Drug Use

What is cocaine?

Cocaine, also known as coke, blow, flake, or snow, sneeze, and toot, is a stimulant drug from the processed leaves of the coca plant. Crack cocaine is a processed form of the powder which results in rock crystals. Similar to crystal meth, cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant and can quickly lead to severe physical and psychological dependence. It’s important to note that there has been a significant increase in fentanyl, a powerful, synthetic opioid, being added to cocaine increasing death from cocaine use and overdose.

In addition to recreational substance use, there are medical uses for cocaine. The most common use is as a local anesthetic. Cocaine has a long history of use as the leaves of the coca have been cultivated for more than 3,500 years in some countries. Indigenous Americans used cocaine for its stimulant effect and the Incas considered cocaine to be sacred. Some countries, like Peru and Bolivia, still use cocaine to treat altitude sickness and fatigue. South America trades much of the world's cocaine, with Columbia being the top-producing country.

During the late 1800s through the early 1900s cocaine was legal and could be found on the drugstore shelves. Cocaine was used alone, added to other medications, and was even an ingredient in the popular soft drink, Coca-Cola. Today, cocaine is the second most illegally trafficked drug, and according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 5.5 million Americans reported using this dangerous and highly addictive drug in the last year.

How Does Cocaine Affect The Body?

Cocaine powder is white in color and used via several methods. The effects produced by cocaine vary by how it is consumed. The most common methods are snorting, injecting, and smoking all of which can lead to addiction. Highs can last between 15 and 30 minutes when snorted but when smoked highs last between 5 to 10 minutes. Freebase cocaine utilizes pure cocaine inhaled from a glass pipe. This is by far the most dangerous form of cocaine use and can result in overdose.

The effects of cocaine on the body varies depending on the person using it, the amount consumed, the method of consumption, as well as what other additives are in it. Cocaine can have serious and adverse effects on the body—even with the first use. Generally, these issues concern the heart including heart arrhythmias and heart attacks. In addition, there are severe and deadly effects on the neurological system and include seizures, strokes, and coma. All of which can result in sudden death.

Side Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine is an illegal drug and drug traffickers add numerous dangerous additives to it. As mentioned, fentanyl is being found in cocaine overdose deaths more and more. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) reported that in 2017, one in five drug overdose deaths was cocaine-related.

Some users enjoy the side effects of using cocaine and report being more productive and focused. However, there are other negative and uncomfortable side effects from cocaine use both long and short-term.

Short-term effects of cocaine are:

  • Euphoria
  • Feeling of invincibility
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased energy
  • Increased confidence
  • Heightened sexual interest and pleasure

The “high” associated with the use of cocaine quickly turns to discomfort. These side effects of cocaine include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate
  • Constricted peripheral blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Mania
  • Anxiety
  • Twitching
  • Paranoia
  • Impotence

Continued cocaine use increases the risk for serious complications. Many of these can be devastating.

Long-term effects of cocaine use

  • Dangerous weight loss
  • Altered appearance: damage to the nasal passage, tooth grinding, deteriorated tooth enamel
  • Lung damage
  • Asthma
  • Aching, flu-like syndrome
  • Rare autoimmune diseases
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Kidney diseases
  • Renal failure
  • Doubled risk of stroke and infractions
  • Increased risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis
  • Problems with work performance
  • Tardiness or even job loss
  • Money problems (caused by job loss and feeding the cocaine habit)
  • Lying, cheating, and stealing to support the need to get high on cocaine
  • Violent behavior
  • Legal problems

Serious negative side effects can occur even in first-time users. Cocaine use puts individuals at higher risk for heart attacks, stroke, seizures, and respiratory failure all of which can result in sudden death. Recently, cocaine has been laced with the deadly opioid fentanyl causing overdose and death of many unsuspecting users.

In addition, mixing cocaine with alcohol increases the chance of sudden death by causing the liver to manufacture a third substance, cocaethylene, which intensifies cocaine’s effects. Cocaine addiction can occur quickly. Cocaine addiction can devastate the lives of the person using it as well as their families and loved ones at a rapid rate.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

As with all drugs, there are certain physical and behavioral effects of cocaine that serve as indicators of substance dependence or addiction. When it comes to cocaine addiction these are the signs to look for:

Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

  • Frequently having a runny or bloody nose
  • Often having white powder around the nose and/or mouth
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nosebleeds
  • Noticeable changes in eating patterns
  • Noticeable changes in sleeping patterns
  • Poor hygiene
  • Burn marks on hands and lips

Behavioral Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Mental health issues
  • Social isolation
  • Being secretive or more private
  • Loss of interest in friends, hobbies, family
  • Problems with relationships
  • Financial issues
  • Finding drug paraphernalia such as spoons, razor blades, plastic baggies in their room or clothing pockets

The sooner someone gets treatment for drug addiction of any kind, including cocaine use, the better. Stopping cocaine use without professional help can be dangerous and often doesn’t work. Cravings for the drug can become so strong without help and medications to ease cocaine withdrawal symptoms many return to using cocaine.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

Specific cocaine withdrawal symptoms vary from one person to the next based on numerous factors. Some of these are how much was taken at the last consumption, how long the person has been using it, when it was last consumed, potency, method of consumption, and other factors specific to that individual. In general, these are some signs of cocaine withdrawal symptoms:

Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

  • Shakiness or nervousness
  • Fever
  • Sleeping problems or erratic sleep patterns
  • Lethargy
  • Cravings for cocaine

Behavioral Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Sadness and crying
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Acute Psychosis similar to schizophrenia

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after the last consumption and sometimes last several weeks. Getting professional help for a cocaine addiction that includes detox is highly suggested for the best shot at long-term recovery.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

As with any other addiction, once a person is ready for help it’s vital to find professional assistance right away. Often, when a person is addicted to a substance, they will change their minds about getting help quickly. This is one reason why getting immediate help is recommended whenever possible.

The first step in cocaine addiction treatment is detoxification, which is often medically supervised. Once the body is rid of all drugs and alcohol, a comprehensive rehabilitation program that addresses all aspects of addiction (psychological, biological, social, physiological, occupational, etc.) should be implemented.

Often people with an addiction to cocaine want to know if there are any medications used to treat cocaine addiction. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications available for the treatment of cocaine addiction. However, some studies have shown that medications such as amantadine and bromocriptine effectively reduce cravings, normalize sleep, and increase energy.

Once a person who has struggled with cocaine use has become stabilized, evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and addiction counseling can be effective. In these types of programs patients and expert therapists focus on identifying the underlying causes of addiction and learn to identify, avoid, and cope with relapse triggers. Behavioral therapy is an important step toward long-term cocaine abstinence. In addition, once outside of clinical treatment support groups like Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can provide the support needed to stay free from cocaine use (as well as other forms of drug use).

At Caron, we believe recovery from drug use isn’t possible, it’s probable. Our team of experts creates a comprehensive and individualized treatment program for everyone who comes to us for help. If you or a loved one need help with a cocaine addiction, we’re one call away. Caron is Real About Recovery. Call 1-800-854-6023.

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