Cocaine affects the pathway to the reward center of the brain. Symptoms of cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction can easily mirror mental illness. The DEA has cocaine as a schedule II drug and many who show symptoms of cocaine addiction exhibit intense craving and physical signs similar to cardiac arrest.
Once cocaine reaches the brain, the drug interferes with neurotransmitters (a persons chemical messengers) in your brain that nerve cells use to speak.
This article is about cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction and everything you need to know.
The pure chemical, cocaine hydrochloride, has been used and abused in the U.S. for more than 100 years. Coca leaves (drug leaves) are native to South America and have been ingested by the indigenous people there for thousands of years. In fact, a fragment of pottery found in South America that has been dated to 5000 BC depicts the use of the coca leaf.
The Harrison Act declared cocaine to be illegal in the United States in 1914, however, cocaine is still readily available most everywhere. And, although the true extent of the cocaine usage, drug abuse and addiction problem in the United States can not be fully known, we can still get a pretty good idea from information obtained annually by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
According to the results obtained by this survey, approximately 70 percent of respondents between ages 18 – 25 have tried the drug cocaine in the past year for the first time. A staggering total of 4.8 million people aged 12 or older have used cocaine in the past 12 months.
Cocaine is created by purifying an extract from the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca bush, and comes in the form of a white powder or in crystals that appear as small white rocks known as crack. Powdered cocaine can be inhaled by snorting it, or by injection.
Smoking cocaine is the fastest route to addiction. Smoking crack for the first time is like ringing the bell on the strength tester at the carnival. Users can become addicted after just one use. However, with crack cocaine, it is only possible to hit that bell on the first attempt. Crack addicts chase after that feeling every time they use, but can never hit that bell again.
The popularity of cocaine as a so called recreational substance is in part due to its positive and immediate affect on mood, motivation, and energy. Cocaine use heightens concentration, and decreases inhibitions. However, the main problem with the cocaine high, as the comedian George Carlin once noted is that, “cocaine makes you a new man…and that new man wants MORE COCAINE!” People who are addicted to cocaine are also known as coke heads.
Signs and Symptoms of Developing Addiction
The signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction can vary from individual to individual and depend upon the length and frequency of use as well as the level of physical and psychological dependency involved.
There are a multitude of symptoms connected to repeated cocaine use and cocaine addiction which can indicate that an individual may be having issues with substance abuse with other drugs, and especially cocaine. Yes, cocaine gives the user an immediate and obvious increase in energy, alertness and motivation. However – what goes up must eventually come down.
Drug Abuse and Cocaine’s Effects
Drug abuse or drug addiction changes an individual’s behavior. A sudden withdrawal from friends and loved ones, for instance, can indicate there is a problem. Additionally, in the case of cocaine abuse, the individual can exhibit bizarre behaviors, dilated pupils, or driving under the influence while drugs or drug paraphernalia are in the vehicle.
There are other physical risk factors which are can be directly attributed to cocaine usage. These include an elevated heart rate, reduced blood supply to the heart and brain, due to constriction of the blood vessels.
Additionally, adverse effects to an individual’s mental health from cocaine abuse include anxiety, depression, which can progress to include extreme paranoia, suicidal ideation and hallucinations.
Physical Effects of Cocaine Addiction
The neurotransmitter dopamine is normally released by participation in, or the expectation of, a pleasurable experience, and is then recycled back into the brain cell that released it. Cocaine abuse – and let’s be real here: there is no way to just use cocaine without abusing it – also produces this effect.
Eating good food, or having sex, or almost any enjoyable activity, will produce dopamine. However, unlike food, or having sex, cocaine binds itself to receptors and prohibits the transporter from normal reabsorption of dopamine from the synapses.
When cocaine is finally reabsorbed, severe depression will occur, and this depressive state tends to last for a longer period each time, as cocaine addiction progresses.
Another concern here is that, unless you know where the drug actually came from, and who handled it prior to your purchasing it, you cannot be sure what it was cut with. Dealers mix their drugs like cocaine with other ingredients in order to make more money. Your cocaine can be cut with such things as laundry detergent, laxatives, caffeine, baking soda and baby powder. The caffeine isn’t so bad, maybe even the baking soda. However, the most hazardous added ingredient of all right now is the highly addictive synthetic opiate fentanyl.
