By: Tristen Stevens
Cocaine, also known as benzoylmethylecgonine or coke
With excessive or prolonged use, the drug can cause itching, fast heart rate, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions. Overdoses cause hyperthermia and a marked elevation of blood pressure, which can be life-threatening, arrhythmias and death.
Anxiety, paranoia and restlessness can also occur, especially during the comedown. With excessive dosage, tremors, convulsions and increased body temperature are observed. Severe cardiac adverse events, particularly sudden cardiac death, become a serious risk at high doses due to cocaine's blocking effect on cardiac sodium channels.
Three thousand years before the birth of Christ, ancient Incas in the Andes chewed coca leaves to get their hearts racing and to speed their breathing to counter the effects of living in thin mountain air. Cocaine was first isolated (extracted from coca leaves) in 1859 by German chemist Albert Niemann. It was not until the 1880s that it started to be popularized in the medical community. In 1886, the popularity of the drug got a further boost when John Pemberton included coca leaves as an ingredient in his new soft drink, Coca-Cola.
After cannabis, cocaine is the most frequently used illegal drug globally. Between 14 and 21 million people use the drug each year. Use is highest in North America followed by Europe and South America. Between one and three percent of people in the developed world use cocaine at some point in their life. In 2013 cocaine use directly resulted in 4,300 deaths, up from 2,400 in 1990.