Cocaine is a naturally occurring stimulant derived from the coca plant of South America. Coca leaves were used for their stimulant properties for hundreds of years prior to the modern day. The 1800s was the period when cocaine was first separated and concentrated into the white powder form that people recognize today.
Concentrating cocaine into powdered form has increased both the positive and negative effects that people experience from the drug. For example, think of coffee beans and caffeine. Brewed coffee, like coca leaves, can cause mild positive effects, like a boost of energy. However, if someone were to use pure caffeine powder, like the form of cocaine, the person would experience dangerous side effects.
Article at a Glance:
- Cocaine is a CNS stimulant that causes euphoria
- Cocaine causes many side effects, including jitters
- Jitters are one of the most common effects of cocaine and happen because cocaine over-excites nerve cells
- Jitters should not be treated with depressants like alcohol and marijuana
How Does Cocaine Work in The Body?
Cocaine is a stimulant that increases levels of some neurotransmitters in brain cells. Neurotransmitters are chemical signals that brain cells use to talk with each other. These messages might contain information about mood, movement and the health status of certain parts of the body.
Cocaine specifically raises levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine (DA) and norepinephrine (NE). These signals are normally sent between brain cells and then broken down and recycled. Cocaine prevents the cells from breaking down DA and NE, which causes an abnormal elevation of mood.
What Other Symptoms Does Cocaine Cause?
Besides an elevated mood, cocaine causes many mental and physical symptoms, including:
- Depressed mood
- Fever and sweating
- High blood pressure and pulse
- Large (dilated) pupils
- Muscle tremors, such as in the face and fingers
- Nausea and vomiting
- Vivid dreams
At higher doses, the physical cocaine side effects, like jitteriness, start to become more obvious. Jitteriness can refer to muscles tremors or the inability to sit still.
People take higher doses because they develop a tolerance to cocaine, which happens when taking the same amount of a drug does not achieve the same effect over time. Tolerance develops because cocaine makes parts of the body function in ways they are not supposed to, so the body adjusts its cells to be less affected by cocaine.
Cocaine and Jitteriness
People who take cocaine almost always report some jitteriness, even at low doses. These same studies also report that cocaine makes people more jittery as the dosage increases. So, why does this happen?
Nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is responsible for transmitting every nerve signal in the body back and forth between the brain and appendages (arms and legs).
To move a muscle, the CNS sends a movement signal but then send several other signals that keep the muscle steady. Cocaine over-activates the nerves the move muscles so much that the steadying nerves have a difficult time keeping the movement smooth and steady. Muscle movement is a balancing act, with the force of movement being reigned in with counter-movement to slow and steady it.
Treating Cocaine Jitters
People using cocaine may try depressants like marijuana and alcohol to control cocaine side effects. In the short-term, this behavior can work, but ultimately, using multiple drugs makes cocaine addiction worse. Chasing the side effects of one drug with another leads to a spiral of drug addiction that becomes hard to escape from.
Therefore, the best treatment for cocaine jitters is to stop using cocaine. Jitters are not permanent and will go away when cocaine use stops. Addiction treatment is highly recommended by medical professionals for anyone who struggles with cocaine addiction. A good first step of rehab for cocaine addiction is medical detox, followed by inpatient treatment.
Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “The History of Cocaine – Where Does Cocaine Come from? – Drug-Free World.” (n.d.) Accessed June 16, 2019. MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Intoxication: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Reviewed 2019. Accessed June 16, 2019. MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Reviewed 2019. Accessed June 16, 2019. PubChem. “Cocaine.” (n.d.) Accessed June 16, 2019.
Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “The History of Cocaine – Where Does Cocaine Come from? – Drug-Free World.” (n.d.) Accessed June 16, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Intoxication: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Reviewed 2019. Accessed June 16, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Cocaine Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Reviewed 2019. Accessed June 16, 2019.
PubChem. “Cocaine.” (n.d.) Accessed June 16, 2019.
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