Cocaine and addiction
Cocaine is a
drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. According
to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 15 percent
of people in the United States have tried cocaine.
Cocaine is also known as coke, C, flake, snow, crack, and blow.
addictive, and in the United States, recreational use is illegal.
Cocaine is a stimulant, meaning
it increases alertness and energy. It affects the neuropathways in your brain,
leading you to feel talkative, energetic, and euphoric. Addiction to cocaine
can develop quickly, even after trying it only a few times.
An addiction can be physical,
meaning your body craves the drug. It can also be mental, meaning you strongly
desire the drug’s effects.
Cocaine can be consumed in a
variety of ways. It can be inhaled through the nose or injected into a vein. And it can be used via genital or rectal routes. It can also be smoked after being processed into a form
called crack cocaine. Addiction can occur quickly from any of these methods.
What are the effects of cocaine?
For a short time, cocaine has stimulating
effects on the body. It causes a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called dopamine
to increase its concentration in the brain. This causes feelings of pleasure
and satisfaction. Cocaine causes your dopamine levels to rise causing the user
to feel euphoric.
Cocaine prevents the dopamine, and other
neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin, from being taken up into the
nerve cells. This allows large amounts of the neurotransmitters to accumulate
and stimulate the surrounding nerve cells. This heightens the pleasurable sense
Cocaine can also minimize your desire for
sleep and food. Some people report that cocaine helps them think and perform
tasks more quickly. Many users begin to crave the feelings that cocaine
Frequent use of cocaine can cause you to
develop a higher tolerance to the drug. A high tolerance means it takes more
cocaine for you to feel its effects. This may lead to using greater amounts of it,
which can impact your mental and physical health.
Psychological effects of cocaine addiction
- impaired judgment
- repetitive or abnormal behaviors
effects of cocaine addiction include:
- unhealthy weight loss
- increased heart rate
- abdominal pain
- chest pain
- heart arrhythmia
- heart attack
addiction is also associated with medical conditions that include:
- respiratory diseases
- weakened immune system
- gangrene of the bowels
What causes cocaine addiction?
affects neurological systems in your brain. Cocaine use, especially repetitive use,
can alter systems associated with pleasure, memory, and decision making. When
someone is addicted, their ability to resist urges becomes impaired, making it
harder to quit.
stimulants act to enhance the extracellular concentrations of dopamine,
norepinephrine, and serotonin. Stimulant drugs can block the transport of these
exposure to cocaine results in neuroadaptation. This includes sensitization
(increased drug response) and tolerance (decreased drug response). Physical
tolerance to the effects of cocaine can occur after just a few uses. This
results in needing more and more of the drug to get the same effect.
Who is at risk
for cocaine addiction?
Anyone who uses cocaine is at risk for becoming
addicted. Factors that increase your risk of cocaine addiction are:
- family history of cocaine or
other drug dependence
- addiction to alcohol or other
- mental illness, such as
What are the symptoms of cocaine addiction?
Symptoms of a cocaine addiction include:
- a tolerance for the drug, requiring large amounts to get high
- an inability to stop or reduce usage
- withdrawal symptoms when usage stops
- a desire to keep using even when health complications arise
- a negative impact on quality of life, relationships, and
- spending excessive time and money looking for cocaine
- psychosis and hallucinations
- irritability or anxiety
- disappearing for binge sessions
How is cocaine addiction diagnosed?
To diagnose a cocaine addiction,
your doctor will discuss your current usage and health history. And they will
try to determine the degree of your dependence and will suggest treatment
options. A user who wants treatment will need to commit to stopping.
How is cocaine addiction treated?
Cocaine addiction is a complex
disease, with physical, mental, social, environmental, and familial factors. There
are a variety of treatment methods for cocaine addiction that address all these
Residential treatment programs
work to cover all facets of addiction. These programs can last for several
weeks to a year. And they often include support groups, vocational rehab, or
Behavior treatments show
promising results for helping people through cocaine addiction. Treatment can
be done on an outpatient basis or as part of a residential treatment program. Interventions
focusing on behavior are often used along with medications.
Behavior treatments include
rewards for meeting goals related to stopping use, and cognitive behavioral
therapy, which teaches learning processes that help you continue not using.
While there are no medications
designed specifically to treat cocaine addiction, some medications with other
purposes can be helpful, such as antidepressants.
Other solutions to help overcome cocaine
addiction include exercise, hypnosis, acupuncture, and herbs. But more research
is required to determine the effectiveness of these techniques on addiction to cocaine.
What are the
effects of cocaine withdrawal?
Addicted users who stop using cocaine will
undergo an initial crash, known as withdrawal. Withdrawal can be intense and
difficult due to cravings and uncomfortable side effects. Effects of cocaine
- sleep disturbances
Withdrawal from cocaine can cause intense
discomfort. And this can cause a strong desire to use the drug again. Even when
withdrawal symptoms have subsided, sudden cravings are common.
Support systems such as friends, family, treatment
facilities, and other people recovering from addiction, can help you push
through this phase. The organization Cocaine Anonymous offers
resources and a community for people recovering from cocaine addiction.
find a support group in your area, talk to a healthcare provider or go online.
What is the outlook for cocaine addiction?
Cocaine addiction is a complex
illness that requires treatment. Cocaine addiction has a serious impact on your
mental and physical health, and can result in premature death.
If you or a loved one is addicted
to cocaine, reach out to a doctor, or someone else you trust who may be able
help you explore treatment options and find other sources of support.