What is cocaine?The drug affects the neurotransmitter activity in the brain.
Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of coca (Erythroxylum coca). It grows mainly on the Andean slopes of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru at an altitude of 600 to 1000 meters. The leaves contain about one percent of the alkaloid known as cocaine.
Alkaloids are natural, nitrogen-containing compounds that usually react basicly. Using chemical methods, the alkaloid is extracted from the leaves and processed into coca paste and then cocaine hydrochloride.
For the illicit drug market then this substance - it is colorless and odorless and has a bitter taste - mixed with extenders. The consumer buys it as a white powder that he sniffs through the nose, smokes or injected into the vein.
How does cocaine work? The drug affects the neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers with which nerve cells at the synapses make contact with other nerve cells and transmit signals.
Put simply, cocaine causes the concentration of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine and serotonin (often referred to as "happiness hormones") to increase in the synaptic cleft. In addition, the breakdown of adrenaline slows down.
The effect: Heart rate, heart rate and respiratory rate, blood sugar, body temperature and blood pressure rise, the pupils dilate, the normal sleep-wake rhythm is disturbed, and the sensation of pain is inhibited. The cocaine consumer feels wide awake, physically and mentally powerful and persistent. Often he is euphoric, hyperactive and he tends to overconfidence and an uninhibited fluency.
The sexual desire can also increase. The feeling of hunger, on the other hand, is suppressed, probably because of the high blood sugar level. But even if the consumer eats as usual, it increases more slowly than usual - because the body's metabolism is running at full speed. Finally, the cocaine also has an anesthetic effect. For example, if you apply it to the tongue or mucous membranes, it quickly sets you numb.
Medical application & use
Medicine has used this numbing effect on the mucous membranes since the 1884s. The doctors used cocaine as a local anesthetic for surgery - for example on the eye, in the mouth or in the throat.
Thus, it was possible to dispense with a general risk of general anesthesia with ether or chloroform. Another positive side effect of cocaine is that it narrows the blood vessels, reducing the risk of bleeding during surgery. Also against depression and moods cocaine was prescribed.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the drug was freely available everywhere. In World War I, an English company even developed cocaine in pill form. Tens of thousands of soldiers were supplied with it - to dampen fear and hunger, to be able to march longer and better motivate. To this day, one does not know if all soldiers voluntarily took the cocaine or if it was mixed into their food. The fact is that after World War I, there were many thousands of cocaine addicted soldiers. The Treaty of Versailles then stated that the drug could only be used for scientific purposes.
Cocaine is now rarely used in medicine, although it is still approved as a local anesthetic (especially in eye surgery). But now there are many other narcotics, in which - in contrast to cocaine - there is no danger of dependence.
Risks, side effects & dangers
Because a regular cocaine consumer runs the risk of becoming mentally dependent. He has a strong desire for the drug. Other possible psychological consequences of cocaine abuse include: depression, impaired concentration and drive, paranoia, psychosis, personality changes and, specifically for cocaine, "dermatological delusion", where the addict feels that insects are crawling around under his skin.
Even physically, a long-term consumption is not without consequences. Often it comes to arrhythmia and visual disturbances, liver damage, potency problems, sexual impotence, increased risk of stroke and cerebral hemorrhage.