The coca plant is native to South America. Cocaine is a stimulant that is derived from the coca plant. Going back thousands of years, South Americans chewed and otherwise ingested coca leaves for their powerful effects.
In the 1850s, the chemical known as cocaine was first separated from the natural plant and was touted as a wonder drug. This chemical, cocaine hydrochloride, was the primary ingredient used to treat a wide variety of illnesses. Before the development of local anesthetics, surgeons used cocaine to dull pain. It was also readily available without a prescription.
From the 20th century on, cocaine was no longer seen as harmless. Today, at least 35.3 million Americans ages 12 and older have used cocaine. It is a popular recreational drug that can be the source of substance use disorders.
Cocaine Use and Abuse
Today, we use a classification system for licit and illicit drugs that is known as drug scheduling. It includes five categories that are determined by a drug’s medical use and the potential for drug dependency and abuse.
Schedule I is the highest category. There is no accepted medical use for Schedule I drugs, and there is a high potential for substance use disorder with these drugs. An example of such a Schedule I drug is heroin.
For Schedule II drugs, a medical doctor can prescribe them for a variety of purposes, such as a local anesthetic for ear, eye, and throat surgeries. Drugs in this category are controlled and are considered to be dangerous with a high likelihood of physical and psychological dependency. Cocaine falls under this category. The recreational use of cocaine is illegal in the United States.
In today’s society, a serious substance use disorder has arisen with the use of cocaine. In 2019, 3.8% of 12th graders had used cocaine at some point in their lifetime. On the street, the substance is also known as coke, snow, blow, crack, or rock. Cocaine can be ingested by inhaling it through the nose, smoking it, or injecting it.
Street dealers often dilute, otherwise known as “cut,” cocaine with substances such as talcum powder, cornstarch, and other ingredients to increase their profits. Some dealers also mix other drugs into cocaine such as amphetamines and opioids, which include fentanyl. The risk of overdose death increases when opioids are mixed with cocaine, especially when the user is unaware of the additive.
What Are the Signs of Cocaine Addiction?
While some people have used or currently use cocaine without becoming addicted, for many others, that’s not the case. Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that can lead to not only physical and relationship problems but also financial and professional issues. A substance use disorder results when your body and mind rely on the drug. In addiction, you build a tolerance, which means you need more of the drug to achieve the same result.
There are short-term effects of cocaine use. These include things like increased energy to the point of mania, a feeling of intense happiness or euphoria, and a decrease in appetite. These sometimes-pleasurable effects are often followed by a sense of paranoia, increased sensitivity to light and sound, and feelings of anger or irritation.
Long-term effects associated with cocaine use may result from a substance use disorder. These include symptoms such as:
- Heart disease and heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Permanent damage to heart and brain blood vessels
- Liver and kidney damage
Other effects may include headaches, sexual dysfunctions, loss of smell, nosebleeds, weight loss and malnourishment, severe depression, and an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease.
Snorting cocaine can damage nasal cavities. People who smoke cocaine, either in its pure form or as crack cocaine, can develop conditions such as lung damage and asthma. Those who inject cocaine are at significantly increased risk of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV due to sharing needles.
The criteria for the severity of substance use disorder depend in no small degree on how it impacts your life. For instance, you might be consistently late to work or underperform, which could lead to you being fired from your job. You could face legal problems from the possession of the drug, or you may resort to stealing to pay for your habit.
Cocaine abuse and addiction can have a devastating effect on your finances. In 2017, the cost of a gram of cocaine in the United States was approximately $96. If an addict is spending $100 a day on the drug, that comes to $700 a week, $2,800 a month, and at least $33,000 a year.
A healthy life includes the relationships you have with people. A cocaine substance use disorder can severely damage or even ruin the relationships you have with your partner, spouse, children, other family members, friends, and co-workers. A substance use disorder can lead to deceitful behavior, lying, lack of patience, or verbal and physical abuse. Unfortunately, as a person becomes addicted to a drug, the drug becomes more of a priority in their life. That means that relationships with family and friends become secondary.
