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Cocaine Facts

  • 33.7 million Americans ages 12 and older reported having used cocaine at least once in their lifetime, as of 2005.*
  • 7.9 million reported using crack, as of 2005.
  • About 872,000 people used cocaine for the first time in 2005.
  • Adults ages 18 to 25 are the most likely to use cocaine.
  • The average age of first use is 19.7 years old.
  • Men are more likely than women to use cocaine.
  • Among youth ages 12 to 17, about 2.3 percent reported having tried cocaine at least once, as of 2005.
  • Among adults ages 18 to 25, about 15.1 percent reported having tried cocaine at least once, as of 2005.
  • Cocaine is a fast-acting drug, lending to its popularity.
  • In the 18th century and early 19th century, the extract of coca leaves (essentially cocaine) was widely used by surgeons as a local anesthetic for patients and also as an ingredient in the syrup of the new soft drink Coca-Cola. Of course, usage soon stopped when the full effects of the substance became known and safer drugs were developed.
  • Of approximately 108 million visits to the emergency room in America during 2005, an estimated 448,481 were cocaine-related, according to Drug Abuse Warning Network statistics.
  • There were 12,166 cocaine-related charges filed at the federal level in FY2004.
  • There were 11,464 people federally sentenced in FY2006 for charges related to cocaine, in either its powder or rock form.

The drug is extracted from the leaves of the plant and distributed in two ways; the salt form of cocaine hydrochloride and the base form of either crack or what is called “free base.” Free base is made through a process using ether, which is dangerous in itself because of its highly volatile and flammable nature.  Crack is similar to free base, but is not as refined, pure, or filtered, eliminating the necessity for ether, and enabling dealers to double their profit with the requirement of using ammonia or baking soda.

Both forms of cocaine are illegal and powerfully addictive.  Like many other drug addictions, it affects the lives of millions of people through personal dependence and relation.  While cocaine typically is used by those between the ages of eighteen and thirty, because of its unique history many people over the years have been exposed to it.

Since the introduction of crack cocaine in the late eighties, it is no longer considered a recreational drug for the upper class, and can be found anywhere and among all walks of life. Even the poor and the homeless suffer from exposure and addiction because crack is available in small amounts and at an inexpensive price.

One Of The Most Addictive and Deadly Drugs Ever

Cocaine is one of the most addictive and deadly drugs ever to be discovered.  Depending upon the individual and method of administration, it is possible for dependence to be established at the first trial.  If use is prolonged, there are many serious concerns that could become prevalent.  Traumatic occurrences such as the development of psychosis, respiratory failure, heart attacks, strokes, perforation of the nasal passage, and brain hemorrhage are possible.  Short term effects such as sleeplessness, paranoia, sexual dysfunction, nausea, weight loss, headaches, and allergic reaction are common.  Individuals who consistently use cocaine often abuse other drugs as well, such as alcohol or heroin.  This compounds the issue and dramatically increases the chance of death by overdose.

Cocaine in its salt form can be snorted nasally or mixed with water and injected intravenously.  The base forms of free base and crack enable users to smoke the cocaine, which lessens the amount of time it takes to move from the lungs to the blood.  It typically only requires five minutes for the drug to reach the brain.  After an individual has experienced smoking cocaine, it is likely that they will no longer desire to snort it, as the high is quicker and more extreme.  Smoking cocaine is also more addictive and deadly.  Since the high does not last as long as snorting it, users often take another “hit” before they have processed the last one.  The high concentrations of the coke within the body can lead to stroke, respiratory or heart failure.  Cocaine abusers often need the assistance of a drug rehabilitation or drug rehab program in order to successfully recover from cocaine addiction.

Cocaine Directly Affects The Central Nervous System

Cocaine directly affects the central nervous system.  Through prolonged use, addicts become entirely different people.  They often begin to display a large range of erratic behavior, and will do anything to achieve the next high.  Suffering from constant symptoms of withdrawal, the addiction can sometimes appear to be similar to that of a paranoid schizophrenic.  Exhibitions of extreme anxiety and agitation are normal.  Delusions, visual and audio hallucinations become prevalent.  The addict often isolates himself as fear and mistrust develop with all relationships.  Cocaine addiction can also lead to the selling or distribution of the drug in the pursuit of continuing to afford their habit.  This not only increases the chance of imprisonment, but provides the addict with a constant supply of the drug.

* – Source: 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

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