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Cocaine aka Charlie, coke, base

Cocaine is a widely used drug in the UK pub, club and party scene.  It is expensive to purchase and is generally sold in 1 gram packs and is snorted to produce a relatively short high.   This short high is part of the appeal as is its confidence boosting effect that leads the user to be more chatty.
 

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Overview

Cocaine obtained from the leaves of the coca plant.  The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. Cocaine is a stimulant of the central nervous system and appetite suppressant.  Cocaine is addictive because of the way it affects the mesolimbic reward pathway.

Its possession, cultivation, and distribution are illegal in virtually all parts of the world.  Despite this its use worldwide remains widespread.

Data from The Lancet suggests cocaine is ranked both the 2nd most addictive and harmful of 20 popular recreational drugs.  Cocaine is a powerful nervous system stimulant.

Cocaines effects can last from 15–30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the method of ingestion.

Cocaine increases alertness, feelings of well-being and euphoria, energy and motor activity, feelings of competence and sexuality. Athletic performance may be enhanced in sports where sustained attention and endurance is required. Anxiety, paranoia and restlessness are also frequent. With excessive dosage, tremors, convulsions and increased body temperature are observed.

Cocaine can come in a variety of different forms for recreational drug use and can be taken in a variety of ways, we details some of the most common below:

Freebase Cocaine

As the name implies, “freebase” is the base form of cocaine, as opposed to the salt form. It is practically insoluble in water whereas hydrochloride salt is water soluble. Pure cocaine is prepared by neutralizing its compounding salt with an alkaline solution which will precipitate to non-polar basic cocaine. It is further refined through aqueous-solvent Liquid-liquid extraction.

The "freebase" and "crack" forms of cocaine are usually administered by vaporization of the powdered substance into smoke, which is then inhaled.  The origin of the name "crack" comes from the "crackling" sound that is produced when the cocaine are heated past the point of vaporization.   The smoke produced from cocaine base is usually described as having a very distinctive, pleasant taste.

Smoking or vaporizing cocaine and inhaling it into the lungs produces an almost immediate "high" that can be very powerful (and addicting) quite rapidly - this initial crescendo of stimulation is known as a "rush".

Insufflation

Nasal Insufflation (known colloquially as "snorting," "sniffing," or "blowing") is the most common method of ingestion of recreational powdered cocaine in the Western world. The drug coats and is absorbed through the mucous membranes lining the sinuses. When insufflating cocaine, absorption through the nasal membranes is approximately 30–60%, with higher doses leading to increased absorption efficiency. Any material not directly absorbed through the mucous membranes is collected in mucus and swallowed (this "drip" is considered pleasant by some and unpleasant by others).

In a study of cocaine users, the average time taken to reach peak subjective effects was 14.6 minutes.

Prior to insufflation, cocaine powder must be divided into very fine particles. Cocaine of high purity breaks into fine dust very easily, except when it is moist (not well stored) and forms "chunks," which reduces the efficiency of nasal absorption.

Rolled up banknotes, hollowed-out pens, cut straws, pointed ends of keys, specialized spoons, long fingernails, and (clean) tampon applicators are often used to insufflate cocaine. The cocaine typically is poured onto a flat, hard surface (such as a mirror, CD case or book) and divided into "bumps" or "lines", and then insufflated.  As tolerance builds rapidly in the short-term (hours), many lines are often snorted to produce greater effects.

A study by Bonkovsky and Mehta reported that, just like shared needles, the sharing of straws used to "snort" cocaine can spread blood diseases such as Hepatitis C.

History of Cocaine from the Coca Leaf

For over a thousand years South American indigenous peoples have chewed the leaves of Erythroxylon coca, a plant that contains vital nutrients as well as numerous alkaloids, including cocaine. The coca leaf was, and still is, chewed almost universally by some indigenous communities. The remains of coca leaves have been found with ancient Peruvian mummies, and pottery from the time period depicts humans with bulged cheeks, indicating the presence of something on which they are chewing. There is also evidence that these cultures used a mixture of coca leaves and saliva as an anesthetic for the performance of trepanation.

When the Spanish arrived in South America, most at first ignored aboriginal claims that the leaf gave them strength and energy, and declared the practice of chewing it the work of the Devil. But after discovering that these claims were true, they legalized and taxed the leaf, taking 10% off the value of each crop. In 1569, Nicolás Monardes described the practice of the natives of chewing a mixture of tobacco and coca leaves to induce "great contentment":

When they wished to make themselves drunk and out of judgment they chewed a mixture of tobacco and coca leaves which make them go as they were out of their wittes.

In 1609, Padre Blas Valera wrote:

Coca protects the body from many ailments, and our doctors use it in powdered form to reduce the swelling of wounds, to strengthen broken bones, to expel cold from the body or prevent it from entering, and to cure rotten wounds or sores that are full of maggots. And if it does so much for outward ailments, will not its singular virtue have even greater effect in the entrails of those who eat it.

Popularization

Pope Leo XIII purportedly carried a hipflask of the coca-treated Vin Mariani with him, and awarded a Vatican gold medal to Angelo Mariani.

In 1859, an Italian doctor, Paolo Mantegazza, returned from Peru, where he had witnessed first-hand the use of coca by the natives. He proceeded to experiment on himself and upon his return to Milan he wrote a paper in which he described the effects. In this paper he declared coca and cocaine (at the time they were assumed to be the same) as being useful medicinally, in the treatment of "a furred tongue in the morning, flatulence, and whitening of the teeth."

