Cocaine is a potent central nervous system stimulant that can be very addictive. With that being said, Cocaine addiction is a condition that affects millions of men and women in the United States. Cocaine is typically consumed in powder form and snorted; however, it’s also smoked (know as freebasing) or injected. Cocaine use is prevalent in US society, and according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2012, 38 million people reported trying the drug in their lifetime.
Cocaine produces an increase in energy, confidence, and produces feelings of euphoria. It’s due to these desirable effects that Cocaine has a high potential for abuse. Cocaine abuse can have devastating consequences if not adequately addressed.
Those who find themselves addicted to Cocaine find it to be challenging to break their addiction on their own, in which case professional help is needed.
The following can help provide valuable information regarding cocaine addiction and how cocaine abuse can be treated.
Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
Cocaine has a long history of abuse in the United States and was once believed to actually be a medical way of increasing one’s energy and alertness.
The drug was eventually found to be a significant drug of abuse, and the distribution of the drug was control and not readily available legally. The abuse of the drug received a resurgence in the latter half of the 1900s, but in recent times due to its expense and to the popularity of prescription drugs as drugs of abuse, it is not abused to the level that it was in the 1980s/1990s.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) releases yearly figures on the use/misuse of various drugs and even illicit substances. The figures for the previous year are released in the fall of the current year. At the time of this writing, the latest statistics available are the figures for 2016. According to that data:
- In 2016 38,000,880 individuals reported some lifetime use of Cocaine.
- Of the above individuals, 5,071,000 reported using Cocaine at least once within the previous year.
- About 1,874,000 individuals reported using Cocaine within the month before the survey.
- The figures were generally consistent with the numbers reported for the previous year (2015).
Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is sold as a powder or in small rocks (crack Cocaine). It can be snorted as a powder, injected, or smoked.
The immediate effects of using Cocaine can include:
- Euphoria (extreme happiness, feeling invincible, feeling empowered, etc.).
- An increase or “rush” of energy.
- Increased mental alertness.
- Becoming very sensitive to sensory stimulation (sight, sound, touch, etc.).
- Appetite loss.
- Jitteriness, nervousness, irritability, and/or restlessness.
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there).
- Suspiciousness or paranoid delusions (extreme or unfounded distress or suspiciousness of other people).
- Other types of delusions.
In higher doses, the psychotic and negative effects of the drug predominate in individuals do not experience the same quality of euphoria or increase in mental alertness.
The effects of Cocaine are typically very short-lived as the drug does not remain in the system very long and is broken down quickly (it has a short half-life).
This means that individuals who use the drug will typically feel a rush of excitement and euphoria that is due to the massive release of dopamine.
This initial rush is followed by a “crash” due to the depletion of dopamine as the drug loses its effects. Individuals will attempt to binge on the drug to maintain the euphoric effects and avoid the crash.
The detrimental effects of the drug, including long-term damaging effects include:
- Nausea, increased body temperature, and/or increased blood pressure.
- An increased heartbeat, dilated pupils, and twitches or muscle tremors.
- Nasal problems from snorting the drug (a loss of smell, runny nose, nosebleeds, etc.).
- Respiratory issues associated with smoking the drug (increased risk for infections, asthma, and respiratory distress).
- Complications from injecting the drug (increased risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis, scarring or collapsed veins, and infections of the skin and other tissues).
- An increased risk for cardiovascular problems/diseases including increased risk for heart attack or stroke.
- Increased risk for liver damage, particularly of Cocaine, is combined with alcohol.
Alterations to the pathways of the brain that result in imbalances of neurotransmitters which can lead to problems with the person’s ability to experience pleasure, maintain their attention, learn and remember new information, control their impulses, and control their emotions.