Cocaine has long been known as a dangerous and highly addictive drug. It ravaged communities in the 1970s and 1980s, especially once a cheaper form, called crack cocaine, was introduced to low-income areas. Though it may be used in some countries for medical purposes, cocaine is most commonly found on illicit markets for abuse.
For a long time, the standard way to take cocaine was by snorting the white powder up the nose. In addition to snorting cocaine, injecting and smoking is used for a faster and intense high, all of which methods put users at risk of overdose or health issues. When snorting cocaine, the substance is absorbed through the mucus membranes in the sinus and carried through the bloodstream to the heart and lungs, then back through the rest of the body, including the brain. Smoking a drug takes it directly into the lungs where it can be sent right to the brain in a minute or less. Injecting a solution of dissolved cocaine also makes the effects take hold faster than snorting.Common short-term effects of cocaine include:
The fast high brought on by any of these intake methods is part of what makes cocaine so addictive. The user’s brain can easily make the connection between a behavior and a “reward” for that behavior if the effects of the drug begin very soon after intake.
The fact that so much of the drug reaches the brain all at once without being diluted by the digestive system or being processed by the liver also results in a euphoric sensation, referred to as a rush, that is extremely pleasant.
It’s difficult to limit this experience to only once in a lifetime. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.4 million people in the US fit the diagnostic criteria for abuse of or dependence on cocaine in 2008.
Of course, the more a person smokes, snorts, or injects a drug, the more likely that individual is to experience adverse health effects. Becoming addicted is almost certainly going to lead to chronic use of the drug unless treatment is sought immediately.
Snorting a drug is always hard on the sensitive mucus membranes of the sinus cavity. Over time, they become dry and worn, resulting in frequent runny or bloody noses. This also makes the individual more susceptible to sinus infections. After enough use, a hole can actually be worn in the person’s septum.
Smoking is perhaps more dangerous. The inhalation of any chemical is hard on the lungs, and cocaine often contains not just the drug, but any number of different additives put in to either intensify the effects or make it look like you’re getting more cocaine than you actually are. Cocaine bought through an illicit market is almost never pure. The result can be respiratory infections as well as the risk of throat or lung cancer.
Injection may be the most dangerous form of intake simple due to the risk of contracting dangerous diseases. The sharing of needles used to inject drugs is common with highly addictive intoxicants like cocaine and puts individuals at high risk for HIV, hepatitis C, and other potentially deadly infections. General infections at the site of injection are also a possibility that increases more with each insertion. This can cause collapsed veins, resulting in blockages and poor circulation.