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Cocaine - What Is It?

The drug cocaine comes from the cocoa plant that originally was found in the Andes mountains. The indigenous people would chew the plant for medicinal purposes for hunger and fatigue. Later it was discovered by the western world and was developed into a highly addictive, mind altering, dangerous drug.

It was introduced in the United States in 1886 as a medicine in an elixir form. It was marketed as Coca-Cola and was used to treat headaches, abdominal pain, and other body aches. In 1903 the company Coca-Cola agreed to remove the cocaine from their product. Later, authorities recognized how dangerous the drug could be and it was considered a addicting, harmful narcotic.

Cocaine: Affecting Teens

Typically when we think of a cocaine addict, we think of an older person perhaps from the inner cities. However, like with many other drugs, the demographic of users is changing dramatically to suburban middle class individuals, especially women in their late twenties or thirties, that don't have a previous history of drug use. In addition, cocaine use among teens is continually on the rise.

With kids experimenting with drugs at an increasingly younger age, street drugs, like cocaine have become increasingly popular with the teenage demographic. Teens usually begin with prescription drugs or alcohol at the ages of twelve to thirteen, and by seventeen or eighteen they begin to experiment with more potent, dangerous drugs such as meth and cocaine.

Cocaine Damaging The Body

Cocaine has harmful effects that can damage many different facets of the body. Some of these effects include the following:

  • Cocaine can cause mental difficulties and problems. The chemicals in the drug that produce the feelings or effects of a high also cause damage to the neurotransmitters of the brain and impede normal brain function.
  • The users that sniff or huff cocaine by way of the nasal cavity can, over time, cause severe damage to the mucous membrane. This in turn leads to severe nose bleeds and can permanently damage the membrane and nasal functions. The loss of smell is often a result of sniffing or huffing cocaine.

  • Those users that smoke the drug experience problems with their lungs. The chemicals that are taken into the lungs can cause bronchial damage that can have a permanent effect on lung function and even lead to lung cancer. Other lung problems include a condition called subcutaneous emphysema, which is when air is trapped under the skin. In some cases this can lead to another harmful condition called pulmonary edema, which is when the lungs fill with fluid. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to respiratory failure and ultimately death.

  • Heart complications are a result of cocaine use. Cocaine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. The natural response of the body is to release adrenaline and the hormone epinephrine. These hormones will increase heart rate and dilate blood vessels which will in turn increase blood pressure. This puts abnormal amounts of stress on the heart and can ultimately cause heart failure. Persistent cocaine use can cause other cardiac complications as well.

It is important for those that are involved with cocaine or those that have loved ones who are abusing cocaine to know that dangers and seek professional help.

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