Cocaine comes from coca, a plant that grows in high altitude areas of South America. Chewing the leaves of this plant releases a small amount of its active ingredient, cocaine, and produces a slight stimulating effect, similar to that of a well-loaded cup of coffee. However, when cocaine is extracted from this plant, a much more potent and dangerous substance can be produced.
Effects of Cocaine on the Nervous System
Cocaine acts directly on the pleasure center of the brain, preventing the reuptake of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, so that these neurotransmitters cannot be eliminated, but accumulate in the brain, producing a feeling of great well-being, euphoria, increased energy and motor activity.
The person who has consumed it becomes more sociable, talks more, laughs more, his self-esteem increases and he has a feeling of greater competence and ability. These symptoms can progress to irritability, emotional instability, anxiety, paranoia and great restlessness.
The effect usually lasts at most one hour. The fact that the duration of the effect is so short, it usually makes the people who use it tend to repeat the dose to increase the duration of its effects. This is usually followed by a depressed mood and exhaustion, until the person falls asleep. Sleep is often achieved through the use of sleeping pills, sedatives or alcohol.
Since the most immediate effect of cocaine is a pleasant sensation of euphoria, it is not uncommon for the person using it to resort to it when he feels bad about various problems or is in a slightly depressed state.
Chronic Use of Cocaine
The chronic use of cocaine causes alteration in the regulation of dopamine, which contributes to the appearance of depressive states. Thus, when the drug is not present in the body, a depressive state occurs and the addict resorts to cocaine to eliminate such discomfort. It may take several months for the functioning of the neurotransmitters to return to normal state.
Chronic use of cocaine can lead to irritability, severe depression, hallucinations and delusions, hypertension, tachycardia, panic attacks and cognitive functioning problems. Mood swings and episodes of aggression or hostility to other people can also occur.
Another typical symptom of cocaine abuse is bruxism, the continuous grinding of teeth, which can deteriorate tooth enamel and produce gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums. Injecting cocaine may also cause a severe allergic reaction.