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Cocaine, or coke, is a highly addictive, fast-acting central nervous system stimulant. It is an illegal, unregulated drug that is used recreationally. Coke is made from the leaves of a plant that is native to South America, called the coca plant. In its purest form, it looks like a fine white powder, resembling flour or talcum powder. There are several ways in which young people can ingest cocaine. A teenager could snort cocaine powder, rub cocaine powder onto his or her gums, or dissolve cocaine powder into water and inject it directly into his or her bloodstream. Adolescents can also smoke cocaine after it has been processed into crack cocaine, which is the crystal form of cocaine. Studies have indicated that on average, crack cocaine is between 75% to 100% pure, which makes it far more potent than regular cocaine. The average half-life, meaning the length of time the substance will remain in one’s system until the concentration in one’s blood has been reduced by half, of coke is approximately one hour.

Cocaine and the Brain

Emerging science about brain development suggests the human brain does not reach full maturity until age 25, at the earliest. The way cocaine works in one’s body is by sending increased levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that carries signals between brain cells) to areas of the brain that reign pleasure, and the excess buildup of dopamine elicits feelings of energy, alertness, and euphoria. A teen that abuses cocaine is in effect continuously interfering with his or her brain’s natural communication process. Repeated exposure to cocaine triggers alterations to neurons in the brain, causing the body to develop a tolerance, which leads the user to require more of the drug to achieve the same desired effects, crave the substance when it is not present in the body, and ultimately become dependent on the drug to function. Since the nature of cocaine is to alter one’s synaptic connections, teenage cocaine use can cause permanent changes in one’s brain systems, and as such can lead to detrimental long and short-term consequences on the developing brain of an adolescent. Cocaine is classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II Substance, which is defined as a drug “with a high potential for abuse with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” An estimated 21% of people who try cocaine will become addicted at some point in their lifetime. According to the results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health nearly 5.5 million people used cocaine, including crack, and roughly a million of those people were addicted. Still, cocaine effects in adolescents are much greater than in adults as the teenage brain has yet to fully mature.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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