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Cocaine

drug withdrawal concentration euphoria

Cocaine, colorless or white crystalline alkaloid, member of a broad group of plant substances that includes nicotine, caffeine, and morphine. In nature, cocaine is found in significant quantities in the leaves of 2 species of the coca shrub that grow throughout the eastern highlands of the Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia and along the Caribbean coast of South America. In medicine it is used as a local anesthetic. Cocaine is used as a “recreational” drug to produce euphoria and a feeling of energy. Such use is illegal in the United States although cocaine was legal for a long time (it was an ingredient in the early years of the Coca-Cola soft drink). The drug-induced euphoria is most pronounced shortly before the blood concentration has begun to fall, and it disappears several hours before the blood concentration returns to zero. Technically, cocaine is not addictive, as repeated use does not result in tolerance for it (i.e., repeating the same dose causing a diminishing response). There are withdrawal signs (particularly depression, which may be severe), but they are milder than withdrawal syndromes associated with opiates (e.g., heroin), barbiturates, or alcohol. On the other hand, cocaine is severely habit-forming. Chronic use of the drug can cause nervous system disorders and delusions, weight loss, and lessening of physical well-being. U.S. law classifies cocaine as a narcotic. During the 1980s and 1990s a cocaine-derivative, called crack, has become the drug of choice in many urban areas.

See also: Drug abuse; Narcotic.

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