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Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that interferes with the re-absorption process of dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with pleasure and movement. The build-up of dopamine causes continuous stimulation of “receiving” neurons, which is associated with the euphoria commonly reported by cocaine abusers.
Physical effects of cocaine use include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. The duration of cocaine’s immediate euphoric effects, which include hyper-stimulation, reduced fatigue, and mental clarity, depends on the route of administration.
The faster the absorption, the more intense the high on the other hand, fast absorption delivers a shorter duration of action. The high from snorting can last 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Increased use can reduce the period of time a user feels high and increases the risk of addiction.
Cocaine’s effects appear almost immediately after a single dose. Taken in small amounts (up to 100 mg), cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep.
Includes constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Large amounts (several hundred milligrams or more) intensify the user’s high, but may also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behaviour. These users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, paranoia, or, with repeated doses, a toxic reaction closely resembling amphetamine poisoning. Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest. Cocaine has other effects on the body and the unborn.
Once having tried cocaine, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug. Cocaine’s stimulant and addictive effects are thought to be primarily a result of its ability to inhibit the reabsorption of dopamine by nerve cells.
Dopamine is released as part of the brain’s reward system and is either directly or indirectly involved in the addictive properties of every major drug problem. An appreciable tolerance to cocaine’s high may develop, with many addicts reporting that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first experience. Some users will frequently increase their doses to intensify and prolong the euphoric effects.
While tolerance to the high can occur, users can also become more sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine’s anesthetic and convulsant effects, without increasing the dose taken. This increased sensitivity may explain some deaths occurring after apparently low doses of cocaine.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse