Updated on July 23, 2020

Cocaine is a drug that is highly addictive and this happens by the drug altering the brain’s chemical composition. Cocaine works by stimulating the brain’s reward center, creating a scenario where the user wants to repeat the pleasure they feel and ultimately resulting in a strong physical dependence and often addiction.

Cocaine is a popular party drug because it creates a sense of being more outgoing, talkative, and happy. This is why many may start using cocaine in recreational settings.

What Is Cocaine and What Happens When It’s Used?

Cocaine is a stimulant that comes from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. It can be dissolved, rubbed onto places like the gums, injected into a vein, and inhaled as smoke. But one of the most common ways it is used is snorted into the nose as a powder. Those who use cocaine typically experience a euphoric rush of energy and intense happiness. Yet for some, it causes agitation and mood swings. This is a serious drug that not only can come with dependence, but its long-term use can be fatal. Even short-term use in some cases prove fatal depending on the amount used and what it is or isn’t mixed with.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is commonly known as coke, blow, nose candy, snow, flake, and rock. It works as both an anesthetic and stimulant and derives from the coco plant found in tropical locations. On the streets, it is usually found as a fine, white powder. Yet, this is not in its pure form. Drug dealers usually add other substances, including flour, baking soda, and talcum powder, to stretch their supply and increase profits. On the downside, pure cocaine is too strong to use and causes overdoses. So on one hand, the ingredients aren’t pure and you don’t know what you may be ingesting along with the drug. On the other hand, a pure amount of cocaine is more lethal.

How Is It Used and What Happens?

The problem with this drug is the fact that many start out using it once in a while. They enjoy the intense pleasure but that wears off fairly quickly – so they do it again. Once someone starts using it repeatedly, it leads to dependence and addiction for many. In fact, those who use cocaine sometimes find that their entire world revolves around the drug. It is not unheard of for some to have a $100 a day habit. This can lead to risky behavior by the user.

Cocaine addiction causes a viscous cycle – when someone uses the drug they may feel like they have it all. They’re invincible, can think clearer, and are more talkative. Yet, when the high wears off they are left with feelings of agitation, fatigue, and cravings for the drug.

The Origins of Cocaine

According to History:

The coca plant is one of the oldest cultivated plants in South America. Botanists think its cultivation may have started in the Amazon Rainforest and spread to the Andes Mountains.

Because users felt an exhilarating sensation and an increase in energy, the indigenous people of South America have chewed the coca leaf for centuries. Coca leaf was also included in Inca cultural and religious ceremonies.

As recent as the early 1900s, cocaine was used in medicine and even in the popular soft drink, Coca-Cola. After it was found to be harmful and addictive, the drug was outlawed in the United States in 1914.

Fast forward to the 70s and 80s, cocaine hit a peak on the club and party scene. That peak was at its summit in 1982 yet cocaine has made a comeback in recent years.

In 2016, more than five million Americans reported using cocaine in the past year. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine-related overdoses rose by 9 percent from 2002 to 2015.

How It Affects People

Cocaine enters the bloodstream fast, no matter how it is ingested. Yet, injecting it into a vein or smoking it are the fastest ways for a person to feel the effects.

It causes a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called dopamine to increase its concentration in the brain. This causes feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Cocaine causes your dopamine levels to rise causing the user to feel euphoric, according to Healthline.

Cocaine prevents the dopamine, and other neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, from being taken up into the nerve cells. This allows large amounts of the neurotransmitters to accumulate and stimulate the surrounding nerve cells. This heightens the pleasurable sense of euphoria.

The first feelings of euphoria start within 15-30 mins for those who snort it. This will last about an hour or two on average. For those who use faster means such as smoking or injecting it, the high onset is almost immediate. But with that comes another downside, the high lasts a much shorter time when taken this way and a person may only experience the effects for about five to 10 minutes. This crash makes people irritable, anxious, and many have feelings of depression. Many have strong cravings for the drug after a crash.

The drug stays detectable for up to 90 days and can be found in the urine in up to four days. However, some testing sites use hair samples and these can show cocaine in the system for up to a month.