Illicit fentanyl is added to heroin to make it more potent, so dealers can use less actual heroin. However, because drug dealers use the same equipment to cut their heroin as they do their cocaine, the potent drug fentanyl is sometimes mixed in. So, unless you have access to a lab to test the product, you can not know how much it has been adulterated, or what the potency of the drug may be. There are no FDA standards in place, here.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
When cocaine use is stopped, as it must be at some point, withdrawal symptoms set in. Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine include fatigue, exhaustion, depression and anxiety. Additionally, a decreased mental alertness and a marked inability to concentrate, combined with tremors and shakiness can also occur. Occasionally the individual will experience flu-like symptoms such as chills and body aches. All these can be extremely unpleasant, however, cocaine withdrawal symptoms are usually not a medical emergency.
Other physical adverse effects from cocaine usage can occur if you snort cocaine regularly. Inhaling or snorting causes damage to nasal tissues, which can lead in turn to the loss of sense of smell and also unexpected nosebleeds. Most alarmingly, damage sustained from snorting cocaine can eventually lead to a break down of the nasal septum – the cartilage that keeps your nose from collapsing!
More About Withdrawal Symptoms
Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that quickly affects the user by entering the bloodstream immediately, although the effect wears off quickly – generally lasting from 5-30 minutes.
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms, especially from crack cocaine usage in long term cocaine users can be more serious. Symptoms can become dangerous if other underlying physical problems are present. The person’s risk of hospitalization increases if there is also dangerously high blood pressure, chest pain, or blurred vision. Cocaine use combined with other street drugs also contributes to hospital admissions.
Addiction to cocaine is not considered to be related to an isolated factor. Rather, cocaine addiction is thought to be the result of several variables. The National Library of Medicine has this to say about current research being done on this topic:
Researchers are seeking to understand how cocaine’s many longer term effects produce addiction’s persistent cravings and risk of relapse… addiction-like behavior…may precipitate very long-lasting changes to nerve cell structure. Further pursuit of this and similar leads are first steps toward a complete understanding of the transition from cocaine use to cocaine addiction—and, ultimately, more effective treatments for those who are addicted.
Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose
Is it even possible to over dose on the drug cocaine? Yes, the answer is yes: you can overdose the first time you use cocaine; especially with the added risk of potentially ingesting fentanyl along with your cocaine. Additionally, mixing cocaine and other substances can increase the risk factors and odds of overdose drastically. To be sure, mixing cocaine with any other illicit drug has its own hazards. Obviously, the practice is extremely dangerous; some of the negative consequences can be permanent.
Obviously, it’s time to call 911 if you or someone you are with experiences signs of a heart attack after using cocaine. Additionally, be aware that having an irregular heart rhythm, difficulty breathing and extreme agitation are also reasons to call for assistance. Difficulty breathing combined with high body temperature, hallucinations, or any combination of the above are also reasons to call 911 for help. Sudden death is not unheard of in such cases.
Dangers Associated with Prolonged Cocaine Use
Something else to be aware of – cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction can sometimes lead to a condition known as rhabdomyolysis, which is damage that leads to the rapid break down of skeletal muscle. It is not known why this happens.
Symptoms of rhabdo include confusion, weakness and muscle pains, vomiting and tea colored urine. When this breakdown of muscle tissue occurs, the kidneys become overwhelmed by a protein in the muscle tissue. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, get yourself to the nearest ER, fast!
Also, due to sharing needles or trading sex for money, cocaine addicts risk exposure to HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. There are no immediate symptoms to indicate whether you have contracted either disease.
Social Effects of Cocaine Addiction
With regard to health, finances and social standing, all addictions, whether they be to sex, food or drugs obviously have a negative impact on the addict’s life.
However, another consideration is the effect that addiction in general has on society. Cocaine use and addiction to other drugs cause crime, and make our society a more dangerous place to live.
Substance Abuse Treatment for Cocaine
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction of any sort, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMSHA is a place to begin researching treatment options.
What is the most effective treatment for cocaine abuse or addiction?
The admission of addiction and the complete abstinence from any mind altering substances is the first requirement to stop the progression of addiction.
The opposite of addiction is connection, and therefore the most effective method to stay stopped is more complicated. The answer to that requires desire and effort on the part of the addict. It is imperative that the addict receive some sort of treatment which includes such things as: 1:1 therapy and/or group therapy in an addiction treatment environment. Equally as important is education about addiction and recovery, and support from family, friends and the recovery community.
Turning Point of Tampa Treats Cocaine Addiction
As a joint commission certified facility in Tampa Florida, Turning Point of Tampa has been helping addicts and alcoholics find recovery since 1987. We have the pleasure of working with both veterans and civilians seeking a life of recovery from the devastation of alcoholism and addiction.
Treatment at Turning Point of Tampa for a substance use disorder can be successful because we instill the promise of hope for recovery within each client. If you or a loved one need immediate help, call us today.