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Cocaine Addiction Treatment

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Cocaine Addiction:  What You Should Know

Cocaine addiction is the second most used illegal drug in the world.  An estimated 14-21 million people use cocaine in a given year.  It is responsible for thousands of deaths and is the root behind a large portion of the crime committed on a daily basis.  If cocaine has such a bad reputation, then why is it so popular?

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A Few Facts about Cocaine

Cocaine (also known as coke) is a recreational drug that is notorious for its intense, yet short-lived high.  One hit, snort or puff leads to euphoria.  But, the rush is immediately followed by severe depression, anxiousness and an insatiable craving for more.  Once it gets started, using cocaine leads to addiction.  Cocaine addiction is a vicious cycle.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant derived from coca leaves that are native to South America.  Cocaine hydrochloride is the purified chemical isolated from the plant to which the high is attributed.  Prior to synthetic local anesthetics, cocaine was used as a pain relief during surgery because it has a numbing affect.  Purified cocaine was used in the early 1900’s in medicinal elixirs and tonics that were designed to treat illnesses.  It was also a main ingredient of Coca-Cola. All that was before the ugly truth came out.  Cocaine is addictive and dangerous.

Cocaine is a street drug that has the appearance of fine, white, crystalized powder.  It can be smoked, snorted through the nostrils, ingested or mixed with water for injection.  It is extremely psychologically addicting.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?

Cocaine travels quickly to the brain once it is introduced into the body.  It increases the chemical messenger dopamine within the brain.  Dopamine is responsible for controlling feelings of pleasure, thus, the “rush” and euphoria.

Dopamine is the body’s natural reaction to potential rewards.  It is present when the scent of a favorite food is in the air or before one rides a fun ride at an amusement park.  It is released and then recycled back into the cell it came from, disengaging the signal.  That is in normal circumstances though.  When cocaine is in the system, it prevents dopamine from recycling.  Excess amounts build up causing euphoria.  It also disrupts normal brain communication.

Short-term effects of using cocaine include:

  • Extreme energetic
  • Happiness
  • Alertness
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Hypersensitivity to sounds, lights and touch
  • Paranoia

Much of the effects cocaine has upon an individual depends on how much is used, how often it is used and the quality of it.  The method of use is also a factor.  When large amounts are used, such as in the midst of a cocaine addiction, it is common for the user to experience paranoia, violence and unpredictable, bizarre behavior.

The short-term effects of cocaine in the brain generally only lasts for 15 to 30 minutes, maximum.  It is even shorter when smoked.  It’s the reverse effect within the brain that causes the need for more.  Intense depression sets in within the brain’s receptors once the euphoric feelings have passed.

Long-term effects of cocaine on the brain are not as “rewarding” as the short-term ones are.  While the short-term effects are what entices users to keep coming back for more, long-term effects are the consequences cocaine addiction brings.  Long-term effects include:

  • Less sensitivity to natural rewards and pleasure sensations.
  • Stress circuits become increasingly sensitive promoting bad moods and displeasure.
  • Preoccupation with getting and using more cocaine.
  • Acquired tolerance meaning more cocaine must be used to produce the same feeling.
  • Possible convulsions and extreme anxiety due to toxicity.
  • Probable psychological effects like delusional thoughts.
  • Psychological vulnerability to other drugs used along with or in place of cocaine.
  • Loss of the sense of smell accompanied with nosebleeds.

What Does Cocaine Do to Your Body?

There are a myriad of health problems that can occur within the body due to cocaine addiction.  Some of the risks and effects are:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Heart-related conditions (covered in depth below)
  • Altered sleep habits (too much or too little)
  • Overdose
  • Psychological and physical withdrawals
  • Nose bleeds
  • Risk of HIV when injected and sharing needles
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Mood disorders
  • Respiratory illness
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Multi-drug use
  • Seizures
  • Memory loss
  • Panic attacks
  • Delayed reactive time
  • Limited attention span
  • Shrinking brain

What Does Cocaine Do to Your Heart?

Cocaine is a dangerous stimulant that elevates functions that are vital to sustaining life.  Cocaine addiction brings with it a long list of side-effects.  It changes one’s body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.  Along with the long list of possible health side-effects listed above, here are specific risks cocaine addiction poses to the heart and circulatory system:

  • Heart attack
  • Chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Inflaming of the heart muscle
  • Palpitations
  • Inability of the heart to contract
  • Ruptures of the aortic valve

What Cocaine Does to Your Nose?

When cocaine is introduced through the nasal passages (snorting), it can wreak havoc on the nose.  Damage may include:

  • Loss of the ability to smell
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irritation of the nasal septum
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Chronic inflammation of the nasal passages

How Does Cocaine Affect the Nervous System?

Cocaine is hard on the brain.  Since that is the area is most effects, it can cause many unwanted effects on the nervous system.  Here are some of the possible nervous system issues that can stem from cocaine addiction:

  • Neurological disorders
  • Bleeding within the brain
  • Movement disorders
  • Bulges inside the cerebral blood vessel walls
  • Impulsive actions
  • Impulse inhibition
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Cognitive disorders

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Cocaine Addiction Symptoms

If you suspect that you, or a loved one, is addicted to cocaine, there are some tell-tale signs to watch for.  Cocaine addiction symptoms include:

  • An overly confident façade
  • Extreme good moods
  • Extreme bad moods
  • Euphoria
  • Excessive talkativeness
  • Erratic behavior
  • Excitability
  • Sneaky actions
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Change of friends
  • Dilated pupils
  • Frequent runny nose
  • Traces of powder on nostrils
  • Needle marks on arms or other veins
  • Extreme depression
  • Nosebleeds
  • Hallucinations
  • Accelerated pulse
  • Apathy

Established cocaine users usually realize they are entering into cocaine addiction when they go from wanting the drug to needing it.  They are not ok without cocaine in their system.  They will go to any lengths to get it.  When this point is reached, it is very difficult for the addict to overcome the addiction alone.

Cocaine Addiction Conclusion

Cocaine addiction is not something an individual can just “get over”.  The drug is powerful and overwhelming.  Once cocaine gets a grip on the user, it’s all downhill.  But, it doesn’t have to end that way.  There is hope.  Reach out to someone who understands your cocaine addiction and can walk you through an individualized recovery plan, just for you.




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