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Heterocyclic compound (CHNO), an alkaloid obtained from coca leaves. It has legal uses in medicine and dentistry as a local anesthetic but far more is used illegally, usually as the hydrochloride. When sniffed in small amounts, cocaine produces feelings of well-being and euphoria, decreased appetite, relief from fatigue, and increased mental alertness. Larger amounts or prolonged use can damage the heart and nasal structures and cause seizures. In altered, more potent, cheaper forms (freebase, crack), cocaine is injected or smoked and is extremely addictive (seedrug addiction) and detrimental to health. Prolonged or compulsive use of any form of purified cocaine can cause severe personality disturbances, inability to sleep, appetite loss, and paranoid psychosis.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on cocaine, visit Britannica.com.