Cocaine is the second most common killer amongst illicit drugs used in the US, killing more people than heroin. While media focus has been on prescription opioid abuse which is at epidemic levels, the cocaine supply from Latin America has risen sharply, leading to a surge in cocaine addiction and overdose deaths.
In a study published earlier this year by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it was found that there was a significant rise in drug-related deaths in America in the years from 1999 to 2015, with fatal overdoses of any drug increasing at a rate of 5.5% every year.
The statistics showing a rise in general drug abuse in America are very likely not to give a truly accurate picture of what is really going on. Addiction specialists report that for each person entering rehab for cocaine addiction, there are several others who require cocaine addiction treatment but don’t seek it. In view of the fact that the known numbers suggest a significant national problem with cocaine, and also opioid use – the truth is very likely to be much more worrying.
An Overview of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine is a substance that works by increasing dopamine production in the brain which is associated with euphoric feelings and sensations. However, cocaine use carries a high risk of developing dependence and abusive behavior and is also linked to:
- Psychiatric disorders
- Infections and disease
The signs and symptoms of cocaine use include:
- Exaggerated enthusiasm
- Cold-like symptoms like a runny nose or nosebleeds
- Muscle tics or involuntary movements
- Loss of ability to concentrate and focus
Other Adverse Effects of Cocaine Use
People who continue to abuse the drug without seeking cocaine addiction treatment risk damaging their heart muscle. Cocaine can cause cell death in the heart which is known in medical circles as cardiomyopathy. When people use cocaine by injecting it, the practice can inflame the inner tissues of the heart (endocarditis).
Over time, the cellular damage caused by cocaine abuse can lead to serious conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks.
Symptoms of cardiotoxicity caused by cocaine abuse include:
- Inflamed heart muscle
- Ruptured aorta
- Loss of cardiac function leading to declining health and quality of life
- Severe blood loss
- Brain damage
- Inflammation of the kidneys
Cocaine and Changes in the Brain
Cocaine works by changing the brain’s chemistry so that the user is flooded with euphoric sensations. After a person has used cocaine regularly for a period of time, their bodies become tolerant to its effects leading to them taking progressively more. Cravings and behavioral changes resulting from cocaine abuse are associated with an increased dependence on the substance and the effects may include:
- Erratic behavior
- Late-onset Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Even people who regard their cocaine use as recreational are at risk of neurological changes which can cause havoc in their lives. Although the individual may start using cocaine in social situations, over time their ability to regulate and control their behavior will diminish. Continued abuse of the substance will lead to the individual being unable to focus on tasks at home or work, react to events taking place around them or make logical and pragmatic decisions.
Getting Treatment for Cocaine Abuse
Our understanding of substance abuse has never been greater and it is now established my many addiction specialists as being an illness requiring specialist treatment. The cocaine rehab process can take a number of forms depending on the personal treatment needs of the individual and include secular, faith-based, holistic and pharmacological approaches.
A drug as potent as cocaine has widespread effects on an individual and also those close to them. Cocaine addiction treatment is most effective when the addict is supported by family and friends as they work towards achieving sobriety. Once the individual has accepted that they need to go through the cocaine rehab process, it is important to choose a program that best aligns with their lifestyle in order to achieve a successful recovery. Once a person has undergone the cocaine rehab process, they usually go on to be supported in their daily lives by aftercare, which is generally made available to them for as long as they require it.
The journey from cocaine abuse to recovery is not without its challenges, making it important individuals choose a rehab center that has a therapeutic approach that resonates with them. Some may have a strong religious conviction and a belief in a higher power which is supported by traditional 12-step, whereas other people prefer an alternative approach. Ultimately, cocaine addiction is a personal illness that is characterized by varied behaviors and dependent on a multitude of factors. Every individual seeking cocaine abuse treatment needs to find a treatment path that works for their particular lifestyle and resounds with their fundamental beliefs.