Cocaine is a powder-like or crystal drug that is made from the Coca plant which has its roots in South America.
It is sometimes used as an anesthetic or painkiller but its use has been made illegal all around the world. Despite the fact that it is illegal, it is still widely used around the globe.
The most common way of ingesting cocaine is via sniffing. The cocaine then enters the bloodstream through the nasal tissues.
It can also be ingested or injected into the body. Injection, however, is more dangerous since it increases the possibility of an overdose. In the streets, it is popularly known as “crack” or “snow”.
Addicts are referred to as “crackheads”. In the streets, dealers can sometimes contaminate the cocaine with impurities so as to increase profits.
Such impurities include flour, baking powder and other drugs with the same resemblance as cocaine. Such other drugs include amphetamines and procaine. These drugs make the cocaine more dangerous.
After ingesting, cocaine affects the reward system of the brain. It floods the brain with dopamine which then causes the high associated with cocaine.
1. Research shows that people aged between 18-25 are the largest consumers of cocaine. However, cocaine use starts as early as the age of 12.
This statistic shows how readily cocaine has become available in our society if even 12-year-old have access to it. In addition, cocaine use is prevalent among all age groups.
2. Research also shows that people that begin cocaine use at the age of 12 are more likely to get addicted and to carry that addiction to their adulthood.
This is because, at 12, the brain is not fully developed and any interference with the brain at this stage could be dangerous. The younger you are when you start taking drugs the easier it is to get addicted.
3. Statistics indicate that men are more likely to abuse cocaine than women. However, the effects of cocaine are no less severe in women than they are in men.
4. Reports show that 40% of all drug-related emergency room visits involve cocaine use. This shows the dangerous effects of cocaine and the high potential for an overdose.
How Cocaine Use Leads to Addiction
As stated earlier, cocaine use interferes with the reward system of the brain. This causes an increase in the level of dopamine in the brain causing a high tension.
This good feeling is identified by the brain and it automatically seeks to enhance the activity that caused the high, in this case, cocaine.
Dr. Frankoe S.
The reward system is supposed to enhance actions that benefit the brain and the body. For example, the smell of good food leads to a healthy release of dopamine which is then recycled.
Cocaine use interrupts the process of dopamine recycling by flooding the pleasure center of the brain with dopamine or by blocking the recycling process of dopamine. The person the unsuspectingly gets hooked to cocaine and the cycle begins.
Cocaine is taken in various ways including:
Intranasal use: Where cocaine is taken through the nose and is absorbed into the blood via the nasal cavity.
Injections: Cocaine is injected directly into the bloodstream after combining it with water.
Oral use: Mainly involves rubbing it onto the gums.
Inhalation: Here users burn cocaine and inhale the vapor.
The high from cocaine usually lasts a short while so users usually engage in a binge of cocaine use.
This behavior increases the risk of addiction. Increase cocaine use can also lead to tolerance.
This is where the user needs more cocaine to achieve a certain level of high. This is usually a tell-tale sign that addiction has taken root inside the person.
Addiction to cocaine is usually a very sad experience. Users tend to neglect all kinds of responsibility so that they can get a hit of the drug.
Some even enter into so that they can get enough money to support their addictive behavior. The fact that it is illegal means that it does not come cheap.
It is, therefore, important that one stays away from the drug completely or to identify the signs of addiction as early as possible so that one can get help.
Who gets addicted to Cocaine?
Cocaine addiction can happen to anyone. However, hereditary factors can contribute to the likelihood of addiction.
Some reports suggest that having a first-degree relative who is an addict can mean that one is more susceptible to addiction.
Environmental factors can also contribute towards the likelihood of addiction. For example, where you have relatives or close friends that abuse cocaine, you are more likely to fall into the vice.
Due to the brief high associated with cocaine, it becomes a very addictive drug. The urge for another hit becomes so intense such that many fall into the trap of addiction after the first hit.
Therefore, nobody is safe from addiction.
Effects of Cocaine Use
This happens when the body has become dependent on cocaine and you suddenly restrict drug use. It can also happen when one attempts to lower the normal intake of cocaine.
The body responds in a way that might force one to go back to the drug. The symptoms range in severity depending on the extent of addiction and sometimes they can get really severe.
General irritability: The user becomes overly irritated at little things.
Depression: The user’s cravings for the high can lead to severe depression.
Fatigue: The user is unable to do anything due to a feeling of fatigue.
Increased appetite and cravings: The user generally gets a greater appetite and cravings for certain foods.
Suicidal thoughts: This is usually because of the stress that can arise from withdrawal.
Nightmares: Sleep becomes a problem for a user in withdrawal.
