Intro to Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine use has remained relatively consistent from around 2009, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In 2015, the latest numbers available show that about 1.5 million American adults are using the drug. The highest age bracket for cocaine use is in 18-25-year-olds. Oregon and Washington State drug rehab facilities are filled with people that have experimented with this potentially lethal substance.
Cocaine is listed as a Schedule II substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the government, cocaine is one of the “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
In this instance, the government got it right. Cocaine, sometimes called flake, snow, blow, coke, candy, bump, or just “C,” is highly addictive both physically and psychologically. Cocaine is being used today is several different forms:
- Cocaine can be inhaled or ingested.
- Crack cocaine is a crystallized form of cocaine that is smoked.
- Substance users can make a speedball, which is cocaine mixed with another drug, like heroin or PCP, and inject it.
Cocaine’s effects are as intense as the high is short-lived. Many people get hooked because it is one of those drugs that have been wildly popularized in pop music for decades. It was the party drug for the 1980s and while coke use has remained stable for a few years, it has also spawned new epidemics of crack cocaine in the inner cities.
Take a look at this highly addictive drug and how Washington and Oregon drug rehab facilities are fighting back against cocaine and the devastation it continues to cause.
What is Cocaine?
“Any route of administration can potentially lead to absorption of toxic amounts of cocaine, causing heart attacks, strokes, or seizures—all of which can result in sudden death.”
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Healthcare data shows that in 2011, there were 1.3 million visits to ERs around the country. More than 505,000 of those visits were related to the use and abuse of cocaine. Since cocaine use has remained fairly consistent, it is safe to extrapolate these figures to 2018. That is about 40 percent of all emergency department visits annually in the U.S.
That is a lot of money spent to repair the damage from a plant leaf. Now, imagine the human cost of this drug – it is incalculable.
Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant made from the cocoa plant. While there are more than 200 species of cocoa plant, only two types contain the naturally occurring alkaloid that can be extracted to make cocaine. The leaves of these plants, which are grown in the high, cool climates of places like Colombia, are chopped, salted, and watered. Then kerosene or diesel fuel is stirred in, which eventually removes the cocaine from the leaves. This mixture is then heated, mixed with sulfuric acid, bleach, and ammonia, as well as other chemicals. Before coke is distributed, it is usually “cut” to stretch it further with detergents, silicon, or amphetamines. Since users do not know exactly what they are getting, the risk of overdose is high. Crack cocaine is a derivative of the powder form of the drug.
Cocaine is very expensive; at the height of his addiction, Eric Clapton said he was spending a minimum of $16,000 a week just on cocaine alone. Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac, says she spent $1 million on her cocaine habit.
The irony is that crack cocaine is even more dangerous; the street drug is made from the chemical waste of cocaine, so it is less expensive but even more dangerous to human beings.
Why is Cocaine So Addictive?
“If you want to go out
You've got to take her out, cocaine
And if you want to get down
Down on the ground, cocaine”
Songwriter: J.J. Cale
From Eric Clapton’s 1977 album, Slowhand
Cocaine can be addictive after the first use. That is because it stimulates what is called the reward pathway in the human brain, triggering potential psychological and physical addiction. Cocaine stimulates the release of dopamine, the chemical messenger that signals reward or pleasure. The feeling of euphoria is what substance users are seeking, and they will continue to seek it until the supply or the users are depleted.
A single dose of blow causes euphoria immediately, but the effect wears off almost as fast. The drug causes a feeling of energy and mental alertness, although some people say while cocaine gives them energy, it makes it harder to focus.
It is primarily the psychological craving that is so hard to overcome; studies show that consistent cocaine exposure changes the brain in ways that inhibit decision-making and self-awareness and the ability to adapt to negative consequences.
In laboratory studies, “animals will work more persistently at pressing a bar for cocaine than for any drug, including opiates.” There are plenty of human stories about how people will behave in uncharacteristic and outrageous ways in order to find and buy more of these drugs. If you want to see how cocaine addiction affects people and their families, watch these videos.
Over time, the psychological addiction can lead to physical addiction, where withdrawal means serious illness and suffering as the body comes down from the drug.
What Does Cocaine Use in Washington Do to Your Body?
“Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
Oak tree you’re in my way
There’s too much coke and too much smoke
Look what’s going on inside you”
Songwriters: Allen Collins & Ronnie Van Zant
From the 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd album, Street Survivors
Cocaine affects both the mind and body of the substance user. While the dopamine release stimulated by cocaine creates euphoria and a short-lived happiness in the brain, the physical effect is like a jolt of adrenaline or energy to the body. Cocaine helps people do more and ignore the body’s signals to slow down or rest. For a little while, it may make you feel like the “life of the party.”
While the euphoric effects of cocaine are short-lived, the damage to your body can last a lifetime. The short-term effects of cocaine, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated eyes
- Higher temperature
- Faster heart rate
- Violent or erratic behavior
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Muscle twitches
- Heart attack
- Severe weight loss and malnutrition
- High blood pressure
- Sudden death
When people snort cocaine they often get nasal or sinus infections and nosebleeds. In extreme cases, cocaine can burn a hole right through the septum, which is the cartilage that separates both nostrils.
