Cocaine is a dangerous drug that creates intense feelings of euphoria, happiness, and alertness. It has gained infamy over the years due to its association with popular culture and celebrity abuse. Read on to discover some unlikely medical history and learn more about the dangerous effects of cocaine. What is Cocaine?
Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is a well-known illegal stimulant widely used all over the world [ 1 , 2 ].
Because of its highly dangerous, addictive nature and illegal status, we strongly recommend against using cocaine in any amount and for any reason. This post was written for informational purposes only. The Origins
Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca plant ( Erythroxylon coca ) [ 3 , 4 ].
In spite of its recent notoriety, cocaine has a documented history of use by the Amara Indians of Peru. This tribe has made use of cocaine for thousands of years by chewing the leaves of the coca plant [ 5 ].
This kind of use has fewer adverse effects, presumably due to the low concentration of the active component in the leaves and the laborious act of extracting cocaine by chewing the leaves [ 5 ].
Cocaine is the active principle from the leaves of the coca plant. Native Americans have been using it for thousands of years by chewing the leaves. Modern Use and Abuse
However, everything changed in 1859 when German chemist Albert Niemann purified cocaine [ 6 ].
Around the end of 1884, cocaine started gaining publicity and scientific interest. Sigmund Freud praised the drug in his famous Cocaine Papers describing its therapeutic properties in relieving depression and anxiety [ 7 ].
Following Freud’s publications, Carl Koller discovered the anesthetic properties of cocaine on the human eye. Purified cocaine became commercially available when Merck started refining and producing it [ 8 , 5 ].
Without regulatory restrictions, cocaine was initially sold as a therapeutic and consumable product. However, the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 in the US banned the distribution of cocaine due to its widespread abuse and addiction [ 6 , 9 ].
Despite regulatory restrictions, the drug is still sold and used illegally around the world. According to a United Nations report, around 18.3 million people used cocaine in 2014 [ 10 ].
Pure cocaine is a white crystal powder that can be snorted, smoked, or injected. It’s called “crack” when smoked (freebase form); street names include coke, flake, snow, and powder [ 11 ].
Purified cocaine gained popularity and scientific interest in the late 19th century, only to be banned as a narcotic in 1914. It’s still being used illegally around the globe. How It Works
Cocaine is highly addictive and produces a feeling of euphoria by causing a buildup of dopamine in the brain’s pleasure center (the limbic system) [ 12 ].
Independent of the route of administration, cocaine is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and reaches the brain to initiate its psychostimulant effects [ 6 , 12 ].
Once in the brain, cocaine blocks the reuptake of the neurotransmitters dopamine , noradrenaline , serotonin , and acetylcholine by presynaptic neurons, which boosts their effects [ 6 , 13 , 14 ].
More specifically, cocaine blocks the dopamine transporter SLC6A3 , which causes a buildup of dopamine and an overactivation of dopamine neurons [ 12 ].
Dopamine reinforces the addictive behaviors in the limbic “pleasure” or “reward” center of the brain (mesolimbic and mesocortical dopaminergic systems) [ 15 , 16 ].
Psychoactive changes caused by high dopamine can lead to uncontrolled writhing movements, known as “crack dancing” [ 17 , 18 ].
The sustained effects of the leftover neurotransmitters can cause narrowing of blood vessels, leading to heart complications [ 19 , 20 ].
Cocaine is a stimulant that works by increasing the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline. This can cause many side effects and lead to addiction.
Cocaine’s appealing short-term psychoactive effects (intense high) include [ 21 , 22 ]: Euphoria
Increased energy, alertness, or sociability
Decreased fatigue 5 Side Effects & Dangers Of Cocaine Cocaine is a powerful drug that has both short and long-term effects. Studies of both humans and animals have shown that cocaine use can damage the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, gut, and blood vessels [ 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28, 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 ].Also, if snorted, cocaine can damage nostril tissues and if smoked, the lungs [ 33 , 34 , 35 ]. Mechanism of Damage Cocaine increases addictive behavior by impairing dopamine transmission in the brain (nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum), creating cravings in addicts [ 36 , 37 ]. Mitochondria are the energy generators of the cell. As shown by cell-based studies, cocaine can accumulate inside the cell and damage the functional and structural integrity of mitochondria, disrupting cellular energy production and resulting in cell death [ 38 ].Animal studies further showed that cocaine could produce oxidative stress in cells and alter mitochondrial DNA [ 39 ].In the heart, this oxidative stress leads to toxicity and cell death, as observed in human cocaine overdose [ 40 ].Cocaine causes addiction and side effects by impairing dopamine signaling in the brain. It also damages the mitochondria and increases oxidative stress. 1) Psychological Disorders Cocaine can significantly impact the user’s mood and psychological state. Cocaine users have reported a wide range of adverse psychological effects including anxiety, depression , mood swings, paranoia, and panic attacks [ 41 ].Chronic cocaine use can cause symptoms of delirium and aggression [ 42 ].Observational research has shown that cocaine users are significantly more likely to develop depression and psychosis [ 43 , 44 ].Although rare, higher doses can cause hallucinations or false sensory perceptions [ 45 ].Abstinence from cocaine use can create withdrawal symptoms like mood disturbances and cravings [ 46 ].Cocaine can cause an array of psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, and aggression. Abstinence leads to mood disturbance and cravings. 2) Sleep Disorders Cocaine can impair wakefulness and sleep cycles due to chemical […]