What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is one of the most abused drugs in the United States as well as the world. It’s a powerful stimulant drug, meaning it increases alertness and awareness in the mind. Cocaine is by far the most popular illicit stimulants in modern history.
Cocaine was highly popularized in the ’80s, as musicians and famous influencers portrayed it as a glamorous recreational drug that allowed hard-working individuals to remain awake for long hours, performing better than usual. Today, it’s still popular as a recreational drug among walks of life. However, it continues to show a high risk of abuse. Even younger generations and high school students are getting their hands on cocaine today, which poses an increase in risk for addiction.
How is Cocaine Made?
Cocaine is made from the compounds of the Coca plant (Erythroxylum coca). Coca is different than the “cocoa” we know from chocolate. It’s a plant native to South America. The Coca leaves are processed in a way that cocaine can be extracted and made into powder form.
Making cocaine is a long process which many Andes region farmers go through, even though it remains illegal in many parts of South America, in order to make a living. You might not know this, but cocaine is not an innocent drug. It not only affects the lives of coke users in a negative way, but it harms the makers of cocaine, as well. There are much political and community hardships that many growers of coca face in their local communities.
Believe it or not, the coca leaves of the Coca plant used to be slightly beneficial to native peoples of the region it grows naturally. When dried into a tea or chewed under the tongue, it would increase alertness, provide energy, and even cure mouth pain. However, this was a very mild effect likened to caffeine and is not recommended as an excuse to justify or continue cocaine use in any way. There’s a huge difference in Coca between ancient natural herbal medicine and the present commodified illicit drug trade.
Why is Cocaine Illegal?
Cocaine in its powder form, as well as smokable rock form, “crack”, is considered a Schedule II drug in the United States. This means that it poses a high risk for addiction, has no perceived medicinal benefit, and therefore remains totally illegal. In fact, since 2015, cocaine exists as the main type of drug associated with drug offenders in federal prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Nearly 55% of federal prisoners doing time for drugs are due to cocaine.
How is Cocaine Addictive?
Cocaine, like most other stimulant drugs, is extremely addictive. Drugs that are stimulants relate to the pleasure center in the brain. “Uppers” like cocaine release a heavy amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that causes excitement, euphoria, and other “feel good” senses of energy.
The harmful thing about this drug and how it releases dopamine is that the amount of dopamine the brain experiences with cocaine use is way above the normal levels our brains can produce. Because of this, once the drug is taken several times or even just once, the user may have a hard time feeling the rush they enjoyed while high. With prolonged use, a person becomes dependent on cocaine, as their brain can no longer keep up with the normal dopamine production.
The brain when out of balance
The brain is always working to try to make the best out of what our bodies are going through. It can fluctuate and adapt according to what chemicals we put into our bodies, and how long we decide to take part in a certain “vice”– whether that be drugs, food, sex, exercise, or even entertainment.
Our brains, in a sense, compensate different chemicals in trying to maintain balance. When we put harmful substances into our bodies, the brain can no longer do this effectively so it takes in the chemical of choice as “normal”. After a while, when there’s a physical addiction, once the substance stops being used, that is when withdrawal symptoms occur.
Physical or Mental Addiction
Physical addiction is the main concern when it comes to cocaine. Since a cocaine addict is dependent on the high release of dopamine, they physically feel a need to continue regular cocaine use. Otherwise, unwanted withdrawal symptoms start to happen. As physical addiction progresses, detox will need to be completed for there to be a successful start to sobriety.
Although there is a standard physical addiction, cocaine can also result in a psychological, or mental, addiction. The psychological addiction happens when someone who abuses drugs feels a need to experience the same feelings or distractions their drug use brings. Actually, anyone can be psychologically addicted to pretty much anything, using their “vice” to recreate good feelings or cover up a personal pain.
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
There are some common signs of cocaine addiction that are noticeable to most people. These warning signs of cocaine use can display themselves as physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms.
The first and most obvious red flag of cocaine use is finding the actual drug or items related to cocaine use. Objects such as white powder, small ziplock baggies, rolled up dollar bills, small straws, small mirrors, crack pipes or other paraphernalia are examples.
