Published: 2019-09-17 07:00:00
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Cocaine, chemical name benzoylmethylecgonine is a strong stimulant and is mostly used as a recreational drug. Those who use it, inhale, inject into their veins or snort it via their noses. High doses of this drug can have adverse effects on the user, such as raising their blood pressure, hallucinations, intense feelings of pleasure and so forth (Gootenberg, 1999). Like most drugs, the effects of cocaine is that it alters the normal functioning of the brain and this in turn makes it hard for the person addicted, as one finds it increasingly difficult to quit. The effects of taking cocaine will be felt within seconds of ingesting it and the effects can last for hours depending on the dosage consumed by the user. Cocaine has been used legally in medical situations as a pain suppressant or for increasing blood flow for example during surgeries (Gootenberg, 1999). It has a high risk of dependency and addiction to it can occur within a short period of a user consuming it.


Cocaine is extracted from coca leaves which is one of the oldest and most dangerous stimulants we have. Its history dates back to 3000 BC in the ancient Andes, where the residents of the Incan Empire used to chew the leaves of the coca plant as a countermeasure for the thin mountain air as this got their blood pressures up as well as making them breathe much faster. The practice of chewing the leaves was also adopted by the Native Peruvian community who only used it during religious ceremonies (Dewick, 2009). It was a taboo for them to chew the leaves outside the religious realm; this was, however broken with the invasion by the Spanish army in the 1500s who used to make the slaves working in the mines chew the leaves as this made them pliant and easy to control.

The extraction of cocaine from the coca plant was first done in 1855 by German chemist Friedrich Gaedcke and he named the alkaloid he had isolated as erythroxyline. In 1859 German scientist Albert Neimann received a large shipment of the coca plant from South America and he was able to isolate the cocaine from the coca plant in an improved purification process. He was able to write about the qualities of this new product he had isolated in a dissertation he titled, on a new organic base in the coca leaves. The cocaine alkaloid according to Neimann was made of clear prisms and the solution it made had a bitter taste. He wrote that the solution once consumed had the effects of leaving a strange numbness to the individual, and an increased production of saliva. Neimann named the alkaloid cocaine, which is made of the prefix coca from the plant it is extracted from and the suffix ine.

The medical community was very interested in discovering various uses for this new product. Sigmund Freud promoted the use of cocaine in the treatment of depression and other mental illness due to the enhancement of pleasure that the drug seemed to have on patients it was administered to. While he was convinced that it was not harmful when consumed in high doses, one of his patients is said to have died from a high dose of cocaine he had prescribed to them.

Soon after this, the negative repercussions of the drug began to come up such as addiction where individuals could not perform their daily activities without first administering a dose of the drug to their system (Madge, 2001). Many people suffered from poisoning as a result of the drug and others had severe mental disorders brought on by the hallucinatory effect of the drug. Further uses of the drug came in the 1900s when it was added to drinks and medication as a local anesthetic. It is interesting to note that the first recipe for the coca cola drink by John Styth Pemberton contained a pinch of the coca leaves, but this was later outlawed once the pure food and drug act was passed in 1906 by the United States congress.

Production of cocaine

The highest productions of cocaine in the world remained in Colombia until 2012 with productions of the drug being brought into the country from Bolivia and Peru and then being exported to the United States. Coca plants grown in Colombia saw a 28% increase in 1998 and this was coupled with a decrease in the plant growth in Peru and this made Colombia a leading cultivator of the plant in the 1990s. The plant has been approved by the government for use by some of the indigenous communities living in Colombia but this only makes up for a small fragment of the total coca plants grown in the country, most of which is illegally cultivated and exported in the illegal drug trade business.

The production of cocaine uses an acid base extraction process much of which has not changed since the 1900s. Each hectare of coca planted produces about 625 pounds of leaves and this is done about 6 times in a year. The leaves once harvested are dried for half a day and then cut into small pieces and then the chopped pieces are mixed with powered cement. The mixture is then soaked in 190 liters of gasoline for one day and once removed from the gasoline the leaves have the excess gasoline pressed from them and they are then disposed off. Another mixture was made that used weak sulfuric acid for every 25kg of coca leaves, this is known as the phase separation where the cocaine free base was acidified and it produced some smelly liquid to which caustic powder was added, the cocaine once it had precipitated could be filtered and the resulting paste was sold by the farmer to the drug cartels. Further re-crystallization of the paste would eventually produce the needed cocaine powder that was then sold ready for consumption by the users.

