Cocaine Essay, Research Paper


The potent drug cocaine was first prescribed as an anesthetic and a

painkiller by doctors who believed that it was a safe substitute for morphine.

The drug is a white, crystalline compound that has been processed from the

leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylum coca), a tropical shrub commonly found

wild in Peru and Bolivia and cultivated in many other countries. For centuries

South American Indians have chewed the coca leaves for pleasure and to help them

withstand strenuous working conditions, hunger, and thirst. The cocaine in the

leaves produces local anesthesia of the mouth and stomach.

Cocaine is a dangerous, habit-forming drug. It is classified as an

alkaloid compound. (Other well-known alkaloids are morphine, strychnine, and

nicotine.) Cocaine stimulates the cortex of the brain, producing intense

euphoria and the desire to repeat the experience; however, the drug has a highly

toxic effect upon the central nervous system.

The fine, white powder–also called snow, coke, or toot–can be tasted,

but usually it is sniffed. It is readily absorbed into the bloodstream through

the nasal mucous membranes, but it acts as an irritant to constrict blood

vessels and sometimes causes ulcerations in the nasal cavity. Cocaine is also

injected in solution into veins or may be smoked in chemically treated forms

known as free base and crack.

Any method of ingestion produces compulsive use, and drug dependency may

develop in a relatively short time. Users are attracted at first when small

amounts of cocaine decrease their fatigue and increase their mental awareness.

When taken in larger amounts, cocaine may also produce digestive disorders,

weight loss, sleeplessness, irritability, depression, and hallucinations or

paranoia. Cocaine abuse overstimulates the spinal cord, and convulsions may

result, leading to respiratory failure and death. (See Drugs)

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