What it is
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that stimulates the central nervous system by speeding up the messages sent between the body and the brain. It reduces appetite, increases energy and provides a euphoric sense of wellbeing.
Historically, cocaine was used as a painkiller in dentistry and for surgical operations on eyes and throats. Leaves of the coca bush have long been chewed and brewed into teas by indigenous people in South America as a stimulant and to suppress appetite.
Cocaine commonly comes in the form of a white odorless powder called cocaine hydrochloride (HCI) that has a bitter numbing taste. Various chemicals are used to develop different types of cocaine, and each is used differently.
- Cocaine hydrochloride: This is the most common form of cocaine. Cocaine hydrochloride is a purer form of cocaine, though it can sometimes be mixed with other substances, some of which are poisonous. It comes as a powder which is snorted. Regular and heavy snorting can damage the tissue on the inside of the nose.
- Freebase: This is the base form of cocaine derived from cocaine hydrochloride which has been treated with ammonia or baking soda. It comes in crystal form and isn’t dissolvable in water, so freebase cannot be injected or sniffed. It is smoked from pipes, or mixed with tobacco or cannabis and provides an almost instant rush. However, the initial high lasts no longer than 5-10 minutes and a craving for a second hit occurs soon after.
- Crack cocaine: This is a less pure variety of freebase. Cocaine hydrochloride is mixed with baking soda and water, and then heated to form crystals like rocks which are then smoked. Crack cocaine was initially developed for a poorer market and some people still refer to it today as 'poor man’s cocaine'. Crack cocaine’s impurity is indicated by its colour which will generally range from a yellowish crème to light brown.
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