Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Your Child and Drugs
Cocaine use by teens is a
major problem and concern in North America today. Many young people think that
drugs are not all that harmful and that using cocaine is a symbol of status and
success. They also think that trying cocaine is a step toward becoming an adult.
Cocaine is made from the
leaves of the South American cocoa bush. The leaves are soaked in chemicals
until they break down into cocaine crystals. These crystals are dried and
crushed into a bitter, white powder.
How is cocaine
As a powder, cocaine is
usually inhaled, or “snorted,” through the nose. A less common
method is to inject it directly into a vein. Cocaine can also be smoked in a
pipe after it is hardened into a paste. This is called “freebasing.”
Cocaine is also sold in a nugget form for as little as $5 to $15. This type of
cocaine, called “crack,” is also smoked. Users can make their own
crack from a mixture of cocaine powder, baking soda, and water. Crack cocaine is
much more powerful than cocaine in powder form. The “high” from
smoking crack cocaine is more intense and habit-forming than from snorting
the effects of cocaine?
people know the effects of alcohol and marijuana, very few know the facts about
cocaine. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant. It affects the nervous system and
causes a user’s heart rate and blood pressure to increase very quickly.
Cocaine triggers pleasure centers in the brain and makes the user feel instantly
alert. It also creates a false sense of joy (a “high”). But this
“high” is short-lived—from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on how
the drug is taken. As the drug’s effects wear off, users may feel anxious,
depressed, and tired. Marijuana, alcohol, sleeping pills, or
“uppers” are sometimes used to ease cocaine’s
“high” tempts users to want more of the drug once its effects start
to wear off. The more a person uses cocaine, the greater the desire to keep
using it. The amount of cocaine needed to get high depends on how it is used,
how long the person has been using it, and the strength (potency) of the drug.
Cocaine is highly addictive. In laboratory tests, monkeys have starved or died
because they chose cocaine instead of food and water. Smoking cocaine or crack
increases the risk of addiction. When a person smokes cocaine, the lungs
transfer the drug quickly into the bloodstream and it goes straight to the
What are the dangers
Cocaine causes the
user’s heart rate and blood pressure to increase. The more cocaine used,
the more intense this becomes. For some people, even small amounts of cocaine
can cause dangerous increases in heart rate and abnormal heart rhythms. When
this happens, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the brain, and a
cocaine user can die.
In young people,
cocaine can cause:
- Emotional problems
- School problems
- Low motivation
- Isolation from friends or family
Some cocaine users
even turn to stealing or prostitution to support this costly drug habit.
Pregnant women who use cocaine may have miscarriages, or their babies may be
born with severe birth
Stages of drug
There are several stages of
drug use. Be aware of any changes in your child’s behavior that may
indicate a problem with
Experimenting with drugs.
In this stage, a person tries a drug such as cocaine in search of
“fun.” There is often strong peer pressure to enter this stage.
Assuming there are no initial physical problems, there is usually no change in
behavior, except for secret activities meant to hide the cocaine
Actively seeking drugs. In this
stage, a person needs more cocaine to get the same feelings. This is called
tolerance and is a sign of addiction. A person may use cocaine daily to get
“high” and escape reality. Behavior begins to change and schoolwork
may slip. Problems at home and school may lead the person to use more cocaine.
Because cocaine is highly addictive, occasional users can quickly become
drugs. In this stage, there is a significant loss of control over drug use,
and the user may become angry or isolated without cocaine. Heavy drug use is
costly, and a user may lie and steal from family or friends to pay for cocaine.
This may lead to trouble with the law. Whether or not someone becomes a heavy
user often depends on the reasons for trying cocaine in the first place.
Recognizing the signs of abuse and getting help from family members,
pediatricians, teachers, youth groups, or clergy are the first steps in helping
your child recover from drug abuse or
How to help your
child resist drugs
Sooner or later
most youngsters will find themselves in a situation in which they must decide
whether or not to take drugs. Follow these guidelines to help your child learn
to resist this pressure:
- Build your child’s self-esteem with plenty
of praise and love.
- Avoid being overly critical when your child makes
- Talk openly with your child about important
topics like drugs and drug use.
- Help your child deal with peer pressure, strong
emotions, and feelings.
- Encourage your child to get involved in hobbies,
school clubs, and other activities.
- Spend leisure time with your child.
Remember, parents who use and
abuse drugs place their children at higher risk for drug abuse. Make sure you
set a good example at home by:
- Limiting your use of alcohol
- Not smoking cigarettes
- Using over-the-counter drugs sparingly and only
according to directions on the label or from your
Despite your best
efforts, your teen may still use or abuse drugs. Some warning signs of drug
- Changes in choice of friends
- Changes in dress and appearance
- Frequent arguments and unexplained violent
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Skipping school
- Falling grades
- Runaway and delinquent behavior
- Legal problems
communication between you and your child is one of the best ways to help prevent
drug use. If talking to your teen becomes a problem, your pediatrician may be
able to help open the lines of communication. If you suspect your child is using
cocaine or any other drug, talk to your pediatrician about how
can help. The information contained in
this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and
advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your
pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and