Cocaine is a powerful stimulant of the central nervous system. It is a very popular drug for recreational use as it increases confidence and creates feelings of euphoria.
However, cocaine abuse can be dangerous. Abuse can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes and can cause permanent damage to your brain. Given the potency of cocaine, addiction can occur quickly, making quitting very difficult.
Understanding what cocaine addiction is, the risk factors for it, and the signs to look for when someone is addicted can help you get support for yourself or a loved one.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca leaf. The leaves are soaked in gasoline and other solvents to extract cocaine hydrochloride and the final product is formed into bricks for distribution.
Sigmund Freud was an especially big fan of cocaine, both for himself and his patients. He prescribed it for conditions ranging from depression to ‘hysteria’ to morphine withdrawal. This led to his friend dying from a cocaine overdose after Freud advised him to use it to cope with the withdrawal symptoms of morphine addiction.
What Freud did not recognize was the most important medical property of cocaine: that it is a local anesthetic. Cocaine is classified as a Schedule II Classed Substance meaning that while it has a high risk for abuse and addiction, it has medical uses and is sometimes used as an anesthetic for nasal, mouth, and throat surgeries.
Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
Abusing cocaine can be fatal. Overdose deaths involving cocaine reached 19,447 annual deaths in 2020, up from 5,419 in 2014. There has also been a steady rise in emergency room visits over the last few years.
Cocaine Abuse to Addiction
The distinction between substance abuse and addiction can be hard to recognize. Not everyone who abuses drugs will develop an addiction. If you can notice signs of abuse early, you may be able to prevent addiction from developing.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the difference between addiction and abuse is that addiction is a chronic disease that is very difficult to control.
Cocaine has a particularly high risk for physical addiction. Abuse of cocaine can lead to chemical changes in the brain which make it very difficult to stop taking it.
Taking cocaine recreationally with friends can quickly lead to taking it more often as you seek the same euphoric effects.
Risk Factors for Addiction
There is a lot of stigma and judgment surrounding addiction and often a narrative that quitting simply comes down to having willpower and strong morals. However, this is not the case.
There are many factors that affect our likelihood of developing an addiction. Factors such as genetics and environment can put you at greater risk.
Neurological responses to drugs depend from person to person. One person might use cocaine occasionally just for pleasure, while another develops the need to take it in order to function.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that up to half of your risk of addiction is based on genetics.
- Childhood neglect or abuse
- Cocaine exposure in the environment
- Previous personal substance abuse such as alcohol addiction
Often known as a ‘dual diagnosis’, if you have a previous mental health condition such as depression or bipolar disorder, this can increase your risk of addiction as you use drugs to self-medicate.
Different Types of Cocaine
There are two primary forms of cocaine:
Powdered cocaine, generally just called cocaine, is a fine, white, crystalline powder. It cannot be smoked as it loses its psychoactive properties when heated.
Cocaine can be snorted, rubbed on gums, or dissolved and injected.
A risk associated with cocaine is that it can be cut with additives that are dangerous. Common additives include laundry detergent, laxatives, caffeine, local anesthetics, and creatine.
Crack cocaine was developed as a safer way to smoke cocaine than freebase cocaine. Freebase cocaine is made with explosive chemicals so is dangerous to make.
This form of cocaine is made by dissolving powder cocaine in sodium bicarbonate and water. It is then boiled until a solid mixture separates. The solids are known as crack rocks and are white or brown and are smoked.
Ways of Taking Cocaine
As mentioned, different forms of cocaine are taken in different ways.
Different methods of taking cocaine create different effects and this can affect both signs of addiction and the risk of becoming addicted.
Injecting or smoking cocaine gets it into your blood and brain quicker, leading to a quicker and more intense high. This increases the risk of addiction. Snorting cocaine has a lower risk of addiction but still holds risk.
Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction
Behavioral changes can be warning signs that you or a loved one has a substance abuse problem. It might be easier to recognize behavioral changes as people tend to try to hide symptoms of addiction.
If you notice symptoms of drug abuse, you may be able to seek treatment before an addiction develops.
Behavioral Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Risk-taking e.g., drug driving, unprotected sex
- Legal trouble
- Relationship problems
Behavioral Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction
- Developing tolerance to cocaine
- Withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop
- Lack of control over cocaine use
- Life revolving around cocaine
- Loss of interest in hobbies
Effects of Cocaine on the Body and Brain
Physical and psychological signs of cocaine abuse can help you understand if you have a cocaine addiction. This might also be an indication of abuse before addiction has occurred.
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Runny nose
- High body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
Cocaine increases heart rate and blood pressure. This can be especially dangerous for people with underlying heart problems or high blood pressure and can even lead to a heart attack.
Cocaine alters your brain chemistry. It prevents the reuptake of dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline into neurons. This means that there is an accumulation of these chemical messengers in the synaptic cleft so their effects are stronger.
With continued use, the levels of dopamine in your brain decrease so that you need higher quantities of cocaine to have the same effect. It is possible that you get to a point where you cannot feel happy without taking it.
Long-term use of cocaine causes damage to the brain. It can cause an increased risk of seizures, reduce brain function, and increase your risk of developing mental health disorders.
- Mood swings
- Erratic behavior
With long-term use, cocaine can exacerbate underlying mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Because of the sense of self-confidence which is produced, once you stop taking cocaine you may feel extremely low confidence, anxiety, and depression.
When you have developed a physical addiction to cocaine, quitting can be very difficult because you will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
At this point, it is common to relapse to avoid the experience of withdrawal.
Seeking treatment at an addiction center can reduce the unpleasantness of withdrawal and has been shown to have the greatest chances of long-term success.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has an addiction to cocaine, seeking addiction treatment at any point could change or even save your life.
At a treatment center, you will receive twenty-four-hour support to reduce the negative effects of withdrawal symptoms.
You will also be given ongoing support which can help you deal with drug cravings and the initial reasons for taking cocaine.
If you are ready to seek treatment, you can contact Cirque Lodge for support. We are a luxury drug treatment center providing private and exclusive treatment.
If you would like to find out more you can visit our website or call us at (385) 220-8887.