Cocaine use is dangerous and can quickly lead to addiction. Deaths from cocaine use have risen dramatically over the last twenty years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overdose deaths from cocaine and other stimulants rose from 12,122 in 2015 to 53,495 in 2021.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a dangerous stimulant drug. It comes from the coca plant that’s native to South America. Most of the time, it looks like a white, fine powder much like flour. In the U.S., cocaine is illegal to use recreationally in any form. However, sometimes healthcare practitioners will use cocaine as a type of anesthesia in surgical procedures.
Those who deal cocaine illegally will often mix it with substances like cornstarch or talcum powder to increase profits. More dangerously, cocaine can also be mixed with other drugs, such as other stimulants or opioids. Mixing cocaine with a stimulant like amphetamine or an opioid like fentanyl can lead to overdose and death. Because it can be difficult to detect whether a cocaine supply has been tampered with, people who use cocaine are susceptible to different experiences and overdose risks with each use.
How & Why is Cocaine Used?
Most of the time, people snort cocaine into the nose. It can also be rubbed into the gums or made into a syrup that is injected into a vein. The effects of cocaine wear off quickly. That’s why many people use it repeatedly within a short time. This only increases the risk of overdose.
Why do people like cocaine? Cocaine is known for delivering intense highs with a powerful feeling of euphoria. People who use cocaine become psychologically attached to the way it makes them feel: confident, energetic, and positive.
The use of cocaine can cause:
- Mental alertness and focus
- Extreme happiness
- Sensitivity to touch, sound, and light
- Increased energy
- Paranoia and unreasonable trust of other people
As a stimulant, cocaine may help people feel as though they can do anything. It can also lead to unpredictable and, in some situations, violent behavior. Most often, the high wears off within a few minutes to an hour.
What Happens to the Brain When Using Cocaine?
Using cocaine in any form affects the brain. It increases dopamine, a chemical messenger that impacts the reward center. Cocaine prevents dopamine from being recycled back into the cells that release it. The excess of dopamine in the system decreases communication between nerve cells and causes a sense of euphoria, or a high. That “high” triggers the brain to want more of the drug, thus reinforcing drug-taking behaviors. Over time, the cells become less sensitive to cocaine, leading the user to take stronger doses, to use the drug more frequently, or to combine it with other drugs to get the desired effect.
What Are the Health Consequences of Using Cocaine?
Whether used one time or over the long term, cocaine creates negative consequences. One dose can cause an overdose, a life-threatening emergency situation where the body begins to shut down. Other times, it creates short-term effects such as:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature
- Increased blood pressure
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Constricted blood vessels
Over the long term, the health effects may include:
- Nosebleeds, loss of smell, or frequent swallowing problems if snorted
- Bowel decay
- Coughing and respiratory distress
- Increased risk of HIV and hepatitis C
- Damage to the lungs
- Kidney and liver damage
- Cognitive function decline
How Does Cocaine Use Become Addiction?
The repeated use of cocaine creates a change in the way the brain functions. The brain, which is programmed to seek out rewarding, pleasurable experiences, begins to recognize cocaine use as one of those reward mechanisms. As a result, the brain begins to crave it.
Physical dependence occurs when the body and brain become reliant on the drug to function. You can tell when the body has become dependent on cocaine when stopping your use leads to severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are the body’s way of saying that it “needs” more cocaine to work properly.
For cocaine, withdrawal symptoms may include extreme fatigue, depression, and increased appetite. Some people also have trouble thinking or concentrating. Physical pain in the joints, bones, and muscles may occur. Agitation and mood swings can also occur.
A second component of addiction is psychological dependence in the form of intense cravings when a person cannot access the drug. These cravings are so significant it is unlikely a person will be able to avoid continued use even if they want to stop. The unfortunate part of cocaine addiction (or any addiction) is that, by this point, the substance no longer provides the same kind of good feeling it did in the beginning. Now, the person uses cocaine not to feel good but to avoid feeling awful.
How is Cocaine Addiction Treated?
The good news is that cocaine addiction is treatable, and many of its negative health effects can be reversed with sobriety and a healthy lifestyle. There are several components to treating cocaine addiction:
Many people with cocaine addiction need to detox from it. Drug detox allows the body to naturally remove the waste products and components of the drug from the system over a few days to weeks. A professional detox program like The Ranch at Dove Tree’s uses medication and other treatments to help minimize the withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
During the first few weeks to months after detox, a person may benefit from inpatient treatment programs. This is because detox, while it heals the body from cocaine use, does not break the addictive patterns in the mind. For a full recovery, more care is needed. During residential treatment at The Ranch at Dove Tree, our clients receive a great deal of support. Individual and group therapy will help you understand what motivated your desire to use cocaine and develop more sustainable ways to cope with stress, mental health disorders, or trauma that might trigger relapse.
- Holistic Treatment
Holistic treatment addresses the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Our west Texas facility offers holistic treatments like equine therapy, EMDR, and exposure therapy to help you get to know yourself better and to connect with others. Nutritional therapy will help you learn how to nourish your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Over time and with professional therapy, you’ll learn how to control your thoughts to minimize the risk of negative behaviors like drug use. You’ll also learn about triggers, how to avoid stress, and how to maintain physical health.
Ongoing Care for Cocaine Addiction
It takes work, but cocaine addiction treatment can be very effective. It can also improve the overall quality of life and physical health. The Ranch at Dove Tree offers a comprehensive treatment program in Lubbock, Texas, that can help you or your loved one today.