The immediate effects of cocaine use include:
Euphoria: This is caused by the effects of dopamine in the brain.
Increase in energy: This is usually a false feeling of high energy levels.
Grandiosity and elevated mood: One tends to feel an increased level of self-esteem.
However, in some people, there can be negative side effects of high dopamine levels:
Paranoia and panic.
As stated earlier, it is very easy for one to overdose on marijuana. Overdose can sometimes be fatal and so it is important that one notices the signs and symptoms of an overdose so that medical assistance can be sought:
Increased heart rate.
These signs could point to a potential overdose and it is important to seek immediate medical attention once these signs are spotted.
The long-term effects of cocaine use are potentially life-altering and this increases the need for rehabilitation once a problem is identified. They include:
Diseases associated with unsafe injections.
These effects show very clearly that cocaine use is a life-threatening behavior.
Effect on the Family and society
All the above are ways in which cocaine use affects the body of the addict. To make matters worse cocaine use also affects the society and family of the addict in various ways:
A cocaine addict can affect the entire family. Members of the family are sometimes left powerless against the addict and in turn they can end up enabling the addict and therefore contributing to his addiction. Addiction also takes a mental toll on family members as they watch a loved one struggle.
Addiction also affects spouses as well. In fact, they can be the most hard hit if their partner is struggling with cocaine addiction. They tend to blame themselves as the cause of the addiction and spend their time wondering how they can help their spouse. In the end, they also become enablers if they are not strong enough to intervene and take the addict to rehab.
Children can also get adversely affected by their parents cocaine addiction. They feel neglected by their parents and they can inadvertently stray into the path their parent has taken. The neglect can also lead to indiscipline and poor grades.
The addicts also becomes a menace to society. As stated earlier, cocaine is an illegal drug. This means that it is sold by cartels that contribute to insecurity within a society. Furthermore, due to the price of cocaine, most users tend to turn into crime in order to get money for drugs. All scenarios provide a disservice to society.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Research shows that roughly 6% of all the people that were admitted to drug treatment programs were cocaine addicts. Among them, roughly 70% abused cocaine along with some other drug.
Cocaine addiction treatment is a complex procedure since at times it can involve treatment of mental issues that occur due to cocaine abuse.
It is therefore important that any treatment contains both a medical approach and a behavioral approach towards combating addiction.
Behavioral interventions for a Cocaine Addict
Behavioral interventions have shown great success in recent times. Before any behavioral treatment begins users must first go through a detox program to expel the drug from their bodies.
It is from this point that behavioral programs can start working to change the mindset of an addict and to steer him towards a drug free life. Such interventions include:
1). Motivational Incentives
This is a system where patients are rewarded for taking various steps towards recovery. For example, a patient can earn points each time they get a drug-free urine test.
This system boosts the chances of initial abstinence and motivates the addict to stay free of cocaine and to remain in treatment.
In additional, motivational incentives an make an addict happier and thus contribute to less stress and depression.
Stress and depression are symptoms of cocaine abuse but through this program, even those psychiatric issues are resolved.
2). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This form of therapy is geared towards preventing relapse. Its main aim is to help the patient identify triggers that drive them towards drug use.
After this, it helps patients to identify and develop critical skills that will help them avoid these triggers or avoid the effect of these triggers on them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help addicts to cope with the difficulties that can arise due to abstinence.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be combined with other forms of therapy so as to achieve better results.
3). Therapeutic Communities
These are residences where drug addicts are placed in so that they can inspire each other towards a drug-free life.
Such programs usually last for about 6 to 12 months where users engage in both counseling and drug treatments.
These programs also help in rebuilding other aspects of an addict’s life such as mental health and fixing broken relationships.
The main advantage of therapeutic communities is that they are able to focus on the patient as a whole rather than focusing on the drug use alone.
For example, patients who had destroyed their marriages can engage in marital therapy while still continuing with addiction treatment. This is the same thing with other needs such as unemployment or criminal activities.
The rehabilitation process doesn’t end after the program ends. Follow up is required to ensure that the user doesn’t return to drug use.
This follow up, sometimes known as Aftercare, helps the addict in resolving issues such as depression without returning to drug use.
It helps the addict foster a drug-free mentality towards life. It aims to increase the addict’s belief in himself that he can refrain from drug use.
4). Community-based Programs
These are recovery groups that users can form in order to motivate each other towards abstinence.
They mostly use a 12-step program that is aimed towards total abstinence. These programs provide a platform where users can share their experiences and thus help in motivating each other.
Cocaine addiction is certainly a dark path. However, there is hope and that hope lies in the available treatments for cocaine addiction.
All that is needed is dedication towards treatment and a drug-free life and you will get back to a fulfilling life.