Cocaine is an illegal central nervous system stimulant drug with a high potential for abuse and addiction.
People usually use cocaine by smoking it, snorting it, or injecting it to experience its stimulating side effects, including an extreme rush of euphoria and confidence. Unfortunately, cocaine can also lead to many immediate and long-term side effects that are not only caused by the drug’s ingredients and mechanism of action but also by the way it’s used. Today, we’re going to explore the side effects of injecting cocaine, why people do it, and the risks associated with this form of administration.
What Are Cocaine and Crack?
Also known as crack or coke, cocaine is a Schedule II stimulant drug due to its highly addictive nature. Drug dealers often mix this drug with other substances, called “fillers,” to conceal the drug’s ingredients and make the overall product weigh more, allowing dealers to make more money for the less pure drug.
Dealers may also dilute cocaine with fentanyl, a highly dangerous opioid drug that’s been responsible for numerous overdose deaths in the United States. Depending on the form of cocaine used, it can be administered in various ways.
Cocaine is a hydrochloride salt in its powdered form, while crack cocaine is derived from cocaine powder and combined with other ingredients like water and baking soda. After cocaine and baking soda are mixed, the mixture is boiled to create solid forms. Once these are cooled and broken down into crystal-like pieces, they’re sold as crack.
Cocaine is expensive to purchase on the streets, which is why crack was later developed as a cheaper alternative. Generally, those who want an intense, fast, and cheap high are attracted to crack, and some who begin with cocaine use eventually migrate to crack use when the habit becomes too expensive to maintain.
Can You Shoot Up Cocaine?
Yes, you can shoot up cocaine, which is also referred to as injecting or “banging” cocaine. In most cases, however, shooting up cocaine is more dangerous than smoking or snorting it.
A major risk of injecting coke is its cutting agents. When cocaine is purchased on the black market, it’s usually sold as a fine, white powder that most users snort.
The drug is also cut with a variety of other substances known as cutting agents, which can range from flour or cornstarch to dangerous chemicals like fentanyl, laundry detergent, and boric acid. Drug dealers cut cocaine with these substances to increase their profits since additives like flour or cornstarch give the impression that there’s more of the pure drug than there really is.
Some drug dealers will also mix cocaine with heroin, another opioid drug that’s known for its sedative side effects. Coke and heroin mixed together are referred to as speedballs. Cocaine cutting agents increase the risks of abusing cocaine, especially when the drug is injected directly into the bloodstream.
Injecting Coke: Effects & Risks
Shooting cocaine is more likely to lead to addiction and can also lead to serious physical and behavioral side effects. One 1994 study comparing intravenous (IV) cocaine use with other routes of administration like snorting or smoking found that those shooting coke were more likely to develop an addiction to the drug.1
The study also reported that those who were injecting cocaine reported having used the drug more frequently, in higher doses, and for longer periods. Those who reported shooting crack also had the highest rates of dependence in the study.1
People inject cocaine by dissolving the powdery substance with water, then injecting it into the vein or intravenously. Intravenous cocaine injection allows for the drug to be absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly, producing an almost immediate high.
Cocaine works on the neurotransmitter dopamine by activating its release in the brain. The drug then blocks certain receptors from reabsorbing the excess dopamine for later use, flooding the central nervous system with this feel-good chemical and producing a high.
Common shooting coke effects include:
- Increased alertness and energy
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of addiction
- Skin infections
- Collapsed veins
- Serious diseases like HIV/hepatitis C
Shooting up cocaine also comes with an increased risk for blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. In fact, the sharing of needles among IV drug users is a primary method of spreading HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
There are also other physical risks of injecting cocaine, such as skin and blood vessel damage, including problems like thrombocytopenia. The chemicals in the drug can cause skin cells and blood vessels to deteriorate. It can also cause build-up in blood vessel passages, increasing the user’s risk of heart attack and stroke.
As we mentioned before, there’s also the risk of contracting blood-borne viruses and infections like HIV/AIDS. IV cocaine users often share dirty needles, increasing their risk of spreading and contracting these diseases, each of which can cause their own risks in the future.
Why Do People Inject Cocaine?
So if shooting up cocaine is so dangerous, why do people do it? Well, injecting cocaine delivers the most intense high, so despite its evident dangers, anyone who’s highly addicted to this drug or seeking a cheaper way to get high will try IV coke use.
However, cocaine use in any form poses many risks, including paranoia, hallucinations, aggression, cardiac problems, and addiction. When someone injects cocaine, the danger is increased due to the risk of dependence and health issues like HIV and hepatitis C.
Although the high caused by shooting coke may be faster and more powerful than other routes of administration, the crash is also more severe. A cocaine comedown or crash is associated with symptoms like anxiety, depression, fatigue, and paranoia.
Finally, overdose from injecting cocaine can also occur as a result of long-term use. This is usually the result of growing tolerance and dependence, in which the user requires more of the drug to experience the same effects.
Help for Cocaine Addiction
Not only can you inject cocaine, but the drug can also be snorted, smoked, and mixed with other substances. All forms of cocaine use are dangerous and can lead to life-threatening complications.
Addiction to cocaine is not only a threat to one’s physical health but also to their mental state, relationships, finances, career, and more. If you or a loved one is addicted to coke or any other drug, our Stuart, Florida treatment center is here to help.
A major part of our cocaine addiction treatment is medical detox. During detox, patients are slowly weaned off of drugs to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms and safely monitor the ones that occur.
Cocaine withdrawals can be highly uncomfortable and even dangerous if left untreated, so rather than at-home remedies, our facility recommends medically monitored detox. Following detox, our clients will then work with our counselors to discuss their conditions and relapse prevention skills they can adopt and apply to their day-to-day lives after rehab.
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