Cocaine is a stimulant that carries a high risk of dependency and addiction. However, there are also plenty of cocaine addiction treatment options available for people seeking to overcome the illness. The signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse depend on how the substance is taken. Here we take a closer look at exactly how the drug works in all its forms and the significant risks attached to its abuse.
Cocaine in powder form is either inhaled (snorted) through the nose or dissolved in water and injected into a vein. Some users inject dissolved cocaine powder just beneath the skin, known as “skin-popping” to increase the duration of the high. Inhaling or snorting is the most popular method of taking cocaine and the most common signs someone is abusing the drug include:
- Reduced sense of smell
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Difficulty swallowing food and drink
- A sore throat or hoarseness
- Persistently running nose
Crack cocaine is a crystallized form of the drug that is generally smoked using a pipe. This street drug is often cheaper than the powdered form, mostly due to its lower purity level. However, this means there is a greater risk of there being other chemical contaminants in crack cocaine, which can lead to more extreme symptoms of substance abuse.
People abusing crack cocaine tend to exhibit personality or behavioral changes which become heightened according to the frequency of use, including:
- Mood swings
- Irritability and frustration
- Restlessness and hyperactivity
- Deep paranoia and anxiety
What Are the Effects of Cocaine Dependency?
Cocaine abuse has significant effects on a person’s mental, emotional and physical health over time, with some developing temporary states of paranoid psychosis triggered by the drug. When in a state of extreme paranoia, sufferers can hear voices, experience hallucinations and almost completely lose touch with reality.
Taking cocaine orally can lead to painful stomach ulcers, which reduces blood flow in the gut and can cause gangrene in the bowel. Irrespective of how often a person abuses cocaine, many cocaine-related deaths are caused by a heart attack or stroke, most often brought about by respiratory arrest following use.
The most common health issues caused by cocaine addiction include:
- Coronary problems including heart attacks
- Respiratory complications which can cause users to stop breathing
- Issues with the nervous system including strokes
- Difficulties with digestion
- Risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitis through sharing needles
- Potential for severe reactions and serious skin infections
How Does Cocaine Abuse Change the User’s Brain?
The reason many people initially use drugs is as a form of social experimentation. Perhaps others are taking cocaine at a party and they encourage others to give it a try. Cocaine has become known as a “party drug” because it makes people feel as though they are larger than life, although the sensation lasts only around 35 minutes.
The high cocaine creates from its effects on the brain often leads to people using more to perpetuate the pleasurable sensations. The drug interrupts the brain’s neurotransmitters to send signals of pleasure throughout the body by increasing dopamine production. Dopamine is something the body produces in lower amounts after physical exercise or in response to a pleasurable activity. However, the levels produced when a person takes cocaine are disproportionate, creating effects that are highly addictive.
Cocaine creates a euphoric effect on the user in two ways, as follows:
- By artificially boosting dopamine production, and
- Preventing dopamine reabsorption back into the brain
When individuals become habitual cocaine users, they build a tolerance to the drug’s effects which drives a need to use progressively larger amounts to achieve the high they seek. If a person increases their dose of a drug as potent as cocaine, they heighten the risk of developing serious physiological or psychological conditions, some of which can be long-term. Those using alcohol while taking the drug also increase their risk of cocaine-related death.
Can Cocaine Addiction Be Treated?
Cocaine abuse disorder is an illness that can be treated, although it often takes many years to truly overcome. This is mainly because of the intense effects cocaine has on the brain, which can sometimes develop into long-term mental health conditions. That said, there are now numerous cocaine addiction treatment paths helping people overcome cocaine addiction to live fulfilling drug-free lives.
Our understanding of addiction is greater than ever which means there is a route to recovery for everyone starting the cocaine rehab process. Just as the journey into addiction is intensely personal, so is the most effective cocaine addiction rehab program. Patients are assessed and evaluated extensively on admission to rehab, ensuring the most appropriate care for them that translates most effectively in their daily lives after cocaine addiction treatment.
Holistic cocaine addiction rehab and evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT have been shown to be highly effective in the cocaine addiction rehab of dependence and addiction. This is mainly because they address the root causes of substance abuse and promote change for more positive thought processes and behaviors.
The cocaine rehab process is a personal journey to recovery not only for the sufferer but for those close to them. Loved ones are encouraged to participate in family therapy in a formal cocaine addiction program, so that they can find healing as a unit, providing solid support for their loved one in recovery. It is always important that people with addiction feel supported during the cocaine rehab process and beyond and has been shown to yield better long-term results with reduced risk of relapse.