The reputation of cocaine as being the hardest drug to quit is probably well-deserved. The narcotic is derived from the coca plant in South America. Over the centuries, many South American tribes have been chewing cocaine for its euphoric effects and also as anesthesia. However, it wasn’t until the middle 1800s when cocaine was isolated from the leaves, courtesy of German chemist Albert Nieman.
Without fully understanding its addictive properties, cocaine was widely used in the medicinal field as an anesthetic. Later on, the number of people developing a cocaine addiction—including Thomas Edison and Sigmund Freud—led to the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. Crack cocaine, meanwhile, flooded America’s streets starting in the 1980s.
The Controlled Substances Act classifies cocaine as a Schedule II drug, which means that it has a high potential for abuse with severe psychological and physical ill-effects. The drug has several street names such as coke, snow, blow, flake, white, powder, dust, pearl, and nose candy, among others.
Cocaine Effects and Abuse
Cocaine restricts the sodium channels on the neurons which inhibits them from carrying out the nerve impulses. The anesthetic properties work even if you apply it on a local area. Dopamine production is triggered when cocaine enters your bloodstream and invades your brain, dopamine production.
This is why the user will have a feeling of euphoria, abnormal self-confidence, and high levels of energy. The intense feeling of euphoria is the reason why cocaine has a high potential for abuse, in addition to numbing any physical pain that the user feels.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse
There are ways how to tell if someone is sniffing coke.
The symptoms of cocaine use include:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Weight loss
- Risk-taking tendencies
- Uncharacteristic confidence boost
- Being extremely talkative
- Disrupted sleeping pattern
- Burn marks (especially on the lips and hands)
- Mood swings
- Bad hygiene
Drug paraphernalia may also be present in the room of the user, such as razor blades, plastic bags, spoons, folded bills, and extra cash.
The Dangers of Cocaine Abuse
It’s very easy to get addicted to coke. Tolerance is almost immediate. Prolonged use can lead to dependence and addiction. When the user developed a tolerance, he needs more dosage to achieve the same kind of high during the initial use. However, with cocaine, there’s such a thing called “reverse tolerance.”
Those who are habitual users will feel more the effects of the drug even if they don’t increase their dosage.
However, this is a dangerous situation because the cocaine-dependent is very prone to:
- Cardiac arrest
- Respiratory failure
They are at risk of these cocaine symptoms even with a low dosage.
Addiction to Cocaine
Chronic and prolonged cocaine use will have debilitating effects on your heart. The link between this drug and cardiomyopathy, the condition where the cells on the heart muscles weaken or die, or endocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart tissues, has been well-established.
Cocaine will typically stay in your body for three to six hours after you last took the drug. Of course, this will depend on several variables such as the tolerance level of the user, the severity of the addiction, and the quantity of the drugs.
The period of the “high,” however, is relatively short. It will depend on the manner by which you use it. For instance, when you inject the drug, expect the effects to last from five minutes to less than 30 minutes. When you snort the drug, the effects will last from 30-45 minutes. And if you smoke cocaine, the effects will last from 45 minutes to about an hour.
Stopping suddenly will lead to cocaine withdrawal, which will quickly spiral out of control without medical supervision. Cardiac arrest, rupture of the aorta, cardiotoxicity, and arrhythmia are just among the life-threatening consequences of cocaine addiction.
Cocaine and Other Drugs
Cocaine is still being used topically in the medical field. This is because of its superior anesthetic, as well as vasoconstriction, properties. The drug reduces bleeding during surgical procedures, for instance.
It’s extremely important that you inform your doctor that you are using cocaine in case you will be prescribed with maintenance medicine. According to Drugs.com, there are more than 200 branded and generic names in the market today that are known to interact with cocaine. Of the total, 135 of them are known to have major interactions.
Among the medicines are:
When you say interaction, it usually means that the risks are greater than the perceived benefits. Your physician will not judge you for cocaine habit but the danger to your health is obvious.
A survey in 2014 revealed that 1.5 million people aged 12 years and older used cocaine in the previous month. Cocaine seems to be very popular among the 18-25 age groups.
The number of overdose deaths resulting from a cocaine binge has steadily climbed from 2012 to 2017. From less than 6,000 in 2012, the number shot up to 14,556 in 2017. That’s an astounding number in the face of the crackdown by the government on illicit drugs.
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Treating a Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine detox is the preferred method for drug rehab facilities to help the drug dependent. Stopping cocaine use will lead to withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms will typically peak after 72 hours.
The withdrawal symptoms include:
- Intense craving for the drug
- Chills and tremors
- Muscle pain
- Suicidal thoughts
The rehab facilities have stringent protocols on how to detox from cocaine. It’s important that you don’t attempt self-detox because of the inherent health risks such as cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest.
After the detox, the patient in cocaine rehab will undergo behavioral modifications such as contingency management or cognitive-behavioral therapy in an attempt to modify the behavior of the patient and determine the reasons for dependency.
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For the most part, cocaine abuse is not an act unto itself. Addiction is almost always triggered by an underlying cause.
Researchers have been experimenting with a cocaine vaccine that will drastically cut the danger of relapse. However, the early experiments only yielded less than stellar results. For instance, less than 40% of those who received the injection have been successful. The catch is that the effect only lasts for two months.
The success of the cocaine addiction treatment will largely depend on the type of program and the individual concerned. There’s no universal treatment to cocaine abuse because each individual varies in terms of their response. However, aftercare programs are crucial to preventing a relapse. The relapse rate for drug addiction in the United States is somewhere between 40-60%. The first year after the rehab program is crucial. Aftercare programs include the 12-step program by the Narcotics Anonymous, community-led or religious-led support groups, and sober living houses, which will help with the transition for the cocaine dependent.