What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is many things.
It can be a white powder, a very strong stimulant that can be abused to create euphoria, confidence, alertness, and energy. In its powder form, it can be snorted or it can be dissolved and injected. If you mix it with a flammable solvent, you can separate out the intoxicating elements from the impurities and inhale the vapors. This is referred to as “freebasing” cocaine.
Cocaine can also be found in the form of small off-white rocks, which is called crack. This is cocaine when it has been processed with ammonia or baking soda to remove some impurities. The remaining mixture will dry to rocks that can be broken into small pieces, sold in tiny baggies and smoked. Crack cocaine is quickly addictive as well but is not as expensive per dose as powdered cocaine.
Powder cocaine is also an expensive, addictive drug that can cause people to spend tens of thousands of dollars in a short period of time. It can become part of a high-intensity, high-spending lifestyle that may also include alcohol consumption and prostitutes.
Cocaine is a drug that may be used in binges. It is not a long-lasting drug so a person who wishes to stay high for a long time period must abuse cocaine again and again. He or she may soon have to consume more with each dose as a tolerance is developed. This escalating use can result in personality changes including irritability, panic attacks, paranoia and even psychosis with accompanying hallucinations.
Cocaine is a substance that creates withdrawal symptoms when a person has taken enough cocaine consistently enough to get addicted. A person who has been on a binge will normally crash when they stop using the drug. They’ll be tired, anxious, agitated and will crave the drug strongly. Those in withdrawal will often be depressed and restless as well.
Where Does Cocaine Come From?
Cocaine is a processed result from the coca plant that is primarily grown in mountainous areas of Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. For a thousand years, coca leaves were chewed by laborers working at high altitudes to give them more energy. In more modern days, small farmers are paid to grow the crop, strip the leaves and then mash them with ammonia and lime. Further processing with gasoline and sulfuric acid results in a thick off-white paste that is then sold by the farmer to a cocaine processor.
Cocaine processing labs are often set up in the jungles of Colombia. The small farmers provide the raw paste that will be turned into the powder product to be exported. In 2010, 251 cocaine processing labs were found in Colombian jungles and destroyed. But in April 2011, the first large processing lab was found in Honduras, possibly indicating a shift in processing patterns further north where they could be controlled by Mexican drug cartels rather than Colombia manufacturers.
Alternatively, the raw cocaine paste is sometimes shipped to Argentina where it is called “paco.” In Colombia and Peru, it is known as “basuco.” It is highly toxic to users and rapidly strips health and productivity away from addicts. In South America, cocaine is the primary drug driving addicts into treatment.
Once the coca paste is purified into a white powder, it begins its long trip to consumer markets. Much of it travels north to the US, but large shipments also travel by plane or boat to West Africa. From here, a share is given to those government officials and individuals who expedite the transfer of these cocaine shipments to Spain or other countries. The bulk of the cocaine shipments are then broken into smaller packages which are then distributed across Europe.
Increasing amounts of cocaine have recently been making their way across the Pacific as well, to supply appetites for stimulants in Australia.
Whether unrefined cocaine is smoked in a barren hovel in Colombia or it is distributed out of a posh fraternity in Southern California, the result is often the same: addiction. No one plans to become an addict when they start out using drugs. They are an escape from problems, a desperate lifestyle or a high-stress environment or they may just be used for recreation. Cocaine and other drugs cause cravings that are hard to resist. These cravings spur a second use, then a third and then use becomes regular. When drug abuse becomes frequent and regular, then it can turn into an addiction that is very hard to walk away from without competent help. A lifestyle free from addiction is best achieved by avoiding drug use entirely.