How to Recognize Cocaine Addiction
Usually, an individual who has a cocaine substance use disorder either will not or cannot recognize that he or she has a problem. It’s often up to friends, family, or co-workers to step in. Recognizing that someone has this problem starts with identifying the signs of cocaine use.
Physical changes you may notice include:
- Weight loss and a loss of interest in food
- Showing signs of not sleeping
- Talking extra fast, often switching from topic to topic
- Extreme mood changes
- Having a seizure or more than one seizure
Other physical symptoms someone using cocaine might have include:
- Feeling dizzy
- Often feeling panicked or paranoid
- Feeling physically ill much of the time
- Having abdominal pain and nausea
There are also many behavioral changes that could be an indicator of substance use disorder. These include constantly asking for money, not going to work, not going to school, hanging around with different friends, and no longer being communicative.
What Is Intervention for a Cocaine Substance Use Disorder?
If you have a family member or a friend who has a problem with cocaine use and you want to help them, there are things you can do. Sometimes, the best way to help someone is to confront them through an intervention.
An intervention is a planned process where friends, family members, and/or co-workers meet with a person who has a substance use disorder. Everyone expresses their feelings about the addiction in a loving, positive, but firm way. During the intervention, the primary goal is to encourage the person to seek treatment. To increase success, when planning, it may be helpful to seek the assistance of someone trained in treating addiction.
While each intervention will be unique, there are some common factors. The intervention aims to help a person with a cocaine substance use disorder acknowledge that they have a problem. A person with an addiction often thinks that the only person they are hurting is themselves. Therefore, it’s essential to let the individual know how much it hurts you to see them suffering.
In recovery, counselors often talk about the need for a person to hit bottom. Sometimes, the people around the user can help them see how far down they have gone. Gently communicating to the person what you are willing to tolerate may help. You may want to express that if the person doesn’t seek help, you will no longer allow them to live with you. It is crucial only to lay down ultimatums if you fully intend to carry them out.
What Is Withdrawal From Cocaine, and What Is the Treatment?
When you are addicted to cocaine and are coming off the drug, you will experience withdrawal. Withdrawal can be both physical and emotional. You may experience anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, difficulty remembering things, and just not feeling at all like yourself. Unlike physical dependence on opioids, medical detox is typically not necessary for cocaine. However, the addiction can still be tough, and entering a treatment program can help a person quit cocaine.
The good news is that recovery from a cocaine addiction is very much possible. The best way to get off cocaine, stay off the drug, and make positive steps for your life is to enter an addiction treatment center.
The Green Mountain Treatment Center is a secluded residential drug rehab facility for men and women 18 years of age and older. The adult-oriented and gender-separate center is located in Effingham, New Hampshire, and sits on a landscape of rolling hills and apple orchards with panoramic views of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
The professionals at Green Mountain Treatment Center incorporate a compassionate 24-hour monitored detox with licensed medical professionals trained in addiction medicine. The center not only focuses on eliminating the substance use but also goes into the underlying root causes of the cocaine addiction. Green Mountain Treatment Center uses a 12-step approach to substance use disorders, run by experienced 12-step facilitators, licensed clinicians, dedicated case managers, and administrative support staff. Another important component of Green Mountain Treatment Center is its holistic therapies. Clients can rehabilitate with yoga, meditation, gym work, and more.
At Green Mountain Treatment Center, a “soft landing” is created where brand-new clients are paired with current patients to help the new client feel welcome. Then, as these new clients grow into the program, they will be asked to mentor incoming new clients.
Finally, it is important for people seeking rehab to talk to and associate with people who are successful at recovery. A significant fact about the Green Mountain Treatment Center is that the entire rehab admissions team consists of real people who are enjoying long-term recovery. They came to the center as clients, loved it, and then became employees after getting clean and sober. They are eager to guide new residents into a life of recovery and healthy living that is possible for every addict who walks through the door.
Even if you’ve been a cocaine user for a long time, a cocaine substance use disorder is something you can overcome. Entering into a treatment center may elicit some fear. This feeling is normal, but if you can take that first step and walk through the door, you’ll be happy that you did. You will be able to regain control over your life. When you are open and honest during rehab and you take advantage of everything that is there for you, you will be on your way to a happier life.