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Learn about cocaine and substance abuse
Cocaine, also known as coke or blow, is one of the most commonly used recreational substances. It is extracted from the leaves of the Erythroxylum coca plant and is said to be the most powerful stimulant that comes from a natural origin. Cocaine works as a pain blocker by causing a numbing effect. When it is abused, it can lead to feelings of euphoria. Cocaine can come in the form of powder or crystallized rock.
Cocaine is arguably one of the most dangerous drugs that a person can take and is generally used in one of three ways. Snorting involves inhaling the powdered substance through the nose, allowing the drug to enter the bloodstream by way of the nasal tissues. Some people choose to inject the drug directly into their bloodstream. Others will smoke the drug by inhaling the vapor into the lungs so that it can rapidly enter the bloodstream. Many times users will also rub the powder into their gums in addition to one of the aforementioned ways.
Cocaine addiction statistics
Cocaine is said to be the second most highly trafficked illicit drug in the world, the second most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, and the third most common drug found in schools throughout the U.S. According to the office of the National Drug Control Policy, there are 3.6 million chronic cocaine users in the United States, but 34 million Americans (14.7% of the population) age 12 and older have used blow at least once in their lifetime. Studies show that about 5,000 people try cocaine for the first time every day and that 75% of all people who try cocaine become addicted to it. Only one in every four individuals can quit using cocaine on their own. Most require the help of some form of addiction treatment or rehabilitation.
Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction
Due to the nature of the drug, the causes and effects that cocaine has on a person can vary tremendously.
Genetic: A person’s genetic predisposition may play a role in the development of cocaine abuse. It has been said that children of addicts are eight times more likely to become addicts themselves.
Physical: When people use cocaine, the drug stimulates the receptors in the brain that are responsible for sensing changes in the body. This change creates an immediate feeling of euphoria, which leads the user to want to continue using in order to maintain that state of euphoria. Because the euphoric feeling is so brief, tolerance is quickly developed, causing the user to need higher doses more frequently in order to obtain the same high.
Environmental: Environmental factors can have a significant impact on the development of cocaine dependence. Often, life circumstances lead people to start using cocaine as a means of escaping their everyday lives or the emotions they feel due to their surroundings.
- Having been exposed to cocaine prenatally
- Exposure to cocaine use among family members or friends
- Unstable home environment
- Exposure to violence
- Suffering from mental illness
Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction
The signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse may include:
- Rapid speech
- Increased activity
- Hyper behavior
- Participating in risky behaviors
- Changes in appearance (primarily rapid or extreme weight loss)
- Chronically runny nose (when snorting the drug)
- Frequent nose bleeds (when snorting the drug)
- Track marks (when injecting the drug)
- Dilated pupils
- Lack of interest in things one used to be interested in
- Dramatic mood swings
- Psychotic behaviors
Effects of cocaine addiction
Depending on how pure the cocaine is, as well as how much of the drug is being used, the effects of cocaine abuse will vary. Some examples of the negative effects that cocaine can have on a person include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature
- Increased blood pressure
For some users, cocaine abuse can cause extremely severe health problems, such as:
- Heart attack
- Sudden death
Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders
Some examples of other disorders that co-exist with cocaine abuse include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Conduct disorders
- Antisocial personality disorder
Effects of withdrawal and overdose
When the effects of cocaine wear off, people may experience things such as bloody noses, headaches, nausea, and depression. Also, because cocaine is highly addictive, the craving for more becomes so intense that severe anxiety can ensue.
Because cocaine use can cause respiratory failure, stroke, heart attack, and/or bleeding in the brain, it can be fatal. While these are typically the result of an overdose, death has been known to occur upon first use.