Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that is abused for its ability to produce euphoria. Because the high from cocaine is short-lived, many people take it repeatedly, which increases the risk of adverse health effects, addiction, and overdose.
Signs And Symptoms Of Cocaine Addiction
People can become addicted to cocaine quickly, even after their first time using it. The brief high is followed by a craving for more. Large doses of cocaine can cause depression and fatigue once they wear off, which can also prompt a person to take more.
Signs that someone is abusing cocaine can include:
- dilated pupils
- erratic behavior
- irritability or anxiety
- muscle twitches or tremors
- increased heart rate
- high body temperature and blood pressure
If a person has developed a cocaine addiction, they may exhibit signs of abuse as well as:
- excessive time spent using cocaine
- decreased interest in social activities
- changes in behavior and mood
- poor work performance or job loss
- struggles with schoolwork
- strained relationships with family and sober friends
- financial difficulties from buying cocaine
- an inability to stop or cut back on cocaine use
How Is Cocaine Abused?
Cocaine comes in two forms: powder and crack. Crack cocaine is made by mixing the powder with baking soda or ammonia and heating it until it forms a rock-like substance. This is the smokeable form of cocaine, commonly smoked with a glass pipe.
Powdered cocaine is often snorted, but some people rub it onto their gums or mix it with water and inject it into a vein. Each method of abuse comes with unique risks beyond the dangers of cocaine abuse itself.
Dangers Of Cocaine Abuse
Abusing cocaine can lead to long-term effects on a person’s health. Smoking crack can damage the lungs and is thought to be the most addictive way of using the drug. Rubbing cocaine on the gums or snorting it can eat away at the fragile tissues in the mouth and nose, causing tooth decay and erosion of the nasal cavity.
Cocaine works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is released as a reward for positive actions like eating and exercise. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to cocaine regulating dopamine and becomes less effective at doing it on its own.
These changes in brain structure lead to instability of mood. A person who regularly abuses cocaine may experience irritability, panic attacks, psychosis, and hallucinations.
The change in brain structure is also what leads to addiction, a mental craving for cocaine and the inability to stop using it despite negative effects. Addiction is a disease that can be devastating to a person’s health, relationships and overall wellbeing.
Cocaine Tolerance And Sensitization
Many people take higher and higher doses of cocaine the longer they abuse it because their brain develops a tolerance to its effects. The brain also experiences sensitization, which means that it takes less cocaine to produce unpleasant side effects like anxiety and convulsions.
A person who is addicted to cocaine is likely to continue using it at increasing doses to avoid side effects. This increases the risk of overdose and other adverse consequences.
Cocaine overdose can occur even the first time someone uses the drug. It can also happen as the result of binging—taking overlapping doses to maintain a high.
Symptoms of a cocaine overdose may be:
- high body temperature and sweating
- loss of awareness or bodily control
- racing or irregular heartbeat
- difficulty breathing or panting
Mixing cocaine with other stimulant drugs makes overdose more likely. It increases stress on the heart and makes the occurrence of stroke or seizure more likely.
Combining cocaine and depressant drugs like heroin (“speedballing”) is also dangerous. The opposing effects of these drug types make it difficult to tell how much someone can take without overdosing. Since heroin stays in the system longer than cocaine, a person may not realize they’ve taken too much until the cocaine wears off.
Drinking alcohol with cocaine forms a third substance in the liver called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene may increase the sense of euphoria, but also raises heart rate and cocaine concentration in the blood.
While all methods of abusing cocaine come with the risk of overdose, snorting and injecting the drug may be the most dangerous. While smoking crack cocaine causes it to enter the lungs before reaching the brain and bloodstream, snorting and injecting take the drug directly to the blood, where the whole dose takes effect at once.
Withdrawal symptoms are another indication that someone is addicted to cocaine. These occur when someone stops taking the drug because their brain has to adjust to functioning without it.
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of the cocaine high. Depression, fatigue, increased appetite, and decreased activity may all indicate cocaine withdrawal, especially if a person is usually full of energy.
Because withdrawal is an unpleasant process, many people continue taking cocaine to avoid it. Even though excessive cocaine use can produce similar negative effects, it also produces a sense of euphoria and gives some relief to these symptoms.
This traps many people in the cycle of addiction.
Treatment For Cocaine Addiction
The Bluffs, we consider each person’s unique experience with addiction and create a treatment plan just for them. Our inpatient rehab program deals with symptoms of addiction as well as the factors in someone’s life that cause or contribute to substance abuse.
Yoga, hiking and other recreational activities provide a healthy alternative to the stress relief many people seek in cocaine abuse. Our long-term program gives each person the time and support they need to transition from crippling addiction to lifelong recovery.