Smoking cocaine causes severe breathing complications. Chronic bronchitis and coughing up phlegm, along with chest pain and shortness of breath have all occurred.
For intravenous cocaine users, tissue infection and abscesses, and an increased risk of HIV or other contagious viruses like hepatitis B and C are caused by sharing needles.
Consider this statistic. Between 5,000 and 6,000 of all unintentional deaths in the U.S. each year involve cocaine. It does not help that the media in the form of movies and television show cocaine use as something glamorous. Here is the truth. Oregon drug rehab and Washington State drug rehab facilities are full of people trying to save themselves and their loved ones from the damage cocaine causes.
How Long Does Cocaine Withdrawal Last?
A very high percentage of people addicted to cocaine end up relapsing without professional help. Seeking the assistance of a Washington State drug rehab or Oregon drug rehab facility is typically the only way to safely withdraw from cocaine use. Enduring cocaine withdrawal can be, at best, highly uncomfortable, and at worst, physically dangerous. Some of the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Extreme fatigue and the desire for sleep
- Uncontrollable cravings for the drug
- Depression and suicidal thoughts
- Involuntary physical movements
- Muscle and deep bone pain
These effects can last anywhere from a few days to a few months – or even years, depending on how deep the addiction goes. Because the craving for the drug is so intense, it is almost impossible to kick the habit without relapse unless seeking the help of Oregon drug rehab or Washington State drug rehab.
What Happens When You Mix Cocaine and Alcohol in Seattle?
“Come on you hotheads you listen to me
Stay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be”
Songwriter: Bob Dylan
From Johnny Cash’s 1968 album, At Folsom Prison
The NIH reports that cocaine users often abuse alcohol. Together, these drugs produce cocaethylene, a chemical formed in the liver. ScienceDirect calls cocaethylene “an active metabolite responsible for life-threatening toxicity if cocaine and alcohol are abused simultaneously.”
As if cocaine was not dangerous enough, the ingestion of alcohol simultaneously increases the chance of immediate death by 18 to 25 times. Alcohol intensifies cocaine’s effect, according to ScienceDirect, by 20 percent. That is because the alcohol inhibits the liver from ridding the body of cocaine. The liver’s primary function is detoxification; but alcohol slows down the natural process of cleansing toxins, in this case, cocaine, from the body.
So, while the combined use of these two drugs immediately increases the danger, it turns out that cocaethylene can build up in the liver over time, leading to heart attacks, according to The Guardian. Even casual consumers of alcohol with a cocaine “pick me up” put their hearts at serious risk both immediately and for years down the road.
Yet people continue to abuse alcohol. When they grow too drunk, they will take a "bump" of cocaine to sharpen their senses or stay awake. These substance users are truly playing Russian roulette with their health in the short- and long-term.
What Are the Signs of Cocaine Addiction?
The cumulative effects of cocaine are that you have to take more and more of the drug to get the same effect. While users can start off slow, with few visible symptoms, it escalates quickly.
You can tell when someone is seriously addicted to cocaine. The behavioral signs are wildly escalating over time, which make them easier to spot. It is crucial to attack the disorder early, if at all possible. Once cocaine takes hold, it is an extremely difficult substance to kick. Here are some signs to watch for in the early to mid-stage of cocaine addiction:
- Strange and erratic behavior
- Insomnia or prolonged periods of sleep
- Short attention span (that is different from what is normal)
- Anxiety or irritation
- Elevated mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Holding secrets and acting suspiciously
- Showing up late, leaving early, or not showing up at all
- Impulsivity or changes in decision-making styles
- Financial troubles
- White stains on clothing or skin, sniffing, nosebleeds
Because cocaine is an expensive habit, financial troubles are an early warning sign that something is amiss. If the person starts asking you for a loan or taking on extra jobs to earn more money, yet never seems to have any, something may be wrong. Some cocaine-addicted people empty their bank accounts and sell their possessions before hitting bottom and entering Washington State drug rehab.
Watch for signs, such as extreme mood swings that could be wildly optimistic or withdrawn, sullen, and angry. One big red flag is the unpredictable nature of the person you used to know; cocaine can make them virtually unrecognizable from the person they once were.
Conclusions: Seeking Help in Washington and Oregon Drug Rehab
"The thing about that kind of addiction that's pretty funny, on reflection, is that I always thought, 'I'm handling this. I can handle it. I can stop anytime. I just don't want to stop right now.'"
Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll: Clapton After ‘Cocaine’
National Public Radio, All Things Considered
We know from experience that entering an Oregon drug rehab or Washington State drug rehab program helps substance users break the cycle of cocaine addiction. Recovery can help cocaine users shed the shame of their addiction and realize that treatment will help forge new connections to people and life as part of sober living.