Cocaine Use and Thyroid Functioning

Tess Thompson

Cocaine is an alkaloid derived from the leaves of the coca plant. Its leaves have been in use since long ago due to their property of leading to mild euphoria, stimulation and alertness. The use of cocaine as a drug started after it was isolated in 1855 and had since been used as a local anesthetic in minor surgery. Cocaine abuse came into prominence in the 1970’s and the 1980’s. The drug is known to cause physiological and psychological dependence.

Cocaine hydrochloride is a water soluble dry white powder that is usually inhaled through a thin pipe inserted in the nostril. The drug is also used in a purified form through a water pipe or in a concentrated pellet form. Cocaine abuse is associated with a feeling of euphoria, excitement and loss of appetite. Among others, its physiological effects include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and dilation of the pupils. Chronic use may lead to nose bleeds, skin abscesses, weight loss and damage to the nervous system. Cocaine abuse and its subsequent withdrawal can influence thyroid functioning, due to the affect it has on the nervous system leading to various kinds of thyroid problems.

The thyroid gland is located in the neck, just below the ‘Adam’s Apple’ in men. It is an important gland of the endocrine system, which produces hormones that stimulate metabolism in the body. Thyroid health is extremely crucial for normal body functioning, as the hormones secreted by it are used by nearly every cell and organ.

The thyroid is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary through the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Cocaine abuse affects the hypothalamus-pituitary axis and disturbs the production and response of TSH. A hormone is produced by the anterior pituitary gland, commonly known as growth hormone (GH) as it promotes growth in humans. Thyroid health can affect the release of growth hormone. Studies have been conducted on cocaine addicts to understand the TSH and GH responses to thyroid releasing hormones. There is conclusive evidence that cocaine withdrawal is associated with the developmental stage of thyroid condition known as hypothyroidism.

Cocaine is a strong and effective pain killer and widely used for anesthetizing mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and throat. However, it should be used only under medical supervision. In case you have hypertension, thyroid problems, infections, seizures or sores at the site of application, the fact should be disclosed to the physician.

Improper use of any drug is dangerous for health. Popular use of cocaine in the non-medical context is a cause for concern. It is important to note that cocaine comes under the list of classified narcotics by the United States government.

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