Some of the immediate things that happen include a feeling of alertness, energy, and exhilaration. The blood pressure surges due to the pulse quickening and many feel invincible. Those who are shy will be more outgoing and those with little confidence feel more confident. While those feelings may sound tempting, the drug is incredibly dangerous.

Signs of Cocaine Abuse

There are sometimes tell-tale signs of cocaine abuse in others. This may include:

  • A frequent runny nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Burn marks on the hands or lips
  • Excitability
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Powder residue around the nose
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Different sleeping patterns
  • Mood swings
  • Social withdrawal
  • Failure to meet responsibilities
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Loss of mental clarity
  • Presence of drug paraphernalia such as short plastic straws, spoons, and strips of paper

Symptoms of Cocaine Dependence and Addiction

Symptoms of cocaine addiction and dependence come in both physical effects and psychological effects.

Physical effects include:

  • Stroke
  • Unhealthy weight loss
  • Seizure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart attack
  • Nausea
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches

Negative psychological effects include:

  • Abnormal or repetitive behaviors
  • Panic
  • Impaired judgment
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Aggression

Addiction Statistics

Cocaine-related deaths are becoming more prevalent. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics finds that the number of overdose deaths involving cocaine almost doubled in two years — rising from just under 6,000 in 2014 to over 11,000 in 2016, the most recent year for which data was available. Of these 11,316 cocaine overdose deaths, 2 out of 5 also involved fentanyl.

There was an assessment made in 2019 by the Drug Enforcement Administration showcasing that some of the reason for this is due to easier availability. This is due in part by the acceleration of cultivation and production in Columbia. In fact, studies show that almost 90 percent of worldwide cocaine comes from Columbia.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2012, nearly 4.7 million Americans aged 12 or older reported using cocaine in the past year, and almost 38 million reported ever using cocaine in their lifetime.

The NSDUH shows that whites make up the largest demographic of cocaine users – at around 17 percent. Hispanics come in second at almost 12 percent, and blacks are in third of cocaine use – at almost 10 percent.

The good news is that according to Monitoring the Future, adolescent cocaine use is at its lowest since 1975, with figures around 2.5 percent.

In the height of the cocaine era in the 80s, the surge was due to the availability of a new and cheaper form – crack cocaine. In just four years from 1985 to 1989, regular cocaine use jumped from a little over 4 million to almost 6 million. This is due to some prices being as low as $5 per rock of crack cocaine. It was made by dissolving powder cocaine into ammonia and water. Then this mixture was boiled into a solid form. Once it is ready, it can be broken into smaller rocks where it is smoked.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

There are various treatment methods for cocaine addiction available that are approved by doctors and researchers. While some substance abuse treatment involves medications, cocaine treatment does not. Instead, it focuses on behavioral therapy. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one such treatment. It can also be used in conjunction for those who have what is known as a co-occuring disorder.

This is when a person has an addiction to a substance or alcohol, as well as a mental health disorder and in this type of treatment, both are addressed at the same time. This does not mean that everyone who benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy has a mental health issue and even for those who only have a cocaine dependency or addiction, this is still a relevant and successful form of treatment.

This is set forth to minimize the chances of relapse and all of the treatments work to help you do three things:

  1. To give you insight on why you are motivated to use cocaine
  2. To alter your behaviors that create an atmosphere where drug use is more apt to happen
  3. To stick with your personalized treatment plan for the best chance of success

There is another treatment plan known as contingency management (CM). This treatment plan is different in that it gives the patient rewards or incentives when they meet certain treatment goals.

We also feature a full slate of holistic, personalized programs that view you as a whole person, not an “addict.” Our counseling and therapy options will help you address the underlying causes of your problems and establish new, health-supporting habits and behaviors.

There are options for partial hospitalization, inpatient care or outpatient care and you and your counselor can decide which is the best form of treatment for you.

All of these options are conducive to getting free of cocaine addiction and getting on with your life without drugs.

Recovery from Cocaine Addiction

The good thing is that recovery from cocaine addiction is possible. Even if you think that the drug has gotten a hold on you and there’s nothing you can do – there is. Our staff-certified professionals help you or your loved one get back to living the life you deserve. For more information on our cocaine addiction program offerings, contact us today.

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