What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. It has been an abused substance for more than 100 years. Coca leaves, which cocaine is derived from, have been chewed and used for thousands of years. Cocaine it is most commonly sold on the street as a fine, white, powder, called coke, C, snow or flake. Coke dealers usually cut (dilute) it with other white powders such as cornstarch, talcum powder, sugar, or with other drug-like stimulants. Not knowing what street cocaine has been cut or laced with is an added risk. Cocaine is extremely addictive. Even after trying cocaine one time, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling when they will next use the drug and how much of it they will use.
Cocaine and Addiction
Addiction often comes with the use of cocaine due to the desire for the drug’s euphoric effects. Cocaine causes elevated dopamine levels released in the brain causing a euphoric feeling and changes in the personality of the user. Cocaine is known for making people more talkative, more outgoing, and the feeling of being in control. Cocaine addiction can be challenging to recover from, and addicts typically do not think of the negative consequences before engaging in cocaine use. Rather, most focus on the good time and lifestyle cocaine provides it users with in the early stages of use.
There is a high prevalence of cocaine abuse among teenagers. Many teens start their cocaine use due to peer pressure. While most do not become addicted to cocaine, the accessibility of the drug can make cocaine abuse alarmingly easy. There are several physical and psychological ramifications of cocaine addiction. Short-term effects include nosebleeds, elevated blood pressure, and sore throats. Long-term effects of cocaine addiction are loss of the sense of smell, stroke, and heart failure. An estimated 15,000 Americans die every year because of cocaine addiction and health issues related to cocaine. Cocaine addiction is developed in 75 percent of its recreational users.
Methods of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is commonly snorted, smoked or injected. Injecting carries the added risk of infection with HIV, TB, Hepatitis B and C. These and other blood born viruses are likely to be contracted if the user shares a dirty needle with a person already infected. The term “speedball” refers to a combination of cocaine or crack with heroin.
Cocaine Binge Use
Binging on cocaine can cause restlessness, irritability and feelings of panic. Coming down after the euphoria of a binge can feel profoundly depressing requiring more of the drug to be taken to come back up. Chronic binge use can also trigger paranoia and drug induced psychosis. This can lead to a full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the individual experiences auditory hallucinations and loses touch with reality.
Freebasing is the term used for when cocaine is smoked. It is extremely dangerous. The drug is far more addictive when smoked; causing addiction to progress sooner. The act of freebasing is also physically dangerous. Many individual have suffered severe burns when their freebase explodes. Freebasing causes cocaine to reach the brain within seconds, causing a sudden and intense high. The high from freebasing subsides fairly quickly, leaving the addict with an uncontrollable urge to use again. In order to satisfy their craving the addict many times must increase the dosage, resulting in physical debilitation.
One form of freebase cocaine is called crack or crack cocaine. Crack is sold as small lumps or shavings and crackles when it is heated. Crack produces the same debilitating effects as freebasing cocaine. Crack use is a huge problem in many cities because it is inexpensive and easily moved around and sold. It usually comes in small vials or folded tinfoil.
Signs of Cocaine Use
There are many ways to detect cocaine use. Cocaine use can cause both mental and physical impairment, especially if consumed on a regular basis. Dependence and addiction are just two of the many side effects that may arise with cocaine use. Other effects involve changes in behavior, appearance, and general health.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use Include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Runny nose
- Constant nasal sniffing
- Fast pressured tangential speech when high
- Becoming withdrawn, depressed, and fatigued when coming down
- Loss of interest in activities
- Rapid speaking
- Change in friends
- Habitual lying, stealing, and financial problems
What are the Effects of Cocaine?
Cocaine’s effects appear almost immediately after a single dose, and disappear within a few minutes or hours. Taken in small amounts (up to 100 mg), cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert. Alertness is noticed especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. Some users find that the drug helps them to perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, while others can experience the opposite effect.
Short-term Effects Include:
- Hyper energetic
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Overly alert
- Increased heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
- Constricted blood vessels
- High temperature or fever
- Dilated pupils
Long-term Effects Include:
- Irritable and restless
- Depression or anxiety
- Auditory hallucinations
Residential and outpatient drug treatment centers have been found to be effective for cocaine addiction. Detox centers, psycho-education, relapse prevention, cognitive-behavioral therapy, 12 step support groups, and group therapy can also play an important role in the individual’s recovery.