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What is Cocaine?

MVSAT 2024

To understand what is cocaine, we have to look at its chemical structure. it looks like a white crystalline alkaloid, which is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant (or the Erythroxylum coca), which grows wild in the areas such as Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador and is cultivated in several other countries. The chemical formula of cocaine drug is given as C17H21NO4. It acts as an anaesthetic due to the reason it interrupts the conduction of impulses in nerves, especially those present in the mucous membranes of the nose, eye, and throat.

About Cocaine Drug

For centuries, Bolivian and Peruvian Indians have chewed coca leaves mixed with plant ash or limestone pellets for pleasure or to survive the harsh working conditions, thirst, and hunger. In other cultures, the active alkaloid is extracted chemically from coca leaves and converted into cocaine hydrochloride, which is the hydrochloric salt of cocaine. This fine kind of white cocaine powder is sniffed through a hollow tube, and it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream via nasal mucous membranes. Cocaine is derived from cocoa leaves.

Cocaine, on the other hand, is an irritant that causes a chronic runny nose or, in extreme cases, ulcerations in the nasal cavity by constricting blood vessels. The sniffing cocaine's euphoric effects are relatively transitory and wear off after around 30 minutes of time. Cocaine is habit-forming and can also be physically addicting. Also, cocaine is injected in solution or smoked in a chemically treated form called freebase; either of these methods forms a markedly more compulsive use of this drug.

In the 1980s, a new form of cocaine preparation appeared, known as crack; the smoking of crack produces an even more short-lived euphoria and even more intense that is extremely addicting. Also, this form of cocaine consumption is the most detrimental to one's health. Cocaine paste, which is an intermediate stage in the processing of coca leaves into cocaine, is another highly addictive and smokable type.

Cocaine chemical names are Benzoylmethylecgonine, Neurocaine.

Cocaine Chemical Structure

The cocaine chemical structure can be represented as follows:

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Uses of Cocaine


Topical cocaine may be used as a local numbing agent to help with any of the painful procedures in the nose or mouth.

Cocaine is also mostly used in the surgery of the lacrimal and nasal ducts. The primary disadvantages of cocaine use are cocaine's potential for cardiovascular toxicity, pupil dilation, and glaucoma. The medicinal use of cocaine has decreased as the other synthetic local anaesthetics such as proparacaine, benzocaine, tetracaine, and lidocaine are now used more often.


Cocaine is defined as a nervous system stimulant. The effects of it can last, ranging from 15 minutes - an hour. The duration of the effects of cocaine depends upon the amount taken and the administration route. Cocaine may be in the form of fine white powder, and it is bitter to the taste. Crack cocaine is given as a smokeable form of cocaine that can be made into small "rocks" by processing the cocaine with sodium bicarbonate (also called baking soda) and water. Crack cocaine is referred to as "crack" due to the crackling sounds it makes when heated.

Effects of Cocaine Intake

More notably, cocaine, when ingested in fewer amounts, produces feelings of well-being and euphoria, along with the decreased appetite, increased mental alertness, and relief from fatigue. When taken in larger amounts and upon repeated and prolonged use, cocaine may produce anxiety, depression, sleep problems, irritability, mental confusion, chronic fatigue, paranoia, and convulsions, which can cause death.

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Compulsive or long-term use of cocaine in either of its distilled forms can result in extreme personality changes, loss of appetite, and sleeplessness. Paranoid delusions and troubling tactile hallucinations, in which the user feels insects crawling under his skin, can grow into toxic psychosis. Cocaine addiction, which had been a minor problem for much of the twentieth century, developed alarmingly in many countries during the late twentieth century, and this drug now accounts for a substantially higher proportion of drug-related deaths.

Acute Effects

Acute exposure to cocaine has several effects on humans, with euphoria, increases in blood pressure and heart rate, and increases in the cortisol secretion from the adrenal gland. In humans having acute exposure followed by continuous exposure to cocaine at any constant blood concentration, the acute tolerance to the chronotropic cocaine cardiac effects begins after up to 10 minutes, while the acute tolerance to the euphoric cocaine effects begins after up to an hour. With prolonged or excessive use, the drug can cause fast heart rate, itching, paranoid delusions or sensations of insects crawling on the skin, and hallucinations.

Chronic Effects

Although cocaine has been commonly asserted, the available evidence does not represent that the chronic use of cocaine is associated with any broad cognitive deficits. Fewer studies suggest people who use cocaine do not exhibit normal age-related loss of striatal Dopamine Transporter (DAT) sites, suggesting that cocaine has neuroprotective properties for dopamine neurons. Exposure to cocaine can lead to the breakdown barrier of the blood-brain.

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FAQs on Cocaine

1. What are Coca Leaves?

Answer: Coca leaves are more legal in a few Andean nations, such as Bolivia and Peru, where they are chewed and consumed in the form of tea or are, at times, incorporated into some food products as well. Typically, the coca leaves are mixed with the alkaline substance (like lime) and chewed into a wad, which is retained in the buccal pouch (mouth between cheek and gum, much similar as chewing tobacco is chewed) and sucked of its juices.

2. What is Meant By Insufflation?

Answer: Nasal insufflation (which is also called colloquially "snorting," "blowing," or "sniffing") is a common ingestion method of recreational cocaine powder. This drug coats and is absorbed through the mucous membranes by lining the nasal passages. The desired euphoric effects of cocaine are delayed when snorted via nose by around 5 minutes. This takes place because the absorption of cocaine is slowed by its constricting effect on the blood vessels of the nose.

3. Give the Salt Form of Cocaine.

Answer: Cocaine, which is a tropane alkaloid, is a weakly alkaline compound and may thus combine with acidic compounds to produce salts. The hydrochloride (HCl) salt of the cocaine is by far one of the most commonly encountered, although the nitrate (NO3) and the sulfate (SO42-) salts are seen occasionally. Various salts dissolve either to a lesser or greater extent in different solvents – the hydrochloride salt is polar in character and is quite soluble in water.

4. How to Detect Cocaine in Body Fluids?

Answer: Cocaine, including its major metabolites, can be quantified in plasma, blood, or urine to monitor for use, confirm a poisonous diagnosis, assist in the forensic investigation of traffic, the other criminal violation, or even sudden death. Most of the commercial cocaine immunoassay screening tests cross-react appreciably with the primary cocaine metabolites, but the chromatographic techniques may separately measure and easily distinguish each of these substances.

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