not strongly rooted in religious beliefs have a higher chance of getting involved in the use of cocaine compared to those who are strongly religious.
Psychological factors as well play a major role in the development of drug use habits. This is seen when a person experiences grief, stress, anxiety depression or just a bad day and turns to the comfort of cocaine. This may lead to the creation of a pattern where when the user feels down they quickly resort to snorting or eve injecting themselves with the drug to help them cope with the tough time. The use can become habitual with time causing the body to become more tolerant and rely on the effects of cocaine. The company of friends of an individual also play a major role in the chances of developing a bad drug habit disorder. A person who is constantly around peers who use the drug is more likely to fall into the habit as it is normalized and they do not see the harm in participating and may slowly find themselves addicted.
Steps taken to combat the menace
There are various ways that have come up to fight the cocaine menace. The setting up of counseling offices in learning institutions has greatly helped the younger demographic cope with peer pressure as well as deal with emotional strain if they are found to have guardians struggling with the drug. The counseling centers also help increase awareness about the dangers that using cocaine poses to them as individuals and society as a whole. Community centers have also been set up where people in need of help battling with the drug can turn to and get help. These centers have also been found to help foster a good environment where people form groups where they can share their encounters within groups and keep each other in check.
Group therapy has also been found to be very effective in solving the cocaine use problem efficiently as it provides emotional support. The members may each attain a sponsor who they speak to when they feel the urge to relapse or when feeling stressed who is able to help them with sound advice as well as provide emotional support. They also provide advice on alternative ways to relieve one’s self from stress and engage in other activities that help unwind and handle the stress.
Rehabilitation centers with a trained therapist who engage in medical detoxes as well as help one change their behavior and thought process towards drugs. Awareness is the first step in combating any major problem in society. Awareness camps have become a major way to spread awareness about cocaine use and its effects on society. These camps help shed light on the various physical and biological effects of the drug and even the environmental factors that may cause one to get dragged into cocaine use and once awareness has been provided people can be able to better know how to address the issue. In some of these camps, people are trained on how to deal with people fighting with the drug addiction as well as how to counsel people on the dangers of engaging in the activity. They are also taught on how best to approach families where a member may be a heavy cocaine user and help get them the necessary aid they need.
Some governments have increased the efforts in the war against the drug. A step taken is such as the federal anti-drug abuse act. These laws help increase the fight against the drug and have lead to an increase in the number of cocaine-related arrests as well as prosecutions which help deter people from participating in the use as well as the sale of the drug. In some places, it has helped reduce the frequency with which people used to access it. This has been found to mainly help control the amount of use especially by the youth who are now more wary of using the drug due to the consequences.
The raising of more severe drug laws, as well as crackdowns, has been able to curb the amount of youth who are able to participate in the use of the drug. The crackdowns have helped regulate the use of the drug among people who are scared of being found in possession of the drug. This helps prevent as well as reduce deaths due to the reduced availability especially among the younger demographic. Zero tolerance laws where one found in possession of the drug without proper medical identification and documentation of the purpose they have it may suffer serious jail time. This method has helped reduce the availability of cocaine to the general population.
The use of clearly readable and visual aid has also been used to serve as a reminder to those thinking of engaging in the vice of the fatal health complications as well as the addictive nature associated with the use of the drug. The media has also been used to create sufficient awareness to people. The use of media such as radio and television as well as social media has been effective to create awareness as well as inform the masses concerning the harmful nature of the excessive consumption of cocaine.