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Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that people abuse for its euphoric effects such as hyperstimulation, increased stamina, and mental clarity. Cocaine may be snorted, smoked, or injected. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) estimates that there were over a million new cocaine users in the United States in 2002, with 20 years old being the average age of new users.

This average age encompasses the college population, and ONDCP figures show that in 2003:

  • 9.2 percent of college students reported using cocaine at least once during their lifetimes
  • 5.4 percent of college students reported cocaine use in the past year 
  • 1.9 percent reported cocaine use in the past month

Cocaine is the most powerful natural stimulant, and users are at risk for dire physical and emotional consequences. People who abuse cocaine may experience psychological symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, paranoia, and irritability. Physical symptoms include constricted blood vessels, and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Moreover, users who inject the drug may contract or transmit infectious disease, such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Cocaine use can lead to cardiac arrest, seizures, and respiratory arrest – even in first time users. According to the ONDCP, cocaine was responsible for nearly 200,000 emergency room visits in 2002 – the most of any illicit drug.

Cocaine is extremely addictive for prolonged users, who may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drug, and require higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects the drug gave them the first time they used it. Users who are addicted to cocaine often require treatment services, such as inpatient drug rehabilitation.

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