Extracted from the leaves of the Erythroxylon coca bush, Cocaine is one of the oldest known drugs. For nearly a thousand years the leaves have been ingested to decrease hunger and increase energy, and were believed to increase communication with the spirit world. However, the chemical form of cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride, has only been around the last hundred years. During the last half of the 19th century, it was used widely throughout the United States as a treatment for depression, exhaustion and addiction to morphine. Once the negative side effects and its addictive qualities were discovered, many regulations were enacted to restrict its use. Though it is listed on the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, it is still available for limited medical use; such as anesthesia for eye, ear and throat surgeries.
The coca bush is a very sturdy plant, extremely resistant to drought and disease, and although it grows mostly in Peru and Bolivia, the majority of cocaine in the United States comes from Mexico. There are some Columbian and Dominican criminal organizations that maintain the markets in the Northeastern and Florida/ Caribbean portions of the United States; however, they are slowly losing control to the Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). In the past the Mexican DTOs controlled the Great Lakes, the Pacific Southeast, the Midwest, and the Southwest regions. They have now taken over portions of New York and Florida. This is also due in large part to the more easily accessible border between the United States and Mexico.
Like many other drugs, cocaine has various methods of administration; snorting, injecting, and smoking. Although the amount and method of use are leading factors in response time, the effects of cocaine are almost immediate. Because injection introduces the drug directly into the user’s blood stream, the results are fast but not long lasting. Smoking produces slightly longer results, approximately 5-10 minutes, while snorting can last up to half an hour. The most common short term effects include an increase in energy and mental alertness, more talkative, decrease in appetite, and insomnia. The physiological and psychological effects of cocaine use are more life threatening: constricted blood vessels, increased temperature, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, vertigo, tremors, paranoia, twitching, and erratic, violent behavior. Cocaine has also been known to cause seizures, heart attacks, and sometimes instant death, particularly in first time users. Because cocaine is highly addictive, one of the long term effects is an increase in the amount needed to reach the desired results. This increases the physical side effects as well as the psychological, causing increased irritability, insomnia, and restlessness.
While research is being conducted to find new medications that would be suitable for treating cocaine addictions, none currently exist. The most common method of treatment currently is behavioral therapy. The key is designing the treatment specifically for the individual and offering them the support and services they need to recover and prevent relapse.