In 1879 cocaine began to be used to treat morphine addiction. Cocaine was introduced into clinical use as a local anesthetic in Germany in 1884, about the same time as Sigmund Freud published his work Über Coca, in which he wrote that cocaine causes:

Exhilaration and lasting euphoria, which in no way differs from the normal euphoria of the healthy person. You perceive an increase of self-control and possess more vitality and capacity for work. In other words, you are simply normal, and it is soon hard to believe you are under the influence of any drug. Long intensive physical work is performed without any fatigue. This result is enjoyed without any of the unpleasant after-effects that follow exhilaration brought about by alcohol. Absolutely no craving for the further use of cocaine appears after the first, or even after repeated taking of the drug.

In 1885 the U.S. manufacturer Parke-Davis sold cocaine in various forms, including cigarettes, powder, and even a cocaine mixture that could be injected directly into the user's veins with the included needle. The company promised that its cocaine products would "supply the place of food, make the coward brave, the silent eloquent and render the sufferer insensitive to pain."

By the late Victorian era cocaine use had appeared as a vice in literature. For example, it was injected by Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional Sherlock Holmes.

In early 20th-century Memphis, Tennessee, cocaine was sold in neighbourhood drugstores , costing five or ten cents for a small boxful.   In 1909, Ernest Shackleton took "Forced March" brand cocaine tablets to Antarctica, as did Captain Scott a year later on his ill-fated journey to the South Pole.

During the mid 1940's amidst WWII cocaine was considered for inclusion as an ingredient of a future generation of 'pep pills' for the German military code named D-IX.

Prohibition

By the turn of the 20th century, the addictive properties of cocaine had become clear, and perceived problems with cocaine use began to capture public attention in the United States. The dangers of cocaine use became part of a moral panic that was tied to the dominant racial and social anxieties of the day. In 1903, the American Journal of Pharmacy stressed that most cocaine abusers were "bohemians, gamblers, high- and low-class prostitutes, night porters, bell boys, burglars, racketeers, pimps, and casual laborers." In 1914, Dr. Christopher Koch of Pennsylvania's State Pharmacy Board made the racial innuendo explicit, testifying that, “Most of the attacks upon the white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain."

Mass media manufactured an epidemic of cocaine use among African Americans in the Southern United States to play upon racial prejudices of the era, though there is little evidence that such an epidemic actually took place. In the same year, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act outlawed the sale and distribution of cocaine in the United States. This law incorrectly referred to cocaine as a narcotic, and the misclassification passed into popular culture. As stated above, cocaine is a stimulant, not a narcotic. Although technically illegal for purposes of distribution and use, the distribution, sale and use of cocaine was still legal for registered companies and individuals. Because of the misclassification of cocaine as a narcotic, the debate is still open on whether the government actually enforced these laws strictly. Cocaine was not considered a controlled substance until 1970, when the United States listed it as such in the Controlled Substances Act. Until that point, the use of cocaine was open and rarely prosecuted in the US due to the moral and physical debates commonly discussed.

Modern usage

In many countries, cocaine is a popular recreational drug. In the United States, the development of "crack" cocaine introduced the substance to a generally poorer inner-city market. Use of the powder form has stayed relatively constant, experiencing a new height of use during the late 1990s and early 2000s in the U.S., and has become much more popular in the last few years in the UK.

Cocaine use is prevalent across all socioeconomic strata, including age, demographics, economic, social, political, religious, and livelihood.

The estimated U.S. cocaine market exceeded $70 billion in street value for the year 2005, exceeding revenues by corporations such as Starbucks. There is a tremendous demand for cocaine in the U.S. market, particularly among those who are making incomes affording luxury spending, such as single adults and professionals with discretionary income. Cocaine’s status as a club drug shows its immense popularity among the "party crowd".

In 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) announced in a press release the publication of the results of the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken. However, a decision by an American representative in the World Health Assembly banned the publication of the study, because it seemed to make a case for the positive uses of cocaine. An excerpt of the report strongly conflicted with accepted paradigms, for example "that occasional cocaine use does not typically lead to severe or even minor physical or social problems."

In the sixth meeting of the B committee the US representative threatened that "If WHO activities relating to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches, funds for the relevant programs should be curtailed". This led to the decision to discontinue publication. A part of the study has been recuperated. Available are profiles of cocaine use in 20 countries.

It was reported in October 2010, that the use of cocaine in Australia has doubled since monitoring began in 2003.

A problem with illegal cocaine use, especially in the higher volumes used to combat fatigue (rather than increase euphoria) by long-term users, is the risk of ill effects or damage caused by the compounds used in adulteration. Cutting or "stepping on" the drug is commonplace, using compounds which simulate ingestion effects, such as Novocain (procaine) producing temporary anesthaesia as many users believe a strong numbing effect is the result of strong and/or pure cocaine, ephedrine or similar stimulants that are to produce an increased heart rate. The normal adulterants for profit are inactive sugars, usually mannitol, creatine or glucose, so introducing active adulterants gives the illusion of purity and to 'stretch' or make it so a dealer can sell more product than without the adulterants. 

The adulterant of sugars therefore allows the dealer to sell the product for a higher price because of the illusion of purity and allows to sell more of the product at that higher price, enabling dealers to make a lot of revenue with little cost of the adulterants. Cocaine trading carries large penalties in most jurisdictions, so user deception about purity and consequent high profits for dealers are the norm.  A study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in 2007 showed that the purity levels for street purchased cocaine was often under 5% and on average under 50% pure.


 
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