The Science behind Cocaine

Cocaine! If you’ve seen enough Hollywood, chances are you have stumbled upon this name (if you haven’t consumed some yourself, that is). Think The Wolf of Wall Street. That was a dead giveaway.

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug, most commonly used for recreational purposes. Now as you might have seen in movies, heard stories or even experienced for yourself, the use of this drug can cause some serious damage to a person’s health. In fact, over 4,300 people died in the year 2013 due to cocaine consumption.
But let us understand that why this drug, in spite of being so harmful and deadly, is used by millions worldwide.

History of Cocaine

The use of cocaine can be traced back to ancient times, though not in its purest form. Cocaine is actually extracted from cocoa leaves. Cocoa leaf has been and still is, chewed by many South American indigenous people. But it was in the mid 19th century that the cocaine alkaloid was isolated from the cocoa leaf which led to the discovery of the drug. Later, in the late 19th century, it was used for medicinal purposes, like giving anesthesia.

Modern Usage

The late 20th century saw heavy commercialisation of cocaine. With big drug dealers like Pablo Escobar in the game, cocaine became THE thing in North America. The masses started using it as a recreational drug, despite it being declared illegal by their governments. Consumption varied – there was snorting, inhaling and even injecting it into the veins through a syringe. Soon, it was a party drug. Since then the number of cocaine users globally has only gone up.

How does cocaine work?

The human brain’s mesolimbic dopamine system is its reward pathway. It gets triggered by all types of reinforcing stimuli – like food, sex, and drugs. In today’s millennial times, dopamine is also connected with ‘activy on social media’ while seeking likes and comments. Do anything nice, and your brain rewards itself with dopamine – which makes you want to crave such tasks again.

According to USA’s NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), “Cocaine acts by binding to the dopamine transporter, blocking the removal of dopamine from the synapse. Dopamine then accumulates in the synapse to produce an amplified signal to the receiving neurons. This is what causes the euphoria commonly experienced immediately after taking the drug.” The drug is basically letting you have a lot of dopamine at once.

In fact, it can be so addictive that even after a long period of abstinence and rehabilitation; people are compelled to consume it again.

Effects of cocaine

Excessive use of cocaine can lead to a number of chronic and acute diseases. It generally causes itching, fast heart rate, hallucinations and paranoid delusions. Overdosing can lead to hyperthermia and significant elevation in blood pressure – leading to instant death. It has also been known to cause severe tooth decay as it breaks down the tooth enamel.

The kinds of health hazards that can be caused by the drug are plenty. Studies and research continue to be performed as more cocaine abuse cases surface every year. In simple words – coke might give you a kick and quick insane energy, and even be fun. But in the long run, you’re damaging your body. In many cases – irreversibly.

Cocaine in Monetary terms

Cocaine dealing continues to be amongst the biggest markets in the world right now. It is estimated that the illegal market for cocaine is somewhere about $500 billion each year. The drug itself figures pretty high on the price-per-dose parameter. The decades-long War on Drugs has of course, failed miserably at containing its popularity and reach. Coke users continue to rise globally every year, in sharp defiance of policies and expectations from world governments.

While multiple countries are now beginning to advocate responsible drug use, the world’s largest aggresive stance against the drug continues to help the illegal dealing market and bring in larger number of users. Many of these do not make a successful, clean exit. And you can’t blame them – the drug is amongst the most addictive ones in the world.
Wrapping up, I will give you the same advice my dad gave me before I went to college. Don’t do drugs.