source: UN, The World Youth Report 2003,
Cocaine does not seem to be the drug of first choice among young people…
What are the effects?
- however, recent trends indicate some increase in cocaine abuse in Europe (notably London and Amsterdam). In theUnited States cocaine abuse among youth has been falling during the last 15 years but there are some recent indications of a slight increase;
- in 2002, Ontario (Canada) registered the highest rate of cocaine use among high school students: 7%
- recent reports point to concerns with heroin use by some groups of vulnerable youth, including young offenders, school dropouts and homeless young people. For example, 22% of a sample of 11-17-year-olds detained by police in Australia between 1999 and 2002 reported using cocaine.
One of the main effects of cocaine is that it boosts production of the ‘happy’ chemical dopamine, which controls the brain's pleasure centres. As a powerful stimulant it can produce a sense of well-being, confidence and alertness. But the rush, known as the ‘Superman Syndrome’, doesn't last for long. Users feel they can take on the world for about 30 minutes. Then comes the ‘downer’, which leaves the user feeling depressed, often for several days.
The drug hooks some users into addiction within a matter of days. Over a period of time the amount of cocaine needed and the frequency of use to achieve anything like that first high has to be increased and the resulting feelings of depression can become chronic.
Different means of taking cocaine can produce different effects. Regular snorting can lead to loss of smell, nosebleeding, problems with swallowing, hoarseness and the ‘cocaine sniff’ - a permanently runny nose. Because cocaine has a tendency to decrease appetite users can become malnourished. Heavy use of cocaine can cause chest pain, heart problems and convulsions and if taken in large enough doses it can be fatal.
Users who smoke or inject cocaine are at even greater risk of causing themselves harm. For example cocaine smokers can suffer from acute respiratory problems including coughing, shortness of breath and severe chest pains while those who inject are putting themselves at risk of catching HIV or hepatitis.
Possible long term psychological effects include ‘coke bugs’ where the sufferer believes insects or snakes are crawling beneath their skin. Auditory hallucinations, the dulling of emotions, paranoia, feelings of isolation and impending death are all common adverse effects of coke use.
* These are the highest rates in Europe.