Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest. An added danger of cocaine use is when cocaine and alcohol are consumed at the same time. When these substances are mixed, the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol and manufactures a third substance, cocaethylene. This intensifies cocaine's euphoric effects, while also possibly increasing the risk of sudden death.
Considering cocaine is the world's most powerful natural stimulant. Its powerful euphoric effects are the result of the drug's interaction with the brain's dopamine receptors in the central nervous system.
Crack addiction has become a major problem in many American cities. This is because it is inexpensive, selling for between $5 and $10 for one or two doses (usually 300-500mg). It is also easily transportable as it is commonly sold in small vials, folding paper, or tinfoil. It is often easily accessible to those with crack addiction problems and constitutes for a large number of violent crimes.
Crack addiction statistics show that almost a quarter (24%) of the cocaine emergency department (ED) mentions in 2001 were attributed to crack. The number of cocaine ED mentions increased 35% since 1994 and 20% since 2000. During 2001, there were 46,964 crack ED mentions. Preliminary data show that there were 20,694 ED crack mentions from January to June 2002, representing 23% of the total cocaine ED mentions during that time period.
Crack cocaine effects produce a feeling of self confidence, empowerment, and exhilaration in the user. Those who abuse the drug will also begin to experience many negative crack cocaine effects such as aggressiveness, paranoia, restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. In addition to the user’s change in behavior and mood, crack cocaine effects include constricted peripheral blood vessels, dilated pupils, and a decrease in appetite. Users may also experience an increase in body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Crack cocaine is a form of ready-to-use freebase, so-called because of the ‘cracking’ noise it makes when heated. It is produced by heating a mixture of cocaine powder with baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) or ammonia and water. Upon cooling, this cocaine takes the form of hard pellets or small ‘rocks’ of a creamy white through to a beige color according to purity and method of preparation.
Crack cocaine is often sold in plastic bags or little vials, each one containing enough for two or three inhalations. Freebase and crack is usually smoked through a pipe made from a glass tube with a mesh or steel / copper wool at the bottom or even an empty soft drinks can with a perforated base. A flame held close to the rock produces a vapor which is then inhaled by the user. It can also be placed in silver foil. Smoking freebase or crack cocaine enables a very rapid rush and subsequent high, as the cocaine enters the blood stream via the lungs, reaching the brain within a matter of seconds.
Crack cocaine produces an almost immediate high, usually within 10 seconds. It became popular in the 1980’s for its quick effect and because it’s relatively inexpensive. The combinations of these two factors have made crack a huge problem, as user number close to 600,000.