Cocaine comes from the coca plant and has been used by the natives of South America for over a thousand years. This plant, coca erythroxylon, is common in many parts of South America. Cocaine use is common in much of the world and has been for centuries. Coca leaves were used by native populations to ease the rigors of high altitude and decrease fatigue (1).

Cocaine causes addiction or dependency in the brain in dramatic ways. This medication increases various neurotransmitters in the brain's pleasure center. The most important of these neurotransmitters are norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine. Dopamine is the main neurotransmitter that provides the sensation of euphoria, which focuses on a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens in the prefrontal cortex. This area is rich in dopamine receptor sites and is the primary site for euphoria and pleasure. Cocaine also gives the user significant energy and brainstorming. Depressed speech and paranoid behavior are also common. Euphoria is often the dominant and responsible effect of cocaine use, abuse, addiction, or dependence

"Crack cocaine" is obtained by mixing powdered cocaine with baking soda. This "cocaine bicarbonate" got its name from the crunch it emits when smoked. Crack cocaine has a lower vaporization temperature and can be smoked easily. This explains why these "rocks" are so addictive. Approximately 25 million people in the United States use cocaine at least once in their lives (2).

Detoxification, withdrawal, and cocaine cravings are not dangerous or life threatening. People enter a "shock phase" once they stop using cocaine after prolonged use. This shock phase is characterized by extreme fatigue, lack of pleasure, and increased appetite. The shock phase lasts from a few days to a week. These symptoms are related to decreased levels of various neurotransmitters or chemicals in the brain that were depleted during cocaine binging. Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine use generally depend on the individual, the frequency, and the amount of cocaine used. Withdrawal, detoxification, and cocaine cravings generally decrease within a few weeks.

Cocaine dramatically increases blood pressure and heart rate. This can cause a variety of health problems: strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly things we don't know about yet. Cocaine, when mixed with alcohol, forms the cocaethylene compound. This is toxic to the heart muscle and can seriously damage the liver.

Cocaine can cause a multitude of psychological effects. Paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, and psychotic behavior are some of the possible effects. Cocaine is particularly destructive to family and social relationships. People who use it become addicted or dependent and can go to extremes to support their addiction. The possible legal ramifications with cocaine use, dependency, or addiction are terribly serious. There are many people serving life sentences for cocaine use. Keep in mind that in the United States, courts have historically taken a fervent stance against cocaine crimes.

This medicine stays in the urine for about 3 to 5 days. Heavy users test positive longer than that. Treatment or therapy for cocaine use, dependency, addiction, detoxification, withdrawal, and cravings is extensive. Most medications used to help with cocaine treatment / therapy provide symptomatic relief. Hospital care is ideal for people who receive cocaine; but unfortunately it is very expensive. Probably all antidepressants known to man have been used to treat cocaine addicts with varying degrees of success.

Home treatment, including detoxification, withdrawal, and cocaine cravings therapy, is an affordable option for hospital treatment. People frequently seek alternative treatment for cocaine addiction. Herbal formulations and supplements are available to help addicts. These non-addictive natural treatments provide individuals with a confidential alternative recovery option.

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Cocaine: facts about a highly addictive drug, life-threatening side effects, and recovery challenges