Due to its glamorization in movies and music, cocaine use does not hold the same stigma as that of other illegal drugs. However, cocaine is just as dangerous and addictive. If you or a loved one is struggling, reach out for help. Our compassionate team of addiction experts is here to help you reclaim your life.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a euphoria-inducing stimulant that comes from the leaves of the South American coca plant. It is a potent, highly addictive drug that directly affects the brain. Although cocaine has some legal medical uses, it is generally classified as an illegal substance.
What Are Common Street Name for Cocaine?
Popular names include:
What Does Cocaine Look Like?
Cocaine is sold as a white powder, and has a sweet, flower-like scent. It is often mixed with some sort of filler, such as baking powder, flour, or sugar. Cocaine may also be laced with other drugs such as local anesthetics or fentanyl, which can be very dangerous. A cheaper form of the drug, known as crack cocaine, looks like irregularly shaped rocks of a white or tan color. It is usually sold in small plastic bags.
How Is Cocaine Used?
Cocaine can be taken orally, snorted, or dissolved into a solution and injected into the veins. Crack cocaine is smoked. When this substance is smoked, it absorbs into the bloodstream very quickly and has a fast-acting euphoric effect.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Cocaine?
Cocaine, like other stimulants such as methamphetamine, makes users more alert. Individuals often resort to it for the sense of euphoria it produces. The drug’s effects appear almost immediately after it is used, and can last for a few minutes or up to an hour, depending on the amount used. Some of the short-term effects include:
- A burst of energy
- Hypersensitive senses (sight, sound, touch)
- Feeling mentally alert
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Dilated pupils
Unfortunately, cocaine’s euphoric effects are often replaced by unfavorable ones, which may include exhaustion, restlessness, irritability, and even anxiety and depression. Additionally, this drug is known to temporarily decrease an individual’s appetite and need for sleep. It is possible for these effects to linger for multiple days.
Why Is Cocaine Harmful?
Cocaine has a high potential for abuse because it creates intense cravings that develop immediately once the negative after-effects of the previous use subside. As a result, individuals can easily build a tolerance to it, later causing them to consume larger amounts of the substance to experience the same “rush.” Moreover, users who consume higher doses may suffer from paranoia, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, strokes, and possibly death.
Cocaine use can also cause severe medical complications, especially when mixed with alcohol and other drugs. The combination of cocaine and alcohol is dangerous and can be fatal. When mixed, stimulant effects of cocaine and the depressant effects of alcohol can be detrimental to the heart. Cocaine and heroin are another dangerous and potentially life-threatening combination (often colloquially referred to as a “speedball”).
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse?
Individuals who abuse cocaine for prolonged periods of time develop a tolerance to the drug over time and require larger amounts to get high. Repeated misuse of the drug can lead to addiction and lasting health problems, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep deprivation
- Lung damage
- Cardiac arrest or disturbances in heart rhythm
- Perforated or deviated septum
- Renal failure
- Kidney disease
- Rare autoimmune diseases
- Gastrointestinal issues, including nausea and abdominal pain
In addition to its impact on one’s physical health, long-term abuse also has the ability to cause a range of side effects that impact behavior, thoughts, mental health, and physical appearance.
What Are the Signs of Cocaine Addiction?
Habitual cocaine abuse causes the brain to rely on the drug. Addiction changes the mind and body in several ways, causing:
- Panic and paranoia
- Extreme mood swings
- Rapid speech
- Grinding teeth
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nosebleeds and runny nose
- Suppressed appetite/weight loss
Cocaine addiction may also cause behavioral and social changes. Individuals dependent on the drug may begin to neglect or ignore daily responsibilities as well as damage relationships with loved ones. It is also common to choose getting high over social activities, resulting in a progressive isolation from family and friends.
Another sign of addiction is drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, small plastic bags, razor blades, needles, and rolled up dollar bills. There may also be a white residue found on surfaces.
What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like?
When an individual takes a high dose of cocaine, the drug’s usual effects are dangerously amplified. The overstimulation of the brain and body can cause it to shut down, often resulting in death. Because it is impossible to know the potency or purity of the drug, there is no way to know what amount of cocaine can be fatal. Some users mix cocaine with alcohol or heroin for a more intense high, which increases the risk of an overdose. Indicators of an overdose may include symptoms such as:
- Extreme anxiety
- Difficulty breathing
- High body temperature
- Rapid heart rate
Individuals who overdose on cocaine require immediate medical attention, as the symptoms stated above might precede the onset of a fatal heart attack, stroke, or seizure.
How is Cocaine Addiction Treated?
An individual must stop using prior to treatment so that they are able to fully focus on their recovery. Because cocaine is not physically addictive, medical detox is not typically necessary. However, dangerous psychological withdrawal symptoms can occur after stopping use of the drug. Because of this, it is important that individuals consult with a healthcare professional to determine whether medically monitored detox is right for them. Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Suicidal thoughts
- Intense cravings
- Increased hunger
Once the body has rid itself of all toxic substances, the individual should address the psychological hold that cocaine has had on them by pursuing drug counseling. Rehabilitation options include inpatient (residential) treatment and outpatient treatment. Addiction treatment teaches the individual to recognize and address negative behaviors, practice strategies to avoid relapse, and develop constructive ways to deal with setbacks. Also, clinical groups such as 12 Step Education, Anger Management, and Building a Recovery Network help individuals to better understand addiction as a disease and make smart choices in recovery.
In addition to traditional addiction treatment, individuals can benefit greatly from alternative wellness therapies that help to heal the mind and spirit. For example, former users who relied on cocaine to stay awake may value the opportunity to address the root of their sleeplessness and learn about healthy resting habits through sleep education. Moreover, those who used the drug for its ability to induce euphoria, may enjoy the natural, safe “rush” they can experience through ropes courses. Finally, individuals struggling with the anxiety caused by their withdrawal can find relief through acupuncture.
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