sheet - cocaine use
in South Africa
sheet prepared by:
Alcohol & Drug Abuse Research Group
Medical Research Council
is a central nervous stimulant extracted from the leaves of
the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca).
are two chemical forms of cocaine: cocaine hydrochloride (HCL)
which has the appearance of a white, crystalline powder; and
"freebase" cocaine. Crack is a specific form of
freebase cocaine which is processed from cocaine HCL by the
addition of an alkaline substance (e.g. bicarbonate of soda),
to form smokeable rocks.
HCL is usually administered intranasally (sniffing/snorting),
or less frequently, intravenously, through injection.
cocaine is mainly ingested through smoking/inhalation.
is a stimulant which causes the pulse rate to increase and
blood pressure to rise. It leads to changes in neurotransmitter
functioning, resulting in feelings of euphoria, self-confidence,
heightened awareness, and alertness. This "rush"
may result in a loss of fatigue, a loss of appetite, and heightened
- In large
doses, cocaine may lead to paranoia, violent and erratic behaviour,
dizziness, and dilated pupils.
- The rush
occurs within 5 to 10 minutes of snorting cocaine powder,
and tapers off within 15 minutes to an hour (depending on
the purity). If crack is smoked, the rush begins within about
The following are among long-term effects that have been reported
from cocaine use:
cocaine and cocaine powder are psychologically and physically
addictive, and when the "high" wears off, the addicted
user is left craving more stimulation.
- For the
addicted user of crack cocaine or cocaine powder, the "high"
is short-lived and is sometimes followed by feelings of irritability,
depression, paranoia, and anxiety. These are symptoms of withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms may also include nausea, vomiting, insomnia,
shaking fits, and muscle weakness.
risk of strokes, heart attacks, and seizures.
problems from smoking crack cocaine: chronic bronchitis, "crack
lung" syndrome, and respiratory failure.
nasal septum from snorting cocaine powder.
of body's ability to resist and fight infection.
psychological consequences: cocaine psychosis, depression,
anxiety, and insomnia, impaired memory and concentration,
impaired psychological development (especially for adolescents),
and impaired social and occupational functioning.
- Use during
pregnancy may place child at risk for later developmental
difficulties, such as poor attention and learning. There may
also be an increased risk of miscarriages, premature birth,
and fetal abnormalities.
cocaine may have a pro-sexual effect and lead to risky sexual
behaviour. Prolonged crack cocaine consumption has been associated
with an increased risk for contracting an STD or HIV.
has been a link between violent crime and crack consumption
in the USA with crime often being committed to support the
crack cocaine addiction.
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