60seconds Sam: The Cocaine Factsheet
So, why do some people take it and what are the dangers? In How Drugs Work: Cocaine we take a closer look at the drug and follow its journey from the moment it enters the body.
(Warning: This clip contains graphic scenes from an operation.)
Let's look at what is known about cocaine.
What exactly is it?
The drug is made from the leaves of the coca plant which grows in South America. It comes in two main forms:
- White powder - often called coke or snow - is divided into lines and snorted.
- Small lumps known as crack. This is usually smoked in a pipe or tin foil.
What are the main risks?
Cocaine, especially crack, is highly addictive - experts say users are in danger of developing a psychological dependence to the drug.
- Some of those questioned in How Drugs Work: Cocaine said they quickly built up a tolerance, so they needed to take more and more to get the same high.
- The drug affects the heart, making it beat faster and causing blood pressure to rise. Researchers believe the risk of having a heart attack increases dramatically after taking cocaine. It's thought that you're even more likely to have a heart attack if you drink alcohol with the drug.
- Snorting too much coke can harm the nose. The tissue can weaken and die causing a hole or perforations in the nose to develop - surgery is often required to repair this damage.
Drugscope, a charity which provides information on drugs, says cocaine is a stimulant which kicks in quickly - but also wears off after about 30 minutes.
- Users report feeling more confident, assertive and talkative.
- Scientists say the initial euphoria felt after taking cocaine comes from the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain.
- Users tend to become depressed, irritable and tired as they come down from the drug.
What about the law?
Cocaine is an illegal Class A drug in Britain, so the penalties for having or selling it are severe:
- Possession - up to 7 years in prison.
- Supply - you could face life in jail if you're caught selling it.
There's more information, as well as help and advice, on the following websites:
- BBC Health: Cocaine
- BBC Radio 1's The Surgery: Cocaine
- Find out more about the How Drugs Work series
- Watch a clip of cocaine production that Bruce Parry uncovers in the Amazon
- Watch How Drugs Work: Cocaine
- Read the Cannabis Factsheet
- Watch How Drugs Work:Cannabis
- Read the Ecstasy Factsheet
- Watch How Drugs Work: Ecstasy
- More about the Dangerous Pleasures Season
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