Cocaine is a stimulant drug made by processing leaves from the coca plant. The drug comes in the form of a powder, as well as a crystal-like substance known as “crack,” “rock” or freebase cocaine. Like all stimulants, cocaine speeds up the typical rate of activity inside the brain and spinal cord. In addition, it has the ability to trigger addiction by making lasting changes in normal brain function.
Almost two million people in America use cocaine. This figure includes more than 400,000 consumers of crack. Are you a cocaine user? Do you think you have developed an addiction to the drug? If so, you’re not alone. Close to half of all cocaine users have diagnosable symptoms of stimulant use disorder, a condition that includes all forms of stimulant addiction and non-addicted stimulant abuse. Fortunately, participation in a suitable treatment program can provide the help you need to recover from cocaine-related problems and resume a productive lifestyle.
What Does Cocaine Do?
You can introduce cocaine into your system through snorting, smoking, intravenous (IV) injection or oral intake. Regardless of the method in use, the drug enters your bloodstream and travels rapidly to your brain. Once inside the brain, cocaine does several things. First, by speeding up the rate of nerve activity, it produces physical effects such as a rapid heartbeat, narrowed blood vessels and increased blood pressure. The presence of the drug also triggers mental/psychological symptoms that include:
An increased sense of alertness
Irritability or agitation
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In addition, the drug boosts your levels of a natural chemical called dopamine. When dopamine levels rise in a brain area called the pleasure center, they produce a powerful sensation known as euphoria. It is the creation of this euphoric feeling that helps explain cocaine’s power as an addictive substance.
Many people start out using the drug casually. But a desire to reproduce a sense of intense pleasure can lead to an increased pattern of consumption. At a certain point, the brain will grow accustomed to the frequent changes in its normal dopamine levels. When this happens, consumers of the drug feel compelled to continue their intake. In fact, in order to feel “high” and avoid going into withdrawal, they must increase their intake to compensate for a rising tolerance to cocaine’s effects.
Crack and IV cocaine use have well-deserved reputations for being more addictive than cocaine that’s snorted or taken orally. This is true because smoking and injection produce a more intense high that lasts for a shorter amount of time. If you inject powdered cocaine or use crack, the stronger impact on your brain can speed up the changes that make addiction possible. In addition, the shorter period of effectiveness will encourage you to consume the drug more often. However, all forms of cocaine use will have a similar damaging effect over time.
Signs of Cocaine Problems
A range of telltale signs may indicate that you or your loved one have a problem with cocaine. Physical indicators include a frequent runny nose, frequent nosebleeds, dilated pupils, unexplained weight loss and the presence of burn marks on the lips or hands. Mental indicators include unexplained mood swings, social withdrawal, unusual talkativeness or excitability.
Other signs that you or someone you know may have a cocaine problem include visible powder residue around the nostrils, altered sleeping patterns, a decline in personal hygiene and the presence of commonly used drug paraphernalia such as razor blades, glass pipes, rolled-up money or strips of paper, spoons or shortened plastic straws. People who take the drug may also fail to meet important responsibilities at home, at school or in the workplace.
If you have a cocaine problem and stop taking the drug (or make a steep drop in intake over a short period of time), you may experience physical and psychological symptoms of stimulant withdrawal. Common examples of these symptoms include:
A depressed mental state
A loss of mental clarity
Potential Physical Consequences of Cocaine Use and Addiction
Most substances of abuse can trigger an overdose when consumed in excessive amounts. Cocaine shares this property but adds another layer of risk. When you use the drug, you can never know for certain if a dose that was safe to take yesterday will be safe to take today. Some people overdose after a single episode of use, even at a low level of intake. Others overdose after weeks, months or years of use, even when their level of consumption does not increase.
Depending on the method you use to consume the drug, you may also develop certain long-term health problems. For example, people who snort cocaine may lose their sense of smell or develop swallowing difficulties. People who smoke the drug may develop chronic coughs or experience bouts of asthma or pneumonia. IV injection can lead to exposure to major infectious diseases such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS, while oral consumption can lead to extensive bowel damage.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Today, doctors and researchers have developed a range of effective treatments for cocaine problems. Unlike some forms of substance treatment, cocaine-related programs do not center around the use of medications. Instead, they focus on the use of something called behavioral therapy. This type of therapy supports your recovery by helping you understand your motivations for drug use, learn how to change behaviors that make drug use more likely and stick to the terms of the treatment plan developed by your team of specialists. One example of the available options is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you avoid relapsing back into cocaine intake. Another option, contingency management (CM), provides rewards or other incentives when you meet specific treatment goals.
Transformations Treatment Center can assist you through every phase of your recovery from cocaine use. We 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. In addition, we provide a broad range of specialized programs and therapies designed to meet your unique needs and circumstances. Whether you require partial hospitalization, inpatient care or outpatient care, we’re dedicated to helping you establish and maintain a substance-free lifestyle.
Even if you feel your problems have gotten the best of you, you can change with help from our staff of certified professionals. For more information on our program offerings, contact us today.