Cocaine Addiction: Signs of Abuse and Next Steps

Cocaine addiction in America is becoming increasingly prominent, especially in young adults. The number of individuals currently abusing cocaine is shown through the drastic rise in cocaine-related overdose within a ten-year time span. Cocaine is highly addictive and it can be administered through various routes, each equally as dangerous as the other.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant that is often used recreationally.

It is most commonly snorted, injected, or inhaled. Cocaine is a white powder derived from the coca leaves of South America.

Symptoms of cocaine use include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense feelings of joy
  • Disassociation with reality
  • Increased alertness
  • High blood pressure and high body temperature

Although the drug is typically referred to on the street as “coke,” other names for cocaine include:

  • Girl
  • White girl
  • Blow
  • Yeyo
  • Bump
  • Snowflake
  • Base

Cocaine affects the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain, meaning it generates an influx of these “feel good” chemicals once the drug is used.

The duration of the high produced by cocaine can last from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the route of administration.

Cocaine abuse affects an individual psychologically more than physically. However, there are still a few acute physical symptoms associated with cocaine use.

The brain’s mood stabilizing and pleasure receptors are affected by the introduction of the stimulant into the body.

Cocaine use blocks a large number of dopamine transporters, meaning the central nervous system is not getting pleasure from completing tasks that would normally lead to a reward.

Serotonin is also affected by cocaine use.

Serotonin is responsible for balancing an individual’s mood. When disturbances occur in this neurotransmitter, it causes the agitation and aggression associated with continued cocaine use.

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What Are the Signs of Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine use is easily distinguishable in individuals, especially if they don’t normally display actions such as:

  • Excitability
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased energy
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Social isolation / attachment
  • Risky behavior or irrational thought process
  • High confidence
  • Talkative
  • Changes in sleeping or eating
  • Increased need for privacy
  • Financial difficulties
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or daily activities
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Paraphernalia such as spoons, razor blades, plastic baggies, rolled bills, needles
  • White residue on certain objects

What Is Involved in Cocaine Addiction Treatment?

The treatment model for cocaine abuse is simple and commonly used for treating many types of addiction. There are very little and acute physical symptoms of withdrawal, so if you are detoxing from cocaine, you will undergo a series of psychological withdrawal symptoms. When you abuse it for a period, the body and brain become dependant on the constant euphoria associated with cocaine use. On average, you will begin to come down from the drug in as little as 1.5 hours after the last dose.

The beginning stages to treat cocaine addiction are getting into a licensed detox facility.

Detoxification is the process of removing all substances from the body under the care of medical professionals. Detox is usually done in a medical facility and lasts around seven days, depending on the severity of the addiction and if they are abusing more substances other than cocaine.

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After detox is complete, placement in a long-term facility such as inpatient or residential treatment may be recommended. An inpatient treatment program typically lasts from 30 to 90 days.

This type of program will encourage you to learn about addiction and participate in a 12-step or non-12-step based program to further abstinence from cocaine and other substances. It also gives you ample time to adjust to early recovery and provide a safe environment for you to begin the recovery journey.

Inpatient treatment introduces methods such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Addiction education
  • Relapse prevention
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Group therapy
  • Amenities to introduce you to society without the use of drugs or alcohol
  • Introduction to support groups
  • Constant support and supervision from staff and peers

The benefits of attending a long-term treatment program are endless and effective. After an inpatient or residential program, you can continue care with an outpatient or intensive outpatient program. These programs typically last around six to nine weeks. However, you will only need to attend groups for one to three days a week.

At the same time, you will be encouraged to attend outside meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous to work toward maintaining your sobriety.

How Dangerous Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is more dangerous than you might think. Since the use of cocaine is often affiliated with people of high social status, the negative effects can often be misconstrued.

Long-term use of cocaine can lead to damaging effects on the body as well as the brain.

Since cocaine affects the central nervous system, it will cause an imbalance in the production of natural chemicals in the brain. Cocaine triggers an abnormally large amount of neurotransmitter secretions each time it is used – eventually leading to an inability to produce enough on your own. This can lead to negative behaviors such as violent outbursts and extreme mood swings.

Cocaine is also known to cause heart problems. Cocaine causes blood vessels to constrict and become more narrow than usual. This causes a dramatic increase in heart rate due to the effects of cocaine on the central nervous system. People who abuse cocaine are at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Not to mention, a high number of people have experienced an overdose of cocaine, especially when mixing it with other substances.

Shooting, Snorting, and Smoking

Cocaine is typically snorted, but it can also be injected directly into a vein (intravenously) or smoked. Different means of administration will have different effects on the body, each of which causes unique adverse effects.

Even snorting can come with serious side effects. Frequently snorting cocaine can cause nose bleeds, a loss sense of smell, difficulting swallowing, a chronically irritated and inflamed nasal septum, and chronic hoarseness.

Cocaine doesn’t burn easily until it’s converted into crack, its freebase form. Crack offers an intense but short-lived high that encourages binging. Crack binges can last for days, leading to insomnia, exhaustion, and stimulant psychosis. Smoking crack can also damage the lungs and worsen asthma.

Injecting cocaine offers the fastest and most intense high. But with other means of administration, some of the drug doesn’t make it into your bloodstream and brain. When you inject the dissolved drug directly into your vein, 100 percent of it makes it into your bloodstream.

Injecting illicit drugs is inherently dangerous. Contaminated cocaine can cause puncture marks, collapsed veins, blood clots, and deep vein thrombosis. In some cases, clots can reach the heart or the brain and become deadly. Injecting illicit drugs also increases your risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

Cocaine Abuse Statistics

Cocaine is notorious for its highly addictive properties. However, it doesn’t only affect those who use it. Cocaine use contributes to hospital visit costs, overdose death rates, addiction rates, money spent on funding for treatment or other cocaine-related incidents, and it contributes to the growing drug use trends currently taking hold of the United States.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded the following statistics related to cocaine use:

  • In 2014, about 913,000 Americans were reported to have met the criteria for dependence or abuse of cocaine.
  • More than 505,000 of the 1.2 million drug-related emergency room visits were caused by cocaine use or related to cocaine use.
  • Drug abuse costs the nation over $600 billion annually.