Cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder.
Cocaine can be ingested nasally or orally. The powder can also be dissolved in water and injected it into the bloodstream. Another method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called "freebase cocaine"). The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are inhaled into the lungs. This form of cocaine is called Crack.
Cocaine increases levels of dopamine in brain circuits controlling pleasure and movement. Normally, the brain releases dopamine in these circuits in response to potential rewards. It then recycles back into the cell that released it, shutting off the signal between nerve cells. Cocaine prevents dopamine from recycling, causing excessive amounts to build up between nerve cells. This flood of dopamine ultimately disrupts normal brain communication and causes cocaine’s high. Cocaine's effects appear almost immediately and disappear within a few minutes to an hour. The length of time and intensity of the effects are dependent on the method of use.
Short term effects can include extreme happiness and energy, mental alertness, hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch, irritability and paranoia. Additional health effects might include constricted blood vessels, nausea, increased heartbeat, tremors, increased body temperature and blood pressure. Death from cocaine overdose can occur.
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