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About Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a white powder or crystal derived from coca leaves, originally created as a painkiller. In its crystal form, it’s often called crack or crack cocaine. One of the most popular illegal stimulants, cocaine increases the availability of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which creates a feeling of euphoria. Most commonly, cocaine is sniffed in order to create a quick reaction, although it can also be ingested, rubbed into the gums, or injected. Users quickly become accustomed to the feeling of euphoria which cocaine stimulates, which leads them to seek higher quantities or more direct ingestion methods in order to recreate the original high. Often, cocaine on the street is mixed with other substances in order to increase profits. While sometimes those substances are sugar or flour, they can also be local anesthetics like lidocaine, or amphetamine, which can further raise the dangers of cocaine.

Cocaine is the 2nd most commonly trafficked illegal drug in the world, and it’s one of the greatest contributors to crime in America. It’s also startlingly common. In 2006, 8.5% of 12th graders in the U.S. reported having used cocaine at some point.

Health Dangers of Cocaine Use

The most common health problem associated with cocaine use is heart trouble. The most common cause of death related to cocaine overdose is heart attack. Cocaine has direct, dangerous effects on heart health, like cardiomyopathy (increased cell death in the heart) or endocarditis (tissue inflammation). Long term, this can greatly contribute to problems like arrhythmia or heart attack and failure. Because of its effect on the heart and circulatory system, it can also increase risk of stroke or brain damage because the blood supply to the brain is frequently interrupted.

Cocaine can also have significant neurological effects. It can lead to erratic behavior and muscle movements. It can even cause new-onset ADHD because of the way that it affects brain chemistry. Cocaine also frequently causes severe paranoia and hallucinations.

Depending on the form of ingestion, cocaine can carry other health risks. Ingesting by mouth can lead to ulcers in the mouth and severe bowel decay. Snorting leads to a loss of the sense of smell, frequent nosebleeds, and difficulty swallowing. Injection has the same risks as any drug injection, including HIV or Hepatitis C infection, as well as collapsed veins.

One of the saddest effects of long term cocaine use is that because it creates artificial dopamine production, your body naturally produces less dopamine in response to normal activities that used to bring you pleasure. People addicted to cocaine soon find less joy in other things, like eating, social interaction, personal achievement, and sexual intimacy.

Signs of Cocaine Use

Regular cocaine use leads to dramatic changes in behavior, namely drug-seeking behavior. The high from cocaine doesn’t last very long in any form, so people might be going back for another hit several times in a short period. Here are some other signs of cocaine use:

  • Involuntary muscle tics and twitches
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Gushing enthusiasm and energy
  • Hyperactivity

Long term effects of cocaine use include loss of appetite and motivation, dramatic changes in behavior, and periods of disorientation and extreme exhaustion.

Cocaine and Crime

Because of its high levels of addiction, as well as its unpredictable neurological effects, cocaine is closely linked with crime. Cocaine use can induce feelings of aggression, overconfidence, and hyperactivity, and when that’s linked with someone desperate for another fix, it can be dangerous. Cocaine is the most commonly reported street drug in emergency rooms throughout the country, and it’s also the most commonly reported illegal substance in use when someone is arrested in the US. Additionally, drug cartels that peddle cocaine create organized crime units that endanger cities and neighborhoods.

Cocaine at a party

Cocaine and Alcohol: a Deadly Cocktail

Although many drugs carry additional dangers when mixed with other substances, cocaine and alcohol are unique in that they actually create a third drug in the body when mixed: cocaethylene. This substance is one of the biggest contributors to heart attacks and life-threatening cardiac problems in people under 40.

Despite the danger, cocaine and alcohol are a common pair, especially for people who use cocaine in social situations and believe that their occasional use makes them exempt from the dangers of cocaine. Cocaine’s stimulating effects make people feel less drunk, and so it’s sometimes taken between rounds as a sharpener. Some people combine the two substances in order to feel a higher high, as well. Taken in combination, it’s a system that can stretch out the party a little longer. However, because it makes people feel less inebriated, it also leads to higher binge drinking and high risk of alcohol poisoning.

What to Do if Someone You Love is Using

Whether it’s occasional use or constant, cocaine is a dangerous substance that should be avoided. It’s important to educate people about the dangers and the social ramifications of use on any level. The reports of cocaine-related deaths have increased 42% in the last 12 years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If you suspect that someone you love is using, it’s important to (1) encourage them to seek professional help, and (2) let them know that they’re not alone, and that you will continue to love and help them no matter what.