Cocaine is a powerful stimulant derived from the coca plant that has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Over 40 million Americans have reported using cocaine in their lives, and because the euphoric high is so potent, this has led to a rise in cocaine addiction. Cocaine may be especially difficult to stop using without help because cravings can be so intense, making relapse more likely when dependence has already been established.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, which has a dramatic effect on the nervous system. Stimulants increase the activity of the central nervous system, so messages are transmitted faster between the body and the brain, causing a state of hyperalertness and hyperarousal. Cocaine use also leads to a sudden increase in the availability of dopamine in the brain, which is an important neurotransmitter that enhances positive mood.
Pure cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which are largely found in South America. It was discovered to work as an anesthetic in the 1880s, so scientists isolated the drug for medical use.
It is still considered a Schedule II drug by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which means it is highly addictive despite having an acceptable medical use. Nowadays, cocaine is rarely used as an anesthetic. Much of its use is illicit recreational use, wherein the drug is snorted or injected from its fine white powder form.
SLANG TERMS USED FOR COCAINE
Cocaine is one of the most well-known illicit drugs and it has many slang names including blow, coke, crack, snow, toot, basa, base, flake, or kryptonite to name a few.
Signs + Symptoms of Cocaine Use
The intense cocaine high lasts only 15 to 30 minutes, which causes many users to take additional doses to maintain their high. Though this is the period when symptoms peak, residual symptoms may persist for up to two hours after use. The symptoms that may be noticeable after cocaine use include:
- Increased temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Increase in energy
- Hyperarousal and hyperalertness
- Decreased appetite
- Aggression or violent behavior
Depending on the method of administration, other symptoms may be present. For example, when cocaine is snorted, symptoms may include a runny nose, nosebleed, dulled sense of smell, hoarseness, or difficulty swallowing. When cocaine is injected, users may show track marks on their body where the substance was injected.
Possible Effects of Cocaine Use
In addition to short-term symptoms produced by cocaine use, individuals may show additional adverse health effects. Since cocaine suddenly increases the stress on the heart, cardiovascular problems such as cardiac arrest, aorta rupture, and heartbeat irregularities may occur. Cocaine also puts users at risk of seizures, brain hemorrhaging, and stroke. With prolonged use, individuals may dramatically lose weight and become malnourished.
Other long-term effects relate to the way cocaine is used. When injected, cocaine use may lead to scarring, collapsed veins, or the contracting of diseases that spread through the use of shared needles such as HIV or Hepatitis C. Smoking may lead to respiratory problems like infections, lung damage, chronic cough, or respiratory distress. Snorting can irritate the septum, leading to issues like chronic nosebleeds. When cocaine is ingested, it can cause severe damage to the digestive system and bowels.
How Cocaine Is Used
The powder form of cocaine can be injected when it is dissolved in water. This form of administration is fast-acting; the effects can be felt within seconds when injected.
When cocaine is in its crystallized form, commonly known as crack, it can be heated and smoked with a pipe. The high of smoked crack typically lasts up to 10 minutes.
Ingesting cocaine orally:
When cocaine is ingested, the effects take the longest to come on. It could take up to an hour to feel the effects as the drug works its way through the digestive system into your bloodstream.
Snorting is one of the most common ways in which cocaine is used, because it does not require paraphernalia like syringes or pipes. The high when snorting is immediate and lasts up to 30 minutes.
How Addictive is Cocaine?
Because of how cocaine affects the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, it is highly addictive. Cocaine impedes the nervous system from eliminating dopamine, leading to an abundance of it and a subsequent rush of pleasurable sensations and emotions. This positive effect motivates people to use more cocaine. The short-term duration of the drug’s effect also contributes to its addictiveness because it motivates people to use the drug repeatedly.
Common Signs of Cocaine Addiction
There are some physical and behavioral signs that can signal that someone is facing problems with cocaine addiction. These may include:
- Sudden dramatic weight loss that cannot be attributed to other causes
- Changes in sleep patterns, particularly reduced sleeping
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Neglect of professional or social obligations
- Increase in risk-taking behaviors including sharing needles
- Criminal consequences as a result of cocaine use
- Continued use despite the desire to stop
- Aggression, hostility, or violence
- Behavior that is erratic or unpredictable
Common Signs of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine overdose may cause serious physical problems including heart attack, stroke, or seizures that can lead to death. The risk of overdose is particularly high when cocaine is mixed with other drugs that may compound the stimulant effect of the drug or dangerously counteract it like when mixed with a depressant such as alcohol. Overdose symptoms may include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Irregular heart beat
- Severe anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
Cocaine overdose should be treated as a medical emergency, and it’s best to call 911 for help. While waiting for paramedics, the person should not be left alone.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawing from potent drugs such as cocaine carries with it the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. These present when a person’s system begins to adjust and react to the absence of the drug. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Sexual dysfunction
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Difficulty concentrating
MIXING COCAINE WITH OTHER DRUGSPolysubstance abuse is common with drugs such as cocaine that may be used socially. Some interactions can be especially risky, even fatal. When cocaine is mixed with nervous system depressants such as alcohol or heroin, the resulting effect may be deadly. The effect of the cocaine typically wears off before the effect of a powerful depressant such as heroin, which may cause a sudden rapid decrease in respiratory or cardiovascular activity. The combination of a drug that offsets the effect of cocaine can also increase stress on the heart more than if either substance was taken alone.
Cocaine Addiction FAQs
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If you or a loved one struggles with cocaine addiction and need help finding a way out, we’re here to provide it. Call Recovery Bay today at 833.991.2955 to find out more about our inpatient rehab program, substance abuse treatment, and all other addiction treatment services that we offer.