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Surgery => Anasthesia => Cocaine


Cocaine, alkaloid obtained from leaves of the coca plant and used medically as a local anesthetic (see Anesthesia). It is also widely abused as a drug. Native Americans of the Inca Empire chewed coca leaves to obtain mild euphoria, stimulation, and alertness. The drug was first isolated in 1855 and came to be used widely as a local anesthetic in minor surgery. At present, local anesthetics with less abuse potential, such as lidocaine, are commonly used instead.

Cocaine has long been known as a drug of abuse, but it came into particular prominence in the late 1970s and the 1980s. Cocaine hydrochloride, a water-soluble salt, is a dry white powder (known on the street as "snow") that is usually inhaled through a thin tube inserted into the nostril. More rarely, cocaine is injected into a vein. The drug may also be smoked in a purified form through a water pipe ("freebasing") or in a concentrated form ("crack") shaped into pellets and placed in special smoking gear. Users experience euphoria, exhilaration, and a decreased appetite. The drug also increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and dilates the pupils. Chronic use can lead to skin abscesses, perforation of the septum of the nose, weight loss, and damage to the nervous system. Negative mental effects include extreme restlessness, anxiety, irritability, and, occasionally, paranoid psychosis. Death from even a small dose can occur, and is usually caused by seizures or heart attacks.

Cocaine is classified as a narcotic for legal purposes by the United States government. It causes strong psychological dependence.