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Cocaine

Cocaine (or crack in its impure freebase form) is a crystalline alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system and an appetite suppressant, giving rise to what has been described as a euphoric sense of happiness and increased energy. Though most often used recreationally for this effect, it could be said that cocaine is actually utilized as a non-prescription under-the-counter antidepressant. Nonetheless, cocaine is formally used in medicine as a topical anesthetic, specifically in eye, throat, and nose surgery. There is controversy among treatment professionals over whether cocaine is only psychologically or also physically addictive.

Its possession, cultivation, and distribution are illegal for non-medicinal and non-government sanctioned purposes in virtually all parts of the world. The name comes from the name of the coca plant in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming Cocaine.

The stimulating qualities of the coca leaf were known to the ancient peoples of Peru and other pre-Columbian Andean societies. In modern Western countries, cocaine has been a feature of the counterculture for over a century. There is a long list of prominent intellectuals, artists, and musicians who have used the drug - ranging from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sigmund Freud to U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant. Cocaine could be found in trace amounts in the Coca-Cola beverage for several decades after the beverage's release, though that is no longer the case. Today, although its free commercialization is illegal and has been severely penalized in virtually all countries, its use worldwide remains widespread in many social, cultural, and personal settings.

Cocaine in its purest form is a white, pearly product. Because of this, Cocaine is often referred to as Snow. Cocaine appearing in powder form is a salt, typically cocaine hydrochloride. Street market cocaine is frequently adulterated or "cut" with various powdery fillers to increase its weight; the substances most commonly used in this process are baking soda; sugars, such as lactose, dextrose, inositol, and mannitol; and local anesthetics, such as lidocaine or benzocaine, which mimic or add to cocaine's numbing effect on mucous membranes. Cocaine may also be "cut" with other stimulants such as methamphetamine. Adulterated cocaine is often a white, off-white or pinkish powder.

Cocaine sulfate is produced by macerating coca leaves along with water that has been acidulated with sulfuric acid, or an aromatic-based solvent, like kerosene or benzene. This is often accomplished by putting the ingredients into a vat and stamping on it, in a manner similar to the traditional method for crushing grapes. After the maceration is completed, the water is evaporated to yield a pasty mass of impure cocaine sulfate.

The sulfate salt itself is an intermediate step to producing cocaine hydrochloride. In South America, it is commonly sold to consumers as such, and smoked along with tobacco, also known as pasta, basuco, basa, pitillo, paco or simply paste. It is also gaining popularity as a cheap drug (30 to 70 U.S. cents per "hit" or dose) in many South American countries.

"Freebase" is the base form of cocaine, as opposed to the salt form of cocaine hydrochloride. Whereas cocaine hydrochloride is extremely soluble in water, cocaine base is insoluble in water and is therefore not suitable for drinking, snorting or injecting. Whereas cocaine hydrochloride is not well-suited for smoking because the temperature at which it vaporizes is very high, and close to the temperature at which it burns; however, cocaine base vaporizes at a much lower temperature, which makes it suitable for inhalation.

Due to the dangers of using ether to produce pure freebase cocaine, cocaine producers began to omit the step of removing the freebase cocaine precipitate from the ammonia mixture. Typically, filtration processes are also omitted. The end result of this process is that the cut, in addition to the ammonium salt (NH4Cl), remains in the freebase cocaine after the mixture is evaporated. The "rock" that is thus formed also contains a small amount of water. Sodium bicarbonate (baking Soda) is also preferred in preparing the freebase, for when commonly "cooked" the ratio is 50/50 to 40/60 percent cocaine/bicarbonate. This acts as a filler which extends the overall profitability of illicit sales. Crack cocaine may be reprocessed in small quantities with water (users refer to the resultant product as "cookback"). This removes the residual bicarbonate, and any adulterants or cuts that have been used in the previous handling of the cocaine and leaves a relatively pure, anhydrous cocaine base.

When the rock is heated, this water boils, making a crackling sound (hence the onomatopoeic "crack"). Baking soda is now most often used as a base rather than ammonia for reasons of lowered stench and toxicity; however, any weak base can be used to make crack cocaine. Strong bases, such as sodium hydroxide, tend to hydrolyze some of the cocaine into non-psychoactive ecgonine.

Cocaine Chewed/Eaten:
Orally administered cocaine takes approximately 30 minutes to enter the bloodstream. Typically, only a third of an oral dose is absorbed, although absorption has been shown to reach 60 percent in controlled settings. Given the slow rate of absorption, maximum physiological and psychotropic effects are attained approximately 60 minutes after cocaine is administered by ingestion. While the onset of these effects is slow, the effects are sustained for approximately 60 minutes after their peak is attained.

Contrary to popular belief, both ingestion and insufflation result in approximately the same proportion of the drug being absorbed: 30 to 60 percent. Compared to ingestion, the faster absorption of insufflated cocaine results in quicker attainment of maximum drug effects. Snorting cocaine produces maximum physiological effects within 40 minutes and maximum psychotropic effects within 20 minutes, however, a more realistic activation period is closer to 5 to 10 minutes, which is similar to ingestion of cocaine. Physiological and psychotropic effects from nasally insufflated cocaine are sustained for approximately 40 - 60 minutes after the peak effects are attained.

