Understanding Cocaine Addiction

person preparing a line of cocaine

Although cocaine use may begin as an experiment that is intended to be a one-time event, the use of the substance can quickly develop into cocaine addiction. There is a misconception that those who are using cocaine can quit whenever they want to, but the truth is that cocaine treatment is needed. If you or someone you love suffers from addiction to cocaine, it’s essential that you are able to take action immediately.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant made from the cocoa plant. While there are more than 200 species of the 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 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.

Information on Cocaine Adddiction

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.

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.

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.

Symptoms and Signs of Cocaine Addiction

If you suspect someone you love may be addicted to cocaine, there are several signs to be on the lookout for. If you think you may have a cocaine addiction, you may also want to familiarize yourself with these cocaine use symptoms and signs:

  • Extreme energy and enthusiasm
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased movement
  • Increased cold-like symptoms
  • Nosebleeds
  • Disinhibition
  • Changes in focus and concentration
  • Weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Mood swings
  • Risky behaviors
  • Changes in sleep
  • White powder residue around the mouth and nose

If someone you love is regularly exhibiting those signs, there is a good chance that cocaine use is involved. There is a difference between cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction, however. If you have noticed two or more of the following signs of cocaine addiction, you will know that there is an issue:

  • Constant craving for cocaine
  • An obsession with getting more cocaine
  • Financial issues due to spending money on the substance
  • Social isolation
  • Problems with work or family
  • Changes in behavior
  • Lying or stealing to obtain more cocaine

The Effects of Cocaine Use

While the dopamine release stimulated by cocaine creates euphoria and short-lived happiness in the brain, the physical effect is like a jolt of adrenaline or energy to the body. While the euphoric effects of cocaine are short-lived, the damage to your body can last a lifetime.

The short-term effects of cocaine include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated eyes
  • Higher temperature
  • Faster heart rate
  • Violent or erratic behavior
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Muscle twitches
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Heart attack
  • Severe weight loss and malnutrition
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • 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.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Although cocaine withdrawal is not as dangerous or uncomfortable as withdrawal from opiates, alcohol or benzodiazepines, it still presents many challenges. Some cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Inability to be sexually aroused
  • Increased appetite
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Slow thinking
  • Unpleasant and vivid dreams
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • The inability to feel pleasure
  • Intense cravings for cocaine

While cocaine withdrawal does not typically require an intense detox period, some patients still need to be hospitalized when coming off cocaine. The cocaine addiction can cause loss of appetite and weight loss, which may cause patients to be malnourished, which may result in a hospitalization or a visit to a detox center. The most effective way to approach cocaine addiction is to enroll in a treatment program in a rehabilitation facility.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with cocaine addiction, there are many cocaine treatment options available to you. Cocaine addiction is typically treated in inpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs and/or outpatient programs. Patients in these rehabilitation centers for cocaine addiction typically participate in therapy (both group and individual), courses and healing and recreational activities.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield is a well-respected treatment center convenient to the cities of Seattle, Washington; Tacoma, Washington; Vancouver, Washington; Eugene, Oregon and Portland, Oregon. The addiction specialists and healthcare professionals understand what you are going through; many of us are in recovery ourselves.

If you are suffering from cocaine addiction, and you are considering treatment, please give us a call today. It’s never too late to take back the control of your life and find a pathway to recovery. That pathway begins with rehabilitation and treatment for substance use disorder. Reach out to us today to learn more about how you can begin your recovery journey.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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