The use of cocaine

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant. Cocaine appears in several forms, including powder, free-base, crack or rock. Each is used differently and each use creates psychological and physical dangers for the user. Most people have heard of the powder form of cocaine. The powder is snorted or inhaled through the nose. The effects of the drug begin within a few minutes, peak within 15-20 minutes and disappear within an hour. The immediate effects of the drug are feelings of excitement and increased alertness. These feelings result from the drug’s effect on the brain and increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and respiration.

Free-base is the next step in purification of cocaine. Free-base is made by combining powder cocaine with household chemicals to change and purify the drug. Free-base can be smoked or mixed with liquid and injected, and produces a high similar to powder cocaine in only 10-15 seconds. The effects last no longer than 20 minutes.

Crack or rock is a solidified form of free-bases made without common or household chemicals, and is seen on the street as small pieces or slivers resembling soap. It is a more purified form of cocaine, which is ingested by smoking, and affects the body more quickly. Its effects last only 5-10 minutes, it is more addictive than any of the other forms of cocaine.

The dangers of cocaine use vary with the amount, form, method of ingestion and the individual. Cocaine use can cause restlessness, irritability, anxiety and sleeplessness, which contributes to post-use depression. Physically, the user can experience increased blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and respiration rate. These factors can cause stroke, heart attack, and respiratory failure from over-stimulation. Cocaine use creates psychological and physical dependence. In order to avoid the depression and fatigue that the drug can create, the user needs to take more of the drug. The more pure the form, the more quickly this dependence occurs. For example, use of crack can create dependency after only one use. A person with a cocaine problem goes through a process of denying there is a problem. It is especially important for cocaine users to seek help quickly.

Possession of this drug is a felony. Use of any drug to facilitate another crime increases the severity of the penalty for the underlying crime. The potential for addiction of this type of drug is high. Before you use or continue to use cocaine get the facts.

Questions to consider if you think you have a problem are:

1. Are you afraid to stop using the drug for fear your academic work will suffer?

2. Do you use the drug continuously until your supply is exhausted?

3. Do you have three or more of the following symptoms as a result of your drug use? Sleeplessness, headaches, difficulty with breathing or swallowing, irregular heartbeats or chest pain?

4. Do you have three or more of the following psychological symptoms? Jitters, anxiety, depression, panic, irritability, paranoia, lack of concentration, hallucinations, repetitious acts?

5. Have you skipped school or missed work because of crack or cocaine?

6. Have you borrowed money, used savings or committed crimes to get money to buy crack/cocaine?

If you answered yes to three or more of the above questions, or know someone who could, seek professional assistance. You can obtain help from the following on and off campus resources:

Campus Alcohol and Drug Resource Center 392-1161 ext.428
University Counseling Center 392-1575
Student Mental Health Services 392-1171
Office for Student Services 392-1261

National Hotline 1-800-COCAINE

The National Drug Recovery Center Locator

For further information on this or others safety topics please contact the University of Florida Police Department’s Community Services Division at 392-1409.