Researchers have discovered that, when a pleasurable event is occurring, it is accompanied by a large increase in the amounts of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens by neurons originating in the VTA. In the normal communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse (the small gap between two neurons), where it binds with specialized proteins (called dopamine receptors) on the neighboring neuron, thereby sending a signal to that neuron. Cocaine abuse interferes with this normal communication process. For example, scientists have discovered that cocaine blocks the removal of dopamine from the synapse, resulting in an accumulation of dopamine. This buildup of dopamine causes continuous stimulation of receiving neurons, probably resulting in the euphoria commonly reported by individuals with cocaine abuse problems. Because cocaine is extremely addictive, the first-time user cannot possibly predict when loss of control will occur.
Short term crack cocaine effects are felt almost immediately after the user ingests the drug. They will feel an immediate increase in energy. They will also experience mental alertness, increased self-esteem, euphoria, and a decrease in appetite. These temporary crack cocaine effects are as short lived as the users high. Because crack is smoked, the drug travels through the blood and up to the brain much faster than cocaine does when it is snorted. This is what causes the user to experiences these short term effects more intensely. Psychological crack cocaine effects (energy, mental alertness, etc.) are typically felt within a minute of taking the drug. While the physical effects (decrease in appetite, restlessness, etc.) are felt within two minutes of inhaling crack. The duration and intensity of these short term crack cocaine effects are based on the amount of the drug that is used. However, on average the peak for short term crack effects last between 10 and 15 minutes.
Short term effects of cocaine such as sleeplessness, paranoia, sexual dysfunction, nausea, weight loss, headaches, and allergic reaction are common. Individuals who consistently use cocaine often abuse other drugs as well, such as alcohol or heroin. This compounds the issue, and dramatically increases the chance of death by overdose.
Signs of cocaine addiction include disregard for anything other than the drug including food, sleep, sex, family, and survival. This cocaine addictive behavior is limited only by the high cost of the drug and its limited availability. Abstinence after a cocaine binge leads to crashing (anxiety, depression, suspiciousness, sleep craving) and withdrawal (absence of pleasure in all things, lack of motivation, and boredom). Many users take other drugs (alcohol, marijuana, and/or heroin) to attenuate these effects. A dangerous combination of cocaine and heroin, known as a “speedball,” is used by some.
Since the introduction of crack cocaine in the late eighties, it is no longer considered a recreational drug for the upper class, and can be found anywhere and among all walks of life. Even the poor and the homeless suffer from exposure and addiction, because crack is available in small amounts and at an inexpensive price.
Slang terms for cocaine include: Coke, crack, dust, snow, blow, flakes, bloke, bernice, and dream. The effects of cocaine occur in 15-20 minutes and disappear in about I hour. The immediate effects are what make cocaine so addicting. The user is willing to endure the lows in order to experience the highs.
Smoking crack delivers large quantities of the drug to the lungs, producing effects comparable to intravenous injection. These effects are felt almost immediately after smoking, are very intense, but do not last long. For example, the high from smoking cocaine may last from 5 to 10 minutes. The high from snorting can last for 15 to 20 minutes.
Snorting cocaine damages the nose and sinuses. Regular use can cause nasal perforation. Smoking crack cocaine irritates the lungs and, in some people, causes permanent lung damage.
Snorting cocaine isn't safe! Many people need more of the drug each time they snort it to achieve the high they're used to but don't realize they’re addicted. Others become more sensitive to its effects over time, putting them at risk for life-threatening seizures and other problems.