Cocaine addiction is a very challenging substance use disorder that affects people from all walks of life. If you or someone you know is battling a cocaine addiction, chances are you have many unanswered questions. Read on some of the most frequently asked questions about cocaine addiction and treatment to understand this disorder better.
What is cocaine? Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant, native to South America. Although cocaine can be used as local anesthesia for some surgeries, cocaine remains an illegal drug. On the streets, cocaine is a white, crystal-looking powder. However, street dealers mix it with cornstarch, flour, and talcum powder. But, to make people even more addicted, they often mix it with other drugs, including amphetamine. How do people use cocaine? People either snort cocaine powder or rub it into their gums. Others will dissolve the powder and inject it into the bloodstream. Some people will mix cocaine with heroin and inject this combination, what’s known as a Speedball. Another way of using cocaine is to smoke crack cocaine. People heat the crack cocaine crystals and inhale the vapors produced by the substance. People who use cocaine often take it in binges, repeatedly within a short time to maintain their high. Is cocaine addictive? Yes, powerfully addictive. Because a cocaine high doesn’t last very long, people use this drug repeatedly to maintain the euphoric feeling and experience. Once addicted, when they try to quit cocaine or stop using it, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. Are cocaine and crack the same? Cocaine is hydrochloride salt in its powder form. In this state, people can snort it, inject it, or swallow it. This delivery method instantly affects how the body reacts to the substance and how it affects the brain. Crack is powdered cocaine mixed with other substances, usually baking soda and water. Crack cocaine can only be smoked, which produces quicker onset of effects. Also, sometimes dealers combine it with other addictive substances to give consumers a more powerful“high” that keeps them coming back for more.
How does cocaine affect the brain? Cocaine increases the levels of dopamine, a chemical related to the control of movement and reward. When cocaine prevents dopamine from being recycled, it causes a large concentration of dopamine, which is why people experience surges of euphoria. With continued drug use, the brain’s rewards system becomes less sensitive to the drug. As a result, people need to take stronger and more frequent doses to experience the same effects. What are the short-term health effects of cocaine? The most common effects of cocaine use include:
- Extreme happiness
- Bursts of energy
- Mental alertness
- Hypersensitivity to light, touch, and sound
What are other health effects of cocaine abuse? Over time, long-term effects of cocaine abuse include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle twitches
In addition, the long-term effects of cocaine abuse will vary depending on the method of use. For example:
- Snorting cocaine: loss of smell, nosebleeds, runny nose, and problems with swallowing
- Smoking cocaine: chronic cough, asthma, respiratory distress, and higher chances of infections
- Injecting cocaine: higher risk for contracting HIV, Hepatitis C, and other bloodborne diseases, track marks, and skin infections
How many teens use cocaine? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the percentage of high-schoolers who have used cocaine in their lifetime in the United States breaks down as follow:
- 4% of 12th graders
- 1.6% of 10th graders
- 1.6% of 8th graders
As far as to crack cocaine, 1.6% of high school seniors have used it in their lifetime, and 0.9% of 8th graders have used crack cocaine in their lifetime. Does cocaine use during pregnancy cause “crack babies”? No. The myth that “crack babies” exist has persisted for decades. However, countless studies have concluded that prenatal exposure to crack cocaine has little or no effect on a child’s long-term development. However, cocaine while pregnant can increase the risk of infections and be potentially dangerous for the mother’s health.
Cocaine Use Disorder
Can you become addicted to cocaine after using it once? No. This is another popular myth about cocaine use. Addiction to a drug takes time and repeated use to develop. Addiction is characterized by a compulsive behavior to seek and use the drug despite negative consequences. Can a person overdose on cocaine? Yes. Cocaine overdose happens when a person uses enough of the drug to cause adverse reactions. Death from overdose can occur, especially when people mix cocaine with alcohol and other drugs. How can a cocaine overdose be treated? Unlike opioids, there is no way to reverse a heroin overdose. If you or someone you know is experiencing overdose symptoms, seek emergency medical attention immediately. How does cocaine use lead to addiction? As with many drugs, repeated use of cocaine can cause changes in the brain’s reward circuit. Once the brain adapts to the extra dopamine caused by cocaine, it becomes less sensitive to it. As a result, people need larger and more frequent doses to feel the same high they did initially. Otherwise, they will experience withdrawal symptoms such as depression, fatigue, and insomnia. What happens if you mix cocaine with alcohol or other drugs? The combination of cocaine and alcohol increases heart rate and blood pressure, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Mixing cocaine with heroin and other opioids, making a “speedball” can severely threaten the user. Because these drugs have opposite effects on the central nervous system, they can cause breathing difficulties and increase the risk of overdose.
Helping a Loved One
What are the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal? In most cases, most people will experience, or more of these withdrawal symptoms include:
- Cocaine cravings
- Drastic mood changes
- Fatigue and discomfort
- Sleep problems and unpleasant dreams
- Increased appetite and cravings
- Physical slowing
- Suicidal thoughts
How can I be sure if my loved one is using cocaine? Initially, the first signs of drug use will be behavioral. Substance abuse will be noticeable through patterns, troubles at school, and fights with family and friends. The first indicators of drug use are:
- Showing up late or missing school
- Not caring about things that used to matter to them
- Not keeping promises
- Getting in trouble with the law or breaking the rules
- Getting violent with other people
- Engaging in risky behaviors
What should I do if I know someone needs help? If you, or a friend, are in a crisis and need to speak with someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-237-TALK. Considering talking or staging an intervention to discuss their drug use and hopefully get them to agree to seek help.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
How can people get treatment for cocaine addiction? There are thousands of treatment centers in the country, but not all of them treat cocaine addiction. Those looking for help need to find a rehab center that offers treatment for cocaine abuse. It is also essential to find a treatment facility specializing in dual diagnosis to address any co-occurring mental health conditions. Keep in mind; there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. So, most programs rely on behavioral therapy instead. Recovery from cocaine addiction is a lifelong journey that we know doesn’t end when you leave rehab. Our programs offer aftercare planning to set you on the right path to long-term recovery. Part of what makes us unique is that we set realistic goals and a treatment plan from the beginning to make sure we’re setting you up for success. Call us today at 866-308-2090 and speak with a caring addiction counselor to learn about our rehab programs.