Cocaine addiction is prevalent worldwide. This party drug and stimulant is the second most trafficked illicit drug in the world. Naturally, it’s one of the most commonly used illegal drugs worldwide. It’s the second most common illicit substance used in Europe and one of the top contenders in America as well. Year after years, hundreds, if not thousands, of metric tons are intercepted in both South and North America. Those who misuse this drug should learn more about the details involved with cocaine abuse.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant and party drug. The active chemicals in cocaine come from coca leaves. This illicit drug comes in the form of a fine, white powder. It can either be snorted, smoked or injected intravenously to produce a euphoric sensation. The high from this drug will vary depending on the administration method.
Due to its addictive potential, the Drug Enforcement Agency has labelled cocaine as a Schedule II drug. Although it can have medicinal uses, it is rarely used for those reasons. Nowadays, cocaine is most often used for illicit purposes. It is a party drug that is often abused by young adults. It’s especially popular among college students. While cocaine use in the nation is declining, cocaine abuse among college students is actually at an all-time high.
Cocaine use is made even more dangerous due to the fact that it is often cut with other drugs and illicit agents. It’s not unusual to find drugs, like fentanyl, mixed in with cocaine. Polydrug use of cocaine can be fatal. The drug interactions can enhance the effects of both cocaine and the other drugs.
There are two forms of cocaine: the water-soluble hydrochloride salt and the water-insoluble cocaine base. Drug abusers inject or snort the former and smoke the latter. Both produce a high of varying lengths.
From Cocaine to Crack
Like cocaine, crack is highly addictive. It produces short, yet intense highs that last about 15 minutes. This illicit street drug can easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Crack causes even more bodily damage than cocaine. It’s easy to develop dependence and tolerance to the drug, but it’s very difficult to wean off of it. Drug addicts who abuse crack require even more medical supervision than those who abuse cocaine.
While cocaine is known as a “rich man’s drug”, the same does not apply to crack. Crack is fairly cheap and is easily accessible.
Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction
More people abuse cocaine than you’d think. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 913,000 Americans had some form of dependence on cocaine in 2014. Many cocaine users are functioning addicts. They don’t necessarily look like your typical drug addict. This is why many professionals, like lawyers or even doctors, are able to hide a cocaine addiction with ease.
While it may be difficult to spot a cocaine addiction, there are a few signs and symptoms that you can look out for. They may not necessarily be a definitive sign of an addiction. The most common signs and symptoms of a cocaine addiction include:
- An inability to breathe out of one nostril; cocaine damages the nostrils and causes nasal perforation
- Difficulties concentrating and performing menial tasks
- Financial difficulties and problems; With a price tag of $50 to $150 per gram, a cocaine addiction is expensive
- Odd sleeping patterns; since cocaine is a stimulant, it often keeps addicts up at night or, in heavy use scenarios, for several days
- Raised body temperature and heart rate
- Restlessness and irritability, especially with heavy cocaine use
- Sexual dysfunction, like an inability to stay aroused
- Teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which can lead to headaches
Drug users with a cocaine addiction are also likely to display erratic behaviour. They may engage in riskier activities and may even display significant behavioural changes from time to time. Keep in mind that cocaine affects each person differently. Due to this reason, use your best judgment to determine whether someone is struggling with a cocaine addiction.
Dangers and Side Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine affects key regions of the central nervous system (CNS), especially the brain. The effects are responsible for the highly addictive nature of cocaine. For example, cocaine stimulates the right nucleus accumbens. This region of the brain is responsible for the pleasurable effects of the drug. A chemical imbalance here causes intense cravings during cocaine withdrawals.
Decreased activity at the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex causes cocaine users to have less cognitive control over drug-seeking, and even impulsive, behaviors. All of these regions come together to create an array of effects on the human body and mind. Many of these side effects are dangerous. Long-term and heavy cocaine use can cause irreversible, permanent damage to the body and mind. Mental health issues can be particularly difficult to deal with.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
- Euphoria, extreme happiness and a boost of energy
- Hypersensitivity to stimuli, like sight, sound and touch
- Mental alertness and extreme focus
- Mood changes that can lead to irritability and paranoia
- Unpredictable, bizarre or even violent behaviour
Some people find that cocaine use can help them become more concentrated. They are able to complete an array of tasks within a shorter period of time. For others, the opposite rings true. They become much less concentrated. They can’t focus and can’t accomplish much while riding the high of the illicit drug.
In general, the side effects listed above will usually kick in rather immediately and will disappear within an hour or two. The intensity and length of these methods will depend on the dosage and the administration method. If the cocaine addict snorts the drug, the high lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. On the other hand, if they smoke the drug, the high lasts anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
- Delirium or psychosis
- Higher risk of contracting bloodborne diseases, like HIV and hepatitis C, from injecting the cocaine
- Loss of sense smell, frequent runny noses and nosebleeds from snorting the cocaine
- Malnourishment due to a loss of appetite
- Movement disorders, like Parkinson’s disease
Cocaine users who snort the drug are more likely to experience a loss of smell. They’re more prone to sinus infections. Other methods of use can result in other types of permanent and irreversible damage to the body.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
In comparison to other narcotics, cocaine withdrawals are not as severe or difficult to deal with. However, this does not necessarily mean that recovery cannot benefit from residential detox. Depending on the severity of the addiction, the withdrawal symptoms can be intense. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
The withdrawal symptoms will be even more intense if the drug users mixed cocaine with other drugs. Withdrawal symptoms tend to emerge as early as 1.5 hours after the last hit, and can last up to 7 to 10 days. Drug rehab treatment centers can help reduce the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms and help addicts safely recover from the addiction.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options
Since cocaine withdrawal symptoms are generally less intense than the withdrawal symptoms of other narcotics and illicit drugs, addicts can choose from both an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Residential detox programs are most ideal long-time or heavy cocaine users. Around-the-clock medical supervision makes it easier to recover.
Residential drug rehab will take various approaches to deal with the addiction. While the National Institute of Drug Abuse and FDA have yet to approve a specific treatment plan and medication to treat a cocaine addiction, novel pharmacotherapeutic treatments and medications that are currently being studied and used include:
- Dopamine agonists
- Serotonergic agents
- GABA-ergic medications
Patients will also benefit from participating in behavioural therapies and counselling. These approaches tackle underlying psychological issues that may have led to the addiction. Each patient will need their own tailored treatment plan. Our medical professional will assess each patient’s needs based on the length of their drug use, among many other factors.