The image below shows the chemical composition of cocaine. Its chemical formula is C17H21NO4 with a molar mass of 303.353g/mol

Image 1.1(Dewick, 2009)

Social effects of cocaine

The current world we are living in has us constantly on the go as we strive to be better, and are always finding shortcuts to keep our energies up so as not to be bypassed by the trends that are coming up. Many have found their escape in drugs which have enabled them to find that needed rush and boost for their abilities to perform and they have come to rely on the effects that drug use brings. The effect of these drugs is short term and so the user will need to have constant use of it (Madge, 2001). Cocaine is the second most popularly used illegal drug in the United States and the country is the worlds largest consumer of the drug. The drug has a large following among the upper and middle class who can afford to pay for it. It is also a common drug among college students who will consume it at parties.

Studies show that over 47% of students who have graduated from college in the United States have admitted to have used cocaine in a recreation form in the 1980s as compared to 20% from 1980-95. The use of cocaine is not restricted to a certain demographic but will extend regardless of class, age, or profession. The use of the drug became popular in the 1980s with the disco movement (Spillane, 2000).

Cocaine is a very addictive drug and the users quickly become slaves to it as it has direct effects on the brain. Once consumed, the user will develop enhanced feelings of euphoria and this soon after followed by a crash of the drug from the system (Madge, 2001). The crash creates a vacuum and a need to have more of the drug and this habit is what leads to addiction. The body becomes dependant on the drug and the user does not feel like they are functioning at full capacity without it. Addiction is, however a high price to pay for this instant gratification.

The social effects of cocaine are felt by the immediate family and friends of the user and this will extend to the society around them (Spillane, 2000). Cocaine is an outlawed substance in the united states and it only has an approval for medical use by the FDA and other relevant bodies. The user will not only get into trouble with the law, but in order to sustain their lifestyle they will tap into their finances and this will have a huge wastage of the money they have saved over time.

Psychological effects

Prolonged use of cocaine will have the user being irritable and restless. Cocaine users will exhibit strange behavior such as being increasingly anxious about everything and they are always on the lookout. They will be aggressive to those around them and more so when questioned about their lifestyle choices; they will also be aggressive when they feel frustrated about anything. Most of those who try out cocaine for the first time will be in a bid to increase their productivity in a given area of their lives. Those who try it think they can have control over the drug, but they build up a tolerance for the small doses and soon are consuming higher amounts leading to various levels of addiction.

Long term effects of cocaine are depression, and psychosis. While the user consumed the drug with the intention of getting high and tapping into their happy place, these feelings are replaced with anxiety, paranoia, lack of sleep and the body just craves more of the drug to which the user obliges. Users who have been diagnosed with chronic psychosis are said to have had the sensation of having bugs crawling all over them and many will have lesions and self inflicted wounds from picking on their skin. Other symptoms associated with long term use is violent behavior; proper judgment is severely affected and this could also lead to them making silly mistakes to more serious ones.

Legal status

The production, sale and distribution of cocaine is very much prohibited in many countries around the world, with those found facing extensive fines and possible jail time. The regulation was passed by the FDA in 1906 while the Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 was seen as the start of proper regulation and prohibitions on the drugs and other related products. According to the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, cocaine falls under schedule II and the drugs under this category are highly addictive, and they have the potential for abuse if not properly administered by a qualified and licensed physician. Other drugs that fall in this category include; morphine, methamphetamines and methadone. It is of interest to note that marijuana, or cannabis is rated in the higher level of schedule 1.

Possession of more than 500 grams of cocaine in the United States has severe consequence including;

Possible imprisonment that will range from 5-40 years, depending on the jurisdiction

When there has been an occurrence of death or grievous harm and it is traced to cocaine, the dealer or distributor has the likelihood of facing a 20 year to life prison sentence and fines of up to $ 2 million and this can go up to $5 million.

Those found to have prior drug related charges that have not been cleared face ten years prison time

This is not to say that those caught with smaller amounts of cocaine are left to go scot free, individuals who are found to be in possession of cocaine usually in smaller quantities will likely face fines; the courts will decide the amount of fines depending on the assets and income of the defendant; unless criminal charges are brought upon them then they will also have the likelihood of spending time behind bars.


Statistics from rehab centers paint gloomy image on the people who relapse after completing the rehabilitation period. The percentages range from 50 to 90%. This statistic is worrisome as those who want to remain addicted will use this trend of high cases of relapse to continue with their addiction (Baker, 1991).

Baker (1991) points out that addiction of any kind is a chronic disease that is prone to relapse and this is the reason that a user will continue to be dependent and seek out the drug to deal with all the various situations they are facing. All this is despite the harmful consequences that thes...


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