How is cocaine used?
Users primarily administer cocaine orally, intranasally, intravenously, or by inhalation. When people snort the drug (intranasal use), they inhale cocaine powder through the nostrils, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Users also may rub the drug onto their gums (oral use). Dissolving cocaine in water and injecting it (intravenous use) releases the drug directly into the bloodstream and heightens the intensity of its effects. When people smoke cocaine (inhalation), they inhale its vapor or smoke into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is almost as rapid as by injection. This fast euphoric effect is one of the reasons that crack became enormously popular in the mid-1980s.2
Cocaine use ranges from occasional to repeated or compulsive use, with a variety of patterns between these extremes. Any route of administration can potentially lead to absorption of toxic amounts of cocaine, causing heart attacks, strokes, or seizures—all of which can result in sudden death.2,7
This series of reports simplifies the science of research findings for the educated lay public, legislators, educational groups, and practitioners. The series reports on research findings of national interest.