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Cocaine

Cocaine is the most potent stimulant of natural origin. It is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca), which is indigenous to the Andean highlands of South America. Its chemical name is [1R-(exo,exo)]-3-(Benzoyloxy)-8-methyl-8-azabicyclo[3.2.1]octane-2-carboxylic acid methyl ester, and its chemical sum formula is C17H21NO4.

It was first isolated in 1860 and introduced into clinical use as a local anaesthetic in Germany in 1884. Although synthetic local anaesthetics are much more widely used today, cocaine is, to some degree, still in use in dentistry and ophthalmology. In 1879 it began to be used to treat morphine addiction. Already by late Victorian times it appeared as a 'vice' in literature, e.g. as the cucaine injected by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional Sherlock Holmes --- from which fact we may conclude that its use as a recreational drug began early.

Table of contents
1 Side Effects and Health Issues

Pharmacology

Illicit cocaine in its purest form is an off-white or pink chunky product. Adulterated coke is often a white or off-white powder. Cocaine appearing in powder is a salt, typically Cocaine Hydrochloride. Coke is frequently adulterated or "cut" with various powdery fillers to increase its volume. The substances most commonly used in this process are baking soda, sugars, such as lactose, inositol[?], and mannitol[?], and local anesthetics, such as lidocaine[?].

The major routes of administration of cocaine are snorting, injecting, and smoking (including freebase and crack cocaine):

  • Snorting: inhaling cocaine powder through the nose where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues - this method creates the slowest rate of absorption.
  • Injecting: using a needle to release the drug directly into the bloodstream - this is the fastest absorption possible.
  • Smoking: inhaling cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs. When smoked, cocaine is sometimes combined with other drugs, such as cannabis; this combination is known as primo.

"Crack" is the street name given to cocaine that has been processed from cocaine hydrochloride to a ready-to-use 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 heated, presumably from the sodium bicarbonate.

On the illicit market, crack, or "rock," is sold in small, inexpensive dosage units. These effects are felt almost immediately after smoking, are very intense, and do not last long, usually 5 to 10 minutes. The user is typically left wanting more crack, thus creating the financial problems commonly attributed to crack users.

Side Effects and Health Issues

Cocaine is not reccomended in conjunction with alcohol. Cocaine consumption causes high blood-pressure and increases the heart rate. There is risk associated with cocaine use, regardless of whether the drug is ingested by snorting, injecting, or smoking. Potential side effects of cocaine usage are aggression, depression, and paranoia. Cocaine is considered to be almost as addictive as nicotine.

Excessive doses of cocaine may lead to seizures and death from respiratory failure, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage[?], or heart-failure. There is no antidote for cocaine overdose.

Evidence suggests that users who smoke or inject cocaine may be at even greater risk than those who snort it. Cocaine smokers suffer from acute respiratory problems including coughing[?], shortness of breath, and severe chest pains with lung trauma and bleeding. In addition, it appears that compulsive cocaine use may develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked rather than snorted. The injection cocaine user is at high risk for transmitting or acquiring hepatitis and HIV/AIDS]] if needles or other injection equipment are shared. Furthermore, prolonged snorting of cocaine can degrade the cartilage separating the nostrils (the septum), leading eventually to its complete disappearance. The smoking of cocaine breaks down tooth enamel[?] and creates tooth decay and loss.

Use

Overall usage

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) reported that, in 1999, cocaine was used by 3.7 million Americans, or 1.7 percent of the household population aged 12 and over. Estimates of the current number of those who use cocaine regularly (at least once per month) vary, but 1.5 million is a widely accepted figure within the research community.

Although cocaine use has not significantly changed over the last six years, the number of first-time users has increased 63 percent, from 574,000 in 1991, to 934,000 in 1998. While these numbers indicate that cocaine is still widely present in the United States, cocaine use is significantly less prevalent than it was during the early 1980s. Cocaine use peaked in 1982 when 10.4 million Americans (5.6 percent of the population) reportedly used cocaine.

Use among youth

The 1999 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey found the proportion of students reporting use of powder cocaine rose during the 1990s. In 1991, 2.3 percent of eighth-graders said they used cocaine in their lifetime. This figure rose to 4.7 percent in 1999. For the older grades, increases began in 1992 and continued through the beginning of 1999. Between those years, lifetime use of cocaine went from 3.3 percent to 7.7 percent among tenth-graders and from 6.1 percent to 9.8 percent among twelfth-graders. Lifetime use of crack cocaine, according to MTF, also increased among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders, from an average of 2.0 percent in 1991 to 3.9 percent in 1999.

To make matters worse, perceived risk and disapproval of cocaine and crack use both decreased during the 1990s at all three grade levels. The 1999 NHSDA found the highest rate of monthly cocaine use was for those aged 18 to 25 at 1.7 percent, increasing from 1.2 percent in 1997. Rates declined between 1996 and 1998 for ages 26 to 34, while rates slightly increased for the 12 to 17 and 35 and older age groups. Studies also show people are experimenting with cocaine at younger and younger ages. NHSDA found a steady decline in the mean age of first use from 23.6 years in 1992 to 20.6 years in 1998.

Availability

Cocaine is readily available in all major U.S. metropolitan areas. According to the Summer 1998 Pulse Check, which is published by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, cocaine use has stabilized across the country, with a few increases reported in San Diego, Bridgeport, Miami, and Boston. In the West, cocaine use is down perhaps because some users are switching to methamphetamine, which is cheaper and provides a longer-lasting high.

Sources

In 1999, Colombia remains the world's leading producer of cocaine. Three-quarters of the world's annual yield of cocaine is produced there, both from cocaine base imported from Peru and Bolivia and from locally grown coca. There was a 28 percent increase in the amount of potentially harvestable coca plants in Colombia in 1998. This, combined with crop reductions in Bolivia and Peru, made Colombia the nation with the largest number of acres of coca under cultivation.

Distribution

Cocaine shipments from South America transported through Mexico or Central America are generally moved overland or by air to staging sites in northern Mexico. The cocaine is then broken down into smaller loads for smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border. The primary cocaine importation points in the United States are in Arizona, southern California, southern Florida, and Texas. Typically, land vehicles are driven across the Southwest Border.

Cocaine is also carried in small, concealed, kilogram quantities across the border by couriers known as "mules," who enter the United States either legally through ports of entry or illegally through undesignated points along the border. Colombian traffickers have also started using a new concealment method whereby they add chemical compounds to cocaine hydrochloride to produce "black cocaine." The cocaine in this substance is not detected by standard chemical tests or drug-sniffing canines.

Cocaine traffickers from Colombia have also established a labyrinth of smuggling routes throughout the Caribbean, the Bahama Island chain, and South Florida. They often hire traffickers from Mexico or the Dominican Republic to transport the drug. The traffickers use a variety of smuggling techniques to transfer their drug to U.S. markets. These include airdrops of 500-700 kilograms in the Bahama Islands or off the coast of Puerto Rico, mid-ocean boat-to-boat transfers of 500-2,000 kilograms, and the commercial shipment of multi-tons of cocaine through the port of Miami.

Bulk cargo ships are also used to smuggle cocaine to staging sites in the western Caribbean-Gulf of Mexico area. These vessels are typically 150 to 250-foot coastal freighters that carry an average cocaine load of approximately 2.5 metric tons. Commercial fishing vessels are also used for smuggling operations. In areas with a high volume of recreational traffic, smugglers use the same types of vessels, such as go-fast boats, as those used by the local population.


DISCLAIMER
Please remember that Wikipedia is offered for informational use only. The information is in most cases not reviewed by professionals. You are advised to contact your doctor for health-related decisions.



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