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Cocaine: Body effects and possession charges

Users often can describe clearly how a recreational drug makes them feel without knowing why their bodies and minds respond in certain ways. Knowledge about cocaine doesn't make the practice of using it any more legal. The coca plant-based drug is addictive and dangerous – getting caught with it can result in a felony record.

What does cocaine do that makes Tampa residents take risks? Cocaine delivers a powerful, albeit short-term, burst of energy. The euphoric high is caused by an overload of dopamine, like a pleasure switch that doesn't turn off.

Highs from snorted powdered cocaine last up to a half hour – more intense highs from crack cocaine, the drug in crystal form, last 10 minutes or less.

Constant, repeated use is common because cocaine's high fades so quickly. Among the consequences of using cocaine: addiction, increased risks of strokes and heart attacks and deaths caused by mixing cocaine with alcohol or other drugs.

Cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance under Florida drug laws. You could be charged with a third-degree felony for cocaine possession. Possession with intent to sell could bump that up to a harsher second-degree felony.

Possession doesn't mean the cocaine has to be in your pocket or elsewhere on your body. You may be charged with possession for having control over the location where the cocaine was found. But, that's just one of several things prosecutors must prove while presenting a possession case.

The state must verify the drug seized from a defendant was cocaine. Prosecutors must provide evidence the defendant was aware or should have been aware the drug was illegal and present under the accused's control. A defense attorney could argue the defendant did not know.

Defense strategies also include challenging police procedures used to search the premises, seize the drug and arrest the defendant. In some cases, an entrapment defense is appropriate.

Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse, "DrugFacts: Cocaine," accessed May. 01, 2015

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