What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an illegal and powerful drug. It is a stimulant and highly addictive. It can be used for medical reasons, such as anesthesia, but more often it is used recreationally. On the street, it appears as a powder that is fine and white. Drug dealers often mix it with powder and even flour so they can sell more of it and make more profits. It may also be mixed with other synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl. This is particular dangerous because it increases the risk chances of overdoses.
How is Cocaine Used?
There are many ways that individuals can use cocaine. When it is a powder, it can be snorted with the noise or rubbed on the gums. The powder can be dissolved and then injected into the blood. Cocaine can be combined with heroin and injected. The combination of cocaine and heroin is referred to as a speedball. Cocaine can also be smoked or freebased. It must first be made into a rock crystal form and then it is heated. Individuals inhale the vapors and let them fill their lungs. This type of cocaine is called crack cocaine, or crack for short. It is called this because it makes a cracking sound as it heats. Crack can also be sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana and smoked like a cigarette.
What Does Cocaine Do To The Brain?
Cocaine addiction is a prevalent concern today. Long term use of cocaine causes changes to the brain and the circuitry in the brain which can lead to cocaine addiction. The circuitry in the brain becomes accustomed to the increase of dopamine that is caused by the use of cocaine. Dopamine is a chemical found naturally in the brain that controls movement and reward. In a normally functioning brain, dopamine is recycled back into the same cell that releases it, which shuts down the signal between the nerve cells. Cocaine stops the dopamine from being recycled back in to the cells which means that large amounts of dopamine builds up between the nerves. This dopamine prevents communication between the cells. The individual feels rewarded, and it encourages the individual to continue using cocaine. As the brain becomes used to the dopamine, it stops reacting to it and the individual needs to use more cocaine to receive the same result. Increasing the amount of cocaine also stops withdrawal symptoms.
What Are the Effects Of Cocaine?
When an individual uses cocaine it effects the person quickly and can last anywhere from minutes up to an hour. The intensity of the drug depends on the method it is used. Injecting cocaine and smoking it creates a faster high with strong impacts, but it does not last that long. The high may subside in as quick as 5 to 10 minutes. When it’s snorted, however, the high can last 15 to 30 minutes. Cocaine can help people feel like they can handle physical and mental tasks quickly. Using large amounts of cocaine often causes bizarre and violent behavior.
There are many short term and long-term effects of cocaine on an individual. There are many short-term effects such as being mentally alert, high energy and extreme happiness. Cocaine users are extremely sensitive to touch, sound, and sight. They are highly prone to being irritable. They suffer from paranoia and have an unreasonable distrust. Cocaine use can impact other aspects of your health such as constricting blood vessels which decreases blood flow. A cocaine user often has dilated pupils, nausea, and an irregular and fast heartbeat. They also have increased blood pressure and body temperature, restlessness, and tremors.
There are also long-term effects that impact users of cocaine. The long-term side effects differ based on how an individual typically uses cocaine. For those that snort cocaine, they lose their sense of smell and suffer from frequent nosebleeds and runny noses. They may also have problems swallowing. For those that smoke cocaine, they may suffer from a constant cough and respiratory distress such as asthma and pneumonia. Those who ingest cocaine by their mouth have problems with their bowels. Often times, their bowels decay because of the reduction in blood flow. Those who use needles and inject cocaine have a much higher risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. They may get other blood borne diseases or infections in their soft tissue. They suffer from collapsed veins and scarring on their skin.
Another long-term symptom of cocaine use is movement disorders. After prolonged use, an individual can get Parkinson’s disease. This disease may not show itself for many years after the cocaine use. Cocaine users that use needles to inject the drug are not the only one with a cocaine addiction that are susceptible to HIV. Cocaine impairs the judgment of the user and they are more likely to engage in risky behavior and not consider the consequences.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms Of Cocaine?
Withdrawal from any drug is difficult and the more you use it, the worse the withdrawal symptoms become. Repetitive drug use changes an individual’s brain and how the circuitry functions, which leads to cocaine addiction. After continual use, an individual needs to use more and more cocaine to feel the high or to rid themselves of the withdrawal symptoms. Often times, the withdrawal symptoms are so bad, the individual cannot tolerate them. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, depression, fatigue and insomnia. The individual may have bad dreams and their thinking may become impaired. They may also have an increased appetite.
What Happens When Someone Overdoses on Cocaine?
Someone can overdose on cocaine the first time it is used. The worst overdose scenario is that the user can die. Other health risks that can occur during an overdose are irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke, or seizure. An individual can have trouble breathing during an overdose. They may hallucinate, become extremely anxious, or become incredibly agitated. Their blood pressure and body temperature may increase. An overdose is a serious concern and health risk and should be treated immediately. First responders or those in an emergency room stop any seizures that are occurring and attempt to restore blood flow to the heart or brain.
Can Someone Get Help For Cocaine Addiction?
There is always help available, but it works best if the person who has a cocaine addiction wants help. Becoming a recovering addict is challenging and constant work, but possible. The individual first needs to detox to get all of the drugs out of his or her system. Then, the individual can enter an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility. There are no medications available today that can treat cocaine addiction, however, that does not mean that other treatment is not available. The individual should participate in therapy sessions, such as cognitive based behavioral therapy. They should have motivational incentives, so they receive rewards for remaining drug free. They should have contingency management and a plan for what they do when things become too challenging and they want to turn back to cocaine. There has to be another outlet for that individual.
The individual should join a recovery group based in his or her own community, like a 12-step program. In therapy the individual should begin to understand why he or she turns to cocaine in an effort to change the behaviors. The support of family and friends is crucial during this time, as someone with a cocaine addiction can feel lost, sad, and alone. The individual should have a support system as long as the peoples surrounding him or her will not lead him or her back down a dangerous path. If you or someone you love has a cocaine addiction, get help. It is never too late for help and everyone deserves a chance.