Cocaine’s reputation as being one of the hardest drugs to quit is probably well-deserved. The narcotic is derived from the coca plant found in South America. Over the centuries, some South Americans have chewed coca leaves for its euphoric effects and used the plant as anesthesia. In 1800s, cocaine was isolated from coca leaves, courtesy of German chemist Albert Niemann.
Without fully understanding its addictive properties, the medical field widely used cocaine as an anesthetic. Later, the number of people developing a cocaine addiction—including Thomas Edison and Sigmund Freud—led to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914. Another form of cocaine, crack cocaine, flooded the United States beginning in the 1980s.
Other federal legislation, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), classifies cocaine as a schedule II drug, which means that it may have a high potential for abuse and produce severe psychological and physical effects. The drug has several nicknames, such as coke, snow, blow, flake, white, powder, dust, pearl, and nose candy, among others.
Cocaine Effects and Abuse
Cocaine restricts sodium channels on neurons (nerve cells). Such restriction prevents neurons from carrying nerve impulses and provides an anesthetic effect. The anesthetic properties work even if you apply cocaine to an isolated (local) area. Dopamine production is triggered when cocaine enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain.
Since dopamine is a feel-good chemical, this is why cocaine users will experience feelings of euphoria, abnormal self-confidence, and high levels of energy. The intense feeling of euphoria and cocaine’s pain-numbing quantities are reasons why cocaine has a high potential for abuse.
Addiction to Cocaine
Chronic and prolonged cocaine use may have debilitating effects on your heart. The links between cocaine use and cardiomyopathy, a condition where the cells on the heart muscles weaken or die, and cocaine use and endocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart tissues, have been well-established.
Cocaine will typically stay in your body for three to six hours after you last used the drug. The duration depends on several variables, such as the tolerance level of users, the severity of the addiction, and the amount of drugs used.
The period of the euphoric high is relatively short. It depends on how people consume cocaine. For instance, when you inject the drug, expect the effects to last from five minutes to fewer than thirty minutes. When you snort the drug, the effects typically last from thirty to forty-five minutes. If you smoke cocaine, the effects will last from forty-five minutes to about an hour.
Stopping cocaine use suddenly may lead to cocaine withdrawal, which may quickly spiral out of control without medical supervision. Cardiac arrest, ruptures of the aorta, cardiotoxicity (heart muscle damage), and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) are just some of the life-threatening consequences of cocaine addiction. Talk to an Intake Coordinator
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Signs of Cocaine Abuse
If you are wondering how to tell if someone is sniffing coke or using cocaine in other ways, you may want to look for different symptoms.
Symptoms of cocaine use include:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny noses
- Weight loss
- Risk-taking tendencies
- Uncharacteristic boosts in confidence
- Extreme talkativeness
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
- Burn marks (especially on the lips and hands)
- Mood swings
- Bad hygiene
Drug paraphernalia may also be present in the room of the user. Paraphernalia may include razor blades, plastic bags, spoons, folded bills, drug pipes, and extra cash.
Cocaine and Other Drugs
Cocaine is still used in the medical field, often as a topical application (substance that is applied to a particular part of the body). This is because cocaine has anesthetic properties. It also has vasoconstriction properties, which means it narrows the blood vessels and may thus reduce bleeding during surgical procedures, for instance.
It is extremely important to say that you are using cocaine if your doctor will be prescribing medicine for you. According to Drugs.com, there are more than 200 branded and generic drugs that may interact with cocaine. Of the total, 135 of them are known to produce major interactions.
Among the medicines are:
Interactions often mean that the risks of using cocaine with these drugs are greater than the perceived benefits. If you are worried that your physician will judge you for cocaine habit, remember that addressing dangers to your health is more important than any judgment.
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Dangers of Cocaine Abuse
It is easy to become addicted to coke. Tolerance may occur almost immediately. Prolonged cocaine use may lead to dependence and addiction.
When users develop tolerance, they need larger doses of cocaine to achieve the same feelings of being of high that they achieved during their initial uses. With cocaine, there is also a phenomenon called reverse tolerance or sensitization where users may feel more sensitive to drugs with repeated use. Habitual users may feel more effects even if they do not increase their dosage.
Dependence or tolerance to cocaine is dangerous because people may be prone to:
- Cardiac arrests
- Respiratory failures
They are at risk of such cocaine symptoms even with low dosages.
A survey in 2014 revealed that 1.5 million people aged twelve years and older used cocaine in the previous month. Cocaine is particularly popular among people eighteen to twenty-five years old.
The number of overdose deaths resulting from a cocaine binge has steadily climbed from 2012 to 2017. From fewer than 6,000 in 2012, the number rose to 14,556 in 2017. The figures indicate the need for cocaine addiction treatment.
Treating a Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine detox is a process used by drug rehab facilities to help people who are dependent on cocaine. Stopping cocaine use may lead to withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms typically peak after seventy-two hours.
Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Intense craving for the drug
- Chills and tremors
- Muscle pain
- Suicidal thoughts
Rehab facilities have protocols to help people detox from cocaine. Do not attempt self-detox procedures because of inherent health risks such as cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest.
After detox, people often undergo behavioral modifications such as contingency management or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to modify the behavior of their clients and determine the reasons for their dependency.
For the most part, cocaine abuse is not an act unto itself. Addiction is almost always triggered by an underlying cause.
Researchers have been experimenting with a cocaine vaccine to minimize the danger of relapse. Early tests of the vaccine found that fewer than 40 percent of the people who received the injection have been successful. The effects of the vaccine last for two months.
Success of cocaine addiction treatments largely depends on the types of programs and the individuals concerned. There is no universal treatment for cocaine abuse because each individual varies in terms of his or her response.
After individuals leave rehab, they may continue to receive assistance. They may enter intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) to help them in their recovery and avoid relapses.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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