Cocaine Insufflation:
Insufflation (known colloquially as "snorting," "sniffing," or "blowing") is the most common method of ingestion of recreational powder cocaine in the Western world. Contrary to widespread belief, cocaine is not actually inhaled using this method. The drug coats and is absorbed through the mucous membranes lining the sinuses. When insufflating cocaine, absorption through the nasal membranes is approximately 30-60 percent, with higher doses leading to increased absorption efficiency. Any material not directly absorbed through the mucous membranes is collected in mucus and swallowed (this "drip" is considered pleasant by some and unpleasant by others). In a study of cocaine users, the average time taken to reach peak subjective effects was 14.6 minutes. Chronic use results in ongoing rhinitis and necrosis of the nasal membranes. Many users report a burning sensation in the nares (nostrils) after cocaine's anesthetic effects wear off. Any damage to the inside of the nose is because cocaine highly constricts blood vessels - and therefore blood & oxygen/nutrient flow-- to that area. If this restriction of adequate blood supply is severe enough and, especially prolonged enough, the tissue there can die.

Prior to insufflation, cocaine powder must be divided into very fine particles. Cocaine of high purity breaks into fine dust very easily, except when it is moist (not well stored) and forms "chunks," which reduces the efficiency of nasal absorption.

Rolled up banknotes, hollowed-out pens, cut straws, pointed ends of keys, and specialized spoons are often used to insufflate cocaine. Such devices are often called "tooters" by users. The cocaine typically is poured onto a flat, hard surface (such as a mirror) and divided into "lines" or "rails", and then insufflated. The amount of cocaine in a line varies widely from person to person and occasion to occasion (the purity of the cocaine is also a factor), but one line is generally considered to be a single dose and is typically 35mg-100mg. As tolerance builds rapidly in the short-term (hours), many lines are often snorted to produce greater effects.

Cocaine Injected:
Drug injection provides the highest blood levels of drug in the shortest amount of time. Upon injection, cocaine reaches the brain in a matter of seconds, and the exhilarating rush that follows can be so intense that it induces some users to vomit uncontrollably. In a study of cocaine users, the average time taken to reach peak subjective effects was 3.1 minutes. The euphoria passes quickly. Aside from the toxic effects of cocaine, there is also danger of circulatory emboli from the insoluble substances that may be used to cut the drug. There is also a risk of serious infection associated with the use of contaminated needles.

An injected mixture of cocaine and heroin, known as "speedball" or "moonrock", is a particularly popular and dangerous combination, as the converse effects of the drugs actually complement each other, but may also mask the symptoms of an overdose. It has been responsible for numerous deaths, particularly in and around Los Angeles, including celebrities such as John Belushi, Chris Farley, River Phoenix and Layne Staley (in Seattle).

Cocaine Smoked:
Smoking freebase or crack cocaine is most often accomplished using a pipe made from a small glass tube about one quarter-inch (about 6 mm) in diameter and on the average, four inches long. These are sometimes called "stems", "horns", "blasters" and "straight shooters," readily available in convenience stores or smoke shops. They will sometimes contain a small paper flower and are promoted as a romantic gift. Buyers usually ask for a "rose" or a "flower." An alternate method is to use a small length of a radio antenna or similar metal tube. To avoid burning the user's fingers and lips on the metal pipe, a small piece of paper or cardboard (such as a piece torn from a matchbook cover) is wrapped around one end of the pipe and held in place with either a rubber band or a piece of adhesive tape. A popular (usually pejorative) term for crack pipes is "glass dick." Tire pressure gauges have also been used by breaking off their tops and removing their numbered sticks. These can be purchased at most convenience stores or gas stations.

A small piece (approximately one inch) of heavy steel or stainless steel scouring pad (copper is never used as it can make the lungs bleed)-often called a "brillo" or "chore", from the scouring pads of the same name-is placed into one end of the tube and carefully packed down to approximately three-quarter inch. Prior to insertion, the "brillo" is burnt off to remove any oily coatings that may be present. It then serves as a reduction base and flow modulator in which the "rock" can be melt and boiled to vapor. Stainless steel television cable are also used, with its metal acting as a screen.

Another method is to use a deep socket, typically 12mm, wrapped with electrical tape. Instead of Chore Boy, users typically employ high grade (very fine) speaker wire rolled into a ball as the filter medium. A Zippo lighter is often used because of its stronger flame, but the taste of naphtha is quite noticeable. However, the socket is practically indestructible and inconspicuous.

A less sophisticated but common method is to use a discarded soda can and puncture several small holes on the side of the can near its bottom. Tobacco ash is then placed in the divot created with the drug placed on top. The mouthpiece is the original opening of the can, creating a cost-effective alternative to a proper crack pipe.

To smoke the "rock" it is placed at the end of the pipe, closest to the filter. The other end is then placed in the user's mouth and a flame from a cigarette lighter or hand-held torch is held under the "rock". As the "rock" is heated, it melts and burns away to vapor, which the user inhales as smoke.

The effects, felt almost immediately after smoking, are very intense and do not last long-usually five to fifteen minutes. In a study performed on crack cocaine users, the average time taken for them to reach their peak subjective "high" was 1.4 minutes. Most (especially frequent) users crave more immediately after the peak. "Crack houses" depend on these cravings by providing a place for smoking crack to its users, and a ready supply of small bags for sale.