Cocaine Addiction | Causes | Effects | Symptoms
Cocaine Addiction | Causes | Effects | Treatment
What is cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant that is manufactured from the leaves of coca plants. It is usually found in powder or crystal form which can be snorted, smoked or injected intravenously into the system. By the time cocaine reaches the end user, the powder is generally mixed (cut) with other substances, which increases the volume and reduces its purity. This leads to a substantial increase in the street value. Common examples of substances used to cut the end product include, vitamins, laxatives, over the counter medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol or more potent drugs like procaine. The reality is, that the substance sold to the end user could contain any number of unknown substances. In its crystal form, it is called “crack cocaine”. It is also known as “coke” or “blow” among many other street names used for the substance.
How cocaine works
Cocaine was initially created as a painkiller. When snorted, the drug is absorbed into the circulatory system through the nasal tissues. It can also be ingested or rubbed into the gums. Injecting the drug intravenously is the fastest way of delivering the chemicals into the bloodstream. Injecting cocaine comes with a number of additional risks associated with intravenous drug use, including increased likelihood of overdose
Effects of Cocaine on the brain
Using Cocaine can change the structure and function of the brain which leads to cocaine addiction. When you use cocaine, it affects your central nervous system; as a result, the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine is increased in the brain. The ongoing use of cocaine stops the natural process of the production of dopamine in your brain. As a result, you will require more and more cocaine in order to enjoy the feelings you initially observed.
Causes of cocaine abuse:
The most well-known theories are:
Existing research tells us, that people with relatives who have addiction issues are more likely to develop addictive behavior themselves. The chances of someone developing substance misuse issues increases even more when a first relative, for example, parents or siblings have problems with addiction.
People who have faced traumatic or disruptive family lives, are prone to an increased probability of developing an addiction. Other possible factors can include life stressors, for example: the death of a loved one, child abuse, loss of employment or long term unemployment, or breakdown in a long term relationship may lead to increased misuse of substances as individuals turn to drugs or alcohol as a method of escape or ‘self-medication’.
Biological components, such as modification of the structure and function of cerebrum can cause compulsion issues. The person may find themselves compelled to use cocaine to increase the level of dopamine in the brain in order to maintain the pleasurable feelings and sensations provided by the drug.
The symptoms and signs of cocaine use:
If you are concerned that someone you know might have a cocaine addiction or be misusing cocaine, here are some common symptoms and behaviours to look out for that may help determine if someone is using.
- Disappearing for longer periods of time than considered normal, or more regularly than usual, at an event or in a social situation and coming back in an entirely different state. For example someone visiting the toilet regularly and a distinct change in mood on their return
- Users may appear more energetic, excited and act more confident. They might be more energized sexually and can become more flirtatious or promiscuous.
- Lack of appetite
- Erratic sleep and rest patterns and insomnia.
- Spots of white powder around a person’s nose are a more obvious indication of cocaine use. While most people snort the powder form of cocaine, others will smoke it in crystal form (Crack Cocaine) and in more extreme cases it can also be injected directly into the bloodstream. A few abusers may ingest it which increases risks of severe intestinal damage.
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose / nosebleeds and harm to the internal parts of the nose.
- Injecting the drug, will result in evidence of needle marks (track marks) on their arms, hands, legs, feet or neck.
- The effects of powder cocaine are temporary; increased periods of misuse and increased regularity of use, can result in users requiring more of the drug to attain the same effects as their tolerance to the substance increases over time.
The side effects of cocaine addiction:
Negative effects of cocaine can include mental, behavioral, physical and psychological side effects:
Changes to state of mind:
- Sentiments of predominance
Behavioral side effects:
- Highly energetic
- Extremely talkative
- Irrational behaviour
- Telling lies or manipulating the truth
- Involvement in criminal activities
- Manipulative behaviour
- Increase in confidence
Physical side effects:
- Less need for sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Extreme need for sleep after usage
- Muscle jerks or twitches
- Severe headaches or migraines
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Narrowing of veins
- Incessantly runny nose
- Nasal Dryness
- Increase in body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Sexual brokenness
Possible Psychological issues:
- Psychosis – Aural or Visual Hallucinations
- Lack of motivation
- Extreme dis-trustfulness or paranoia
- Intense emotional disturbance
- Inability to make sound judgements
- Being overly defensive
Impacts of cocaine withdrawal:
Cocaine withdrawal can have unpleasant side effects:
- Mood Swings and Depression
- Body pain
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Extreme desire for cocaine.
How can I beat cocaine addiction?
It is not always easy to determine whether you are just misusing cocaine recreationally, or if the problem has developed into a full blown addiction. If you are looking to give up cocaine, then you should always consult a professional. A good place to start is with your family Doctor, who may refer you on to a specialist. A good starting point if you want to quit would be to follow these steps:
- Make an honest evaluation as to whether you have an addiction. Often the hardest part of beating an addiction is being honest with yourself and admitting to having a problem in the first place that you require help with.
- Talk to a specialist. This could be your Doctor, a Drug specialist or an interventionist who can guide you through the various treatment options and how you can access them. Specialist can include residential drug and alcohol detox and rehab facilities, your doctor, a local drug worker, a charity specialising in helping people with drug or alcohol misuse issues.
- Once you have decided to address the problem and found a treatment option that suits you, commit to seeing it through. It will be difficult, but the results will be life changing.
- Recovery doesn’t end when treatment finishes. Long term sobriety usually requires a complete change in lifestyle. There are lots of support groups and aftercare programs which offer ongoing support to recovering addicts. These support groups can offer a healthy infrastructure of people to surround yourself with who understand exactly what you are going through.
- Use any support you have available to you. this could come in the form of organised groups, co-workers or friends and family who care about you. Make sure you spend your time around positive influences who are unlikely to draw you back into situations where you will be exposed to cocaine use. Find people who motivate you and inspire you and if you find yourself wanting to use cocaine, call on them to talk things through.