The physical signs of cocaine use include:
- Talkative increase
- Pupil dilation
- Nosebleeds or sinus irritation (from snorting too much)
- White residue on the face, clothes, or other belongings
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Appetite fluctuations (eating a lot then not being able to eat)
- Overall behavioral changes
- Disruptions in sleep patterns: insomnia, or excessive sleep
- Increase in sexual desire and promiscuous acts
- Major mood swings
- Suspicious behavior
- Financial issues, even in those with high income or steady work (cocaine is expensive!)
Cocaine Side Effects
People react differently to cocaine depending on their personal makeup and background. They can also experience cocaine differently depending on how pure the drug is.
To one person, cocaine might cause a huge boost in energy, attention, increase in the ability to socialize, perform better, or enhance their partying experience. But to another person, using the same drug might cause them to feel depleted, calm, stressed, lack motivation, or make them paranoid to be around other people. This second effect is especially true in people who live with attention disorders like ADHD, as stimulants reverse the effect of their brain constantly seeking the need for dopamine.
Short-term side effects of cocaine
Even though each person might experience cocaine differently, there is a list of general side effects that come along after using cocaine. The common physical side effects of cocaine use are:
- A rapid heart rate increase
- Higher body temperature
- Blood pressure increase
- Dilated pupils (dark center of the eye becomes enlarged)
- Blood vessel constriction
- Tremors or shakes
- Spontaneous body twitches
- A rush of euphoria
- Feelings of being invincible
Long-term side effects of cocaine
Although the short-term effects of cocaine use might seem innocent or harmless enough, there are some serious long-term side effects that take place with addiction.
A lot of coke addicts have a common long-term side effect of irritation and damage to their nose and throat. Whether snorted or smoked, cocaine can permanently damage the nasal passage, throat, mouth, teeth, and lungs. Some people have trouble breathing after years or crack cocaine. From heavy amounts of coke snorting, some extreme cases can result in a collapsed nose structure. Bloody noses, sinus infection, and clogged nasal canals are common consequences as well.
Because the body overworks to try to process hard drugs, chronic coke abuse can lead to liver damage, intestinal setbacks, kidney failure or difficulties with other organs such as the heart or thyroid.
Crack addicts suffer especially from respiratory issues. Breathing difficulties, lung diseases, asthma, and COPD are possible side effects.
Any drug used over a long period of time can result in permanent brain damage, whether noticeable or small. Memory loss, loss of impulse control, and several movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, affect many longterm recovering drug addicts.
Heart trouble comes with the long-term side effects for some users. Arrhythmia, chest pains, and a higher chance of heart attack or stroke have been proven to be at greater risk in crack and cocaine addicts.
What if someone in your life has a cocaine addiction?
If there is a cocaine addiction in your life, reach out for help as soon as possible.
The first step is in dealing with cocaine addiction is to admit the problem. When the drug problem is brought into the light, proper help and support can be sought out.
If detox is necessary, check into a hospital or detox medical center to go through proper detox. We advise a medically supervised detox where there are professional supervision and interaction with doctors and nurses who specialize in drug detox.
Then when the willingness is there, when beginning recovery from cocaine addiction a treatment center is most helpful.
Inpatient rehab allows you to take the time you need to fully get the drugs out of your system, focus on your goals toward recovery, and surround yourself with the constant support of understanding staff and other patients who can relate to your addiction. Inpatient rehab is helpful because it lets you learn the tools you need to stay sober in life and it’s a safe place to explore any underlying issues that lead to addiction.
Maintaining a solid support group or attending regular recovery meetings is extremely helpful, too. It is wise to cut ties with any old friends who influence perpetual drug use and a party lifestyle, as that only leads to temptations while trying to get and stay sober. Even hanging out with level-headed, sober, or successful and healthy groups of friends can make a major difference in staying on a positive path toward personal growth when recovering from addiction.
Feel free to call us with any questions about finding a rehab center or support group for you or your loved one today. Recovery is possible, so start now on the journey toward freedom from cocaine addiction.
If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 949-625-4019.