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Cocaine is a drug that a lot of people know. It’s a famous name and well-known from TV shows, school system drug education programs, and pop culture. Everybody knows that cocaine is an illicit drug that some people use and get addicted to. But how much do people really know about cocaine: its origins, its effects, and how addiction is treated?

At Vertava Health Ohio, our goal is to offer specialized addiction care of the highest quality to all of our patients. In order to achieve this goal, we also need to provide reliable and clear information about substances and substance use disorders.

Addiction is a very complicated thing for anybody to experience. Understanding cocaine use and addiction is just the first step towards getting treatment and building a better substance-free future. Here, find a one-stop comprehensive guide to cocaine use, addiction, and treatment.

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What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is obviously a very big name in discussions about drugs. It’s well-known and sometimes portrayed as a drug for the higher classes: the white-collar demographic. Stereotypes of anxiety-ridden workers on the New York Stock Exchange prevail in modern TV shows and movies. In pop culture, it has almost become a cliché to understand cocaine in terms of social class.

However, the truth is that while there may be some accuracy in the stereotype of cocaine as a higher class drug, anybody can experience cocaine addiction, even if they are not from a high social class or a white-collar worker.

Cocaine is typically identified and seen as a white, very fine-milled powder. Another variant of cocaine, crack cocaine, can also look like small white, yellow, or rose-colored rocks of a variety of unusual shapes. Crack cocaine is a purer form of cocaine and also one of the riskiest ways to use cocaine due to its potency. Crack cocaine is typically smoked and then the fumes are inhaled to produce a high.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug. It is very potent and can be highly addictive due to the effects and feelings that it creates in a person. After experiencing such powerful or euphoric effects, a user can begin to crave more of the feeling, thus leading to more cocaine use.

A stimulant is a particular classification for a group of drugs. Both illicit and prescription drugs can fall into this category. It just so happens that cocaine turns out to be an illicit stimulant. Stimulants are drugs that often target the central nervous system, boosting the processes in your body. They are known for the boost of energy or increased focus that they provide the user.

For example, one well-known stimulant is the prescription drug Adderall®. Adderall is a drug that is prescribed to help those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When used properly, this drug can greatly improve the quality of life for many people.

Stimulants by themselves are not necessarily dangerous just because of the name “stimulant.” The bad reputation stimulants get is often due to the misuse and addiction that occurs with these substances. Adderall, for example, is often misused in academic circles, where students will take some of their friend’s medication in order to stay up all night studying or cramming homework at the last minute. Adderall, like other stimulants, can boost awareness, focus, and concentration, making it a sought-after drug in academics.

Similarly, in the short-term cocaine can provide users a boost of energy and for some, increase awareness. Some people may use cocaine in an effort to boost their mood or help them complete tasks. However, in the long-term, cocaine’s side effects become increasingly negative and can cause harm to the user.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cocaine as a Schedule II drug. This means that it has a high potential for misuse and addiction. Other drugs in this category include methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

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Side Effects Of Using Cocaine

The effects of cocaine use will vary depending on how long a person has been using the drug. In the long-term, the effects of cocaine use are much more complex and pose a real danger to the user’s health. Meanwhile, the short-term effects of cocaine are considerably easier to the stomach and may not seem too dangerous to some users.

Short-term effects include

  • Euphoria
  • Boost in energy
  • Increased mental alertness
  • Talkativeness
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch

Long-term effects include

  • Building a tolerance to the drug
    • With a higher tolerance, a user will need to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same desirable effects
  • Bingeing cocaine
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Loss of smell and other nasal damage (when snorted)
  • Lung damage or infection (when smoked)
  • Organ damage

History Of Cocaine

Where did cocaine come from and how did it become so prominent today? Well as it turns out, like many other notable substances of the modern-day, cocaine’s history starts pretty far back.

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant, which is a plant native to the South American continent. In approximately 3000 B.C., native populations in the region used coca leaves. At the time, the Incan civilization lived in and among the Andes mountain range in South America. They chewed coca leaves in order to help speed up their breathing and heart rates. The Incas harnessed the natural stimulant properties of coca to help combat the thinner air in their mountainous home. By chewing coca leaves, they would feel the extra boost of energy that cocaine offered, as well as the added boost of a higher heart rate. To this day, cocaine retains these side effects, elevating blood pressure and heart rates of its users.

Other indigenous groups, such as the Native Peruvians, only chewed coca leaves during religious ceremonies. However, the use of coca leaves would eventually pivot to more of an incentive and recreational use once the Spanish arrived in Peru.

In 1532, Spanish forces invaded Peru and used indigenous labor to work in silver mines in the region. Coca leaves were supplied to the captive laborers as a means of control. The addictive properties of cocaine were not really widely known or recognized at the time. However, to the workers, cocaine was used as a way of asserting power and control, since the Spanish were now the ones in control of the flow and supply of the coca leaves.

Cocaine was not extracted from coca leaves until several hundred years after the Spanish invaded Peru. In 1859, a German chemist named Albert Niemann was the first to isolate cocaine from the coca leaves. For several decades, research and interest in cocaine were lacking until it began to gain traction in the 1880s in the medical community.

By 1884, famous—if not controversial—neurologist Sigmund Freud published articles about the wondrous properties of the substance and claimed that it was a cure for depression or impotence. Freud’s publication came under a lot of heavy scrutiny, not unlike most of this other work. Then and now, Freud’s writings and comments about cocaine are generally considered more biased and personal rather than scientific. His comments were often taken with a grain of salt on this matter. Further testifying against his supposed scientific comments was his regular, recreational use of cocaine and his recommendation of cocaine for general use. It would seem that Freud did not initially understand the addictive properties and possibilities that accompany cocaine use. For many years, Freud struggled with cocaine misuse.

In 1886, coca leaves were added as an ingredient to the Coca-Cola® drink. The side effects of cocaine, including euphoric feelings and higher energy, skyrocketed Coca-Cola to wild success.

For a long time, cocaine was widely used in many areas of American society. The addictive properties of it remained overlooked for quite a while. But as is the case with many things, with enough time, the dangerous and side effects of cocaine, addiction, and dependency became clear. In 1903, growing public pressure led to the removal of coca as an ingredient from Coca-Cola. By 1922, the drug was entirely banned in the United States.

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction include dilated pupils, mood instability, erratic behavior, and tolerance to the drug. Cocaine addiction increases the risk of overdose and long-term health effects.

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that is used for its ability to produce euphoria. Because the high from cocaine is short-lived, many people take it repeatedly, which increases the risk of adverse health effects, addiction, and overdose.

Signs And Symptoms Of Cocaine Addiction

People can become addicted to cocaine quickly, even after their first time using it. The brief high is followed by a craving for more. Large doses of cocaine can cause depression and fatigue once the drug wears off, which can also prompt a person to take more. This leads to a behavior called bingeing, where a user will take larger amounts of the drug in a shorter period of time to retain a high.

There are several signs that point to the possibility of cocaine use. These signs can include

  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness
  • Erratic behavior
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Muscle twitches or tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • High body temperature and blood pressure

If a person has developed a cocaine addiction, they may exhibit signs of addiction that can include

  • Excessive time spent using cocaine
  • Decreased interest in social activities
  • Changes in behavior and mood
  • Poor work performance or job loss
  • Struggles with schoolwork
  • Strained relationships with family and sober friends
  • Financial difficulties from buying cocaine
  • An inability to stop or cut back on cocaine use

How Is Cocaine Used?

Cocaine comes in two forms: powder and crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is made by mixing the powder with baking soda or ammonia and heating it until it forms a rock-like substance. Crack cocaine grew