Whether it’s snorted, smoked, or injected, cocaine enters the bloodstream and starts affecting the brain in a matter of seconds. Once there, it interferes with the brain’s normal process of absorbing and recycling certain hormones, including those that play key roles in pleasure, desire, and drive.
Users feel this excess as intense euphoria.
But the high is short-lived, and in most cases lasts anywhere from five to 30 minutes. Regular, heavy use can have negative consequences, from nose bleeds to permanent lung damage and even death.
One part of the brain that appears to be most acutely affected by cocaine includes key memory centres. Scientists are studying the role this might play in addiction, since it could help explain why for some people, seeing certain places, people, or things that were linked with the experience of using can trigger a desire to return to the drug despite negative consequences of using.