Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which is indigenous to South America and is the most potent stimulant of natural origin. Cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or injected.

Pure cocaine was first used in the 1880’s in eye, nose and throat surgeries as an anesthetic and for its ability to limit bleeding but is now obsolete due to the development of safer drugs

Crack is cocaine base that has not been neutralized by an acid. This form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that is heated to produce vapors, which are smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound produced by the rock as it is heated.

Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure and movement.

Different methods of taking cocaine can produce different adverse effects. Regularly snorting cocaine, for example, can lead to loss of the sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and a chronically runny nose. Ingesting cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene as a result of reduced blood flow. Injecting cocaine can bring about severe allergic reactions and increased risk for contracting HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Binge patterns of use may lead to irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and paranoia. Cocaine abusers can suffer a temporary state of full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which they lose touch with reality and experience auditory hallucinations.

Regardless of how or how frequently cocaine is used, a user can experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, which may cause sudden death. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizure followed by respiratory arrest.

When people consume cocaine and alcohol together, they compound the danger each drug poses and unknowingly perform a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to produce a third substance, cocaethylene, which intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects. Cocaethylene is associated with a greater risk of sudden death than cocaine alone.

According to a 2007 study, approximately 35.9 million Americans aged 12 and older have tried cocaine at least once in their lifetimes, approximately 5.7 million have used cocaine in the past year and 2.1 million have used cocaine in within the past month

Every day approximately 2500 people age 12 or older try cocaine for the first time

According to the 2007 Monitoring the Future survey—a national survey of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders—cocaine use among students remained at unacceptably high levels: 3.1 percent of 8th-graders, 5.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 7.8 percent of 12th-graders have tried cocaine; 0.9 percent of 8th-graders, 1.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 2.0 percent of 12th-graders were current (past-month) cocaine users.

Cocaine addiction represented 13.9% of the total drug and alcohol admissions to treatment centers in 2006

During 2007, there were 6,282 Federal offenders sentenced for powder cocaine-related charges and 5,477 sentenced for crack cocaine charges in U.S. Courts.