Although most people today recognize that cocaine is addictive, thousands are still drawn to it. As many as 1,800 Americans experiment with cocaine for the first time each day. Ranked as the second most addictive drug in the world, cocaine is nothing to mess around with. Abuse of it can quickly land you a one-way ticket to rehab or worse. And although this fact alone scares away some potential users, its promised effects and glamorized usage make it that much more enticing to others. Today we will delve into the background of cocaine addiction, why it is so addictive, and how to get the help necessary for a successful recovery.
What is Cocaine and how does it work?
According to Medical News Today, cocaine is a highly addictive and naturally occurring anesthetic or pain blocker. It is extracted from the leaves of Erythroxylon coca (E. coca), also known as the coca scrub, a plant that grows in the Andean highlands of South America.
In 1884, Karl Koller, an Austrian ophthalmologist, first used cocaine as an anesthetic during eye surgery. It was a popular and widely used anesthetic until the early 20th century.
As the medical profession came to realize that cocaine was addictive, safer anesthetics were developed. Cocaine, in its basic form, is no longer routinely used. However, cocaine and its derivative, crack cocaine, are widely used as illegal recreational drugs.
The method by which cocaine is used can affect how high a person feels and how long the high lasts. For example, snorting cocaine does not produce as intense a high as smoking it, but the high lasts longer.
Cocaine is generally sold on the street as a fine, white powder, known as “coke,” “Coca,” “C,“ “snow,” “flake,“ “blow,” “bump,“ “candy,” “Charlie,” “rock,” and “toot.” A “speedball” is cocaine or crack combined with heroin, or crack and heroin smoked together.
Common Side Effects
Cocaine use can result in both physiological and psychological side effects.
Physiological effects of cocaine can include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
Psychological effects of cocaine use can include:
- Repetitive behaviors
- Poor judgment
Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.
Long Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, With repeated exposure to cocaine, the brain starts to adapt so that the reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforcers. At the same time, circuits involved in stress become increasingly sensitive, leading to increased displeasure and negative moods when not taking the drug, which are signs of withdrawal. These combined effects make the user more likely to focus on seeking the drug instead of relationships, food, or other natural rewards.
Cocaine damages many other organs in the body. It reduces blood flow in the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to tears and ulcerations. Many chronic cocaine users lose their appetite and experience significant weight loss and malnourishment. Cocaine has significant and well-recognized toxic effects on the heart and cardiovascular system Chest pain that feels like a heart attack is common and sends many cocaine users to the emergency room. Cocaine use is linked with an increased risk of stroke, as well as inflammation of the heart muscle, deterioration of the ability of the heart to contract, and aortic ruptures.
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?
It is very difficult to determine an exact detection window for how long cocaine can stay in someone’s system. The length of time it remains in the system depends on many different factors including body mass, metabolism, and hydration levels. Cocaine can be detectable for 24 hours (by a blood test) or up to three months (by hair follicle test).
Cocaine Addiction Statistics
- An estimated 17 million people worldwide use cocaine
- By their senior year, roughly 35% of college students were offered cocaine at least once and 13% used the drug according to a recent longitudinal study
- Roughly 70% of cocaine users relapse when trying to quit on their own
- The annual cocaine market is reportedly worth $88 billion
- The United States is the world’s leading consumer of cocaine
- The penalty for possession of cocaine can lead to a fine of $1,000 and up to 1-year in jail for first-time offenders
- 9% of people who try cocaine will become dependent
- Women are more vulnerable to the effects of cocaine than men, although men are twice as likely to abuse the drug
- American adults aged 18-25 years old have the highest rate of cocaine use than any other age group
- 1 out of every 3 drug-related emergency department visits involved cocaine according to a report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN)
Cocaine Addiction and Withdrawal Timeline
The symptoms of acute cocaine withdrawal often resolve after about 7-10 days. However, like with many drugs, cravings for cocaine may persist for longer periods of time and could develop suddenly, years after individuals have gotten sober. Cocaine has a relatively short half-life and, in people with significant dependence, withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 90 minutes after the last dose. The timeline for withdrawal symptoms varies depending on the individual.
When Is Medical Detox Necessary for Cocaine Withdrawal?
While cocaine detox may be completed on an outpatient basis, medical detox is recommended in some instances. For example, if a person has relapsed during past withdrawal attempts, the 24-hour supervision afforded by medical detox can prove invaluable. In addition, if the person suffers from any co-occurring mental health disorders, medical detox followed by comprehensive inpatient addiction treatment can effectively address both withdrawal management and mental health treatment needs. (American Addiction Center)
Diagnosing Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction must be diagnosed by a licensed doctor who considers a variety of single factors. Ultimately, the doctor will use several different criteria out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to evaluate if the patient has a cocaine addiction. Typically, A Cocaine Addiction Diagnosis Will Depend On Having At Least Two Of The Following Criteria, Which Include:
- Developing a tolerance
- Social or problems related to cocaine use
- Using more significant amounts of cocaine
- Hazardous use of cocaine
- Neglected responsibilities primarily to get high
- Activity replaced by cocaine use
- Excess of time spent using cocaine
- Repeat attempts to quit cocaine
- Psychological or physical issues related to cocaine use
Every individual’s cocaine addiction will be unique, and will ultimately require individual assessment by a doctor to diagnose the patient with cocaine addiction.
How to Get Help
Cocaine addiction can be a complex condition that can lead to a wide variety of personal problems. Treatment for an addiction to cocaine, therefore, needs to be comprehensive and address the individual’s social, family, and other environmental problems. Effective treatment often involves addressing cocaine misuse as well as other co-occurring addictions. It is not uncommon for people who misuse drugs to also have other mental health issues—such as depression or anxiety—that also require treatment. There are several behavioral approaches used in residential and outpatient settings that are effective in the treatment of cocaine addictions. Currently, they are the only approved and evidence-based treatments available for those who use cocaine or crack cocaine.
Harmony Ridge Recovery and Cocaine Addiction
If you or a loved one has a cocaine addiction, do not let another day go past without getting the help and answer that you need. Our team at Harmony Ridge Recovery Center understands how overwhelming it can be to consider reaching out for treatment, rest assured that in doing so, you’re making a decision that could potentially be life-saving. At Harmony Ridge Recovery Center, our team will provide top-of-the-line addiction treatment that will help the addict to stop using, but also to encourage mental, physical, and spiritual growth so that long-term recovery is achieved.