There is a very common notion among people across the world that addictive drugs are substances that make people feel drunk and sleepy, and interrupt their natural senses. Though this may be true especially for alcohol, this simply is not the case for cocaine, a very dangerous drug commonly used.
Cocaine is a white powder that comes from the coca plant grown in Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. Coca plants were initially reserved for use by Inca royalty. The rest of the population eventually used coca plant leaves for mystical, religious, social, and medical purposes. They exploited its stimulant properties to ward off fatigue and hunger, enhance endurance, and to promote a sense of well-being.
The invading Spanish forced the Incan people to work hard in the fields. But the Spanish quickly learned that their captives could barely do work in the fields without chewing on the coca leaf (then referred to as the “gift of the gods”). Eventually the coca leaves were harvested and distributed to the Incan workers three or four times per day.
With the use of this magical plant, the Incans were able to do much productive work. Soon the use of cocaine became so common that the leaves were used as money; distances were measured by how far one could travel before having to stop and replenish the leaves.
Because of the potent energizing effects of cocaine, many people in the late nineteenth century took cocaine.
Thousands of physicians recommended its use for the treatment of depression and other psychiatric conditions. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, became so enamored by the effects of cocaine that he wrote a series of scientific papers praising cocaine’s potential to cure depression, alcoholism, and morphine addiction. Dr. Freud eventually died while severely addicted to the dangerous substance.
Those who produced wine soon discovered the energizing effects of cocaine. Wine with cocaine added was sold with the claim as being able to “strengthen, refresh, and restore vital forces.” In 1885 the Parke-Davis Company, still a large pharmaceutical company today, advertised cocaine as being able to “take the place of food, make the coward brave, the silent eloquent, and render the sufferer insensitive to pain.”
Small amounts of cocaine were added to Coca-Cola until around 1902, when it was quietly removed because of pressure from the American government. Around this time skepticism replaced the excitement for cocaine when documented reports of fatal cocaine poisoning, alarming mental disturbances, and cocaine addiction started to become evident.
In the early part of the twentieth century the use of cocaine started to decrease with the new popularity of another strong stimulant drug: amphetamine. During that period of time the U.S. government started to restrict cocaine distribution severely. Cocaine started to return to popularity in the 1960s coinciding with the decreased use of amphetamines. With a renewed market for cocaine, sources in South America began a very sophisticated method of smuggling this drug to interested markets across the world.
Today cocaine is referred to as coke, C, flake, or blow. It is commonly snorted into the nostrils, although it may be rubbed onto the lining of the mouth. To heighten its effects or feel the “rush” of cocaine more quickly, some inject it. In recent years, dealers mix cocaine with baking soda and this form is called “crack,” because when
ignited by a flame and smoked, it makes a crackling sound.
It is very important to understand that when cocaine is taken into the body it produces a feeling of euphoria, increased energy, and mental alertness. The user becomes very sensitive to light, sound, and touch. Cocaine gives users the sense that they do not need sleep or food. But along with cocaine’s “pleasant” feelings users become anxious, panic-stricken, and often violent; the heart starts to beat very rapidly, the rate of breathing increases, and body temperature rises. Users may develop tremors, dizziness, muscle spasms, paranoia, and toxic poisoning.
With repeated use of cocaine, restlessness, extreme excitability, hallucinations, and delusions will replace users’ pleasant experiences. Those who inject cocaine often share unclean needles and transmit the viruses that cause hepatitis or AIDS. Users eventually become tolerant of the effects of cocaine and eventually need higher and more frequent doses. They eventually develop the sense that they cannot live without it.
Every animal ever tested with cocaine will use this substance to excess. Such animals include rats, squirrels, monkeys, rhesus monkeys, pigtail macaques, baboons, and dogs. In a laboratory setting animals will press a lever more than 4,000 times to get a single injection of cocaine, and when given free access, they generally self-administer high daily doses that may produce severe toxic effects and induce self-mutilating behavior. Generally the animals die of toxic effects and starvation after weeks of use. No species of animal can tolerate the effects of cocaine.
Those who use cocaine most often also use other drugs. It has been estimated that 85 percent of cocaine users are also addicted to alcohol. This is of special concern because when an individual takes cocaine together with alcohol, a third chemical is produced in the body. Called cocaethylene, it is a stimulating drug known to be as much as 20 times stronger than cocaine. The combination of alcohol and cocaine can cause the heart to skip and eventual death.
Cocaine use carries with it very serious health consequences. These are known to include high blood pressure, convulsions, stroke, and a long list of other disorders of the brain. When used by the pregnant female the unborn baby receives less blood flow, has a smaller circumference of the head at birth, and is often born addicted to cocaine.
Who uses cocaine? We often hear that it is used by celebrities in the music, sports, and show business worlds. But today people from all walks of life use cocaine. Young single people are the most frequent users, with male users outnumbering female users two to one. There are no clear connections between cocaine use and education, occupation, or socioeconomic status.
Researchers from the Drug Enforce-ment Administration recently conducted some very interesting research. This investigation was inspired by court cases in which the government would confiscate paper money from alleged cocaine dealers. Sensitive tests were performed on the money to determine if there were traces of cocaine on the bills. Dealers were convicted if the drug was found on the money. Later, independent investigations were carried out on paper only from the general money supply, and it was found that up to one third of all paper money had traces of cocaine pres-ent. This finding is startling for sure!
Cocaine and the Mind
Cocaine use is common today. In the beginning cocaine does not make a person feel worse; it makes them feel better. Many people come from homes or environments in which they are told that they are “no good,” “will never make it in life,” or “are terrible people.” People subject to such abuse commonly have low self-esteem and low self-worth. When individuals who are depressed or have a low self-image experiment with a drug that “makes them feel better,” it’s not surprising they go on to become long-term users. But at the end of the day cocaine doesn’t make them better; it eventually ruins their lives. Cocaine is not anyone’s friend!
The devil has provided our society with this very deceptive drug called cocaine; it makes you think you are better using it than not using it. It’s dangerous to your health, shortens your life, and ruins of all your special relationships (including those with family).
If there is someone whom you know who uses cocaine and you wonder what to do, there is only one answer: introduce them to Jesus Christ. In order to replace the very strong power of a drug as strong as cocaine, you need to replace that drug with a stronger power. The only power in this universe stronger than the power of cocaine is the power of Jesus Christ.
Preaching at a cocaine user will not work. At first, develop a relationship with that person, get close to them, and develop a trusting friendship with them. In the beginning you may not want to even mention to them you know they are using cocaine. After a trusting relationship has been established, then begin discussing drugs and your concern for their physical and spiritual health. Through trusting relationships you will be helpful to these individuals.
People addicted to cocaine need long-term treatment and support. Identify a Christian drug treatment facility in your area. After you have established a trusting relationship, guide the addicted individual toward appropriate therapy. While that person is in therapy, remain close. It is through Christ-centered relationships that we will become effective in helping people in our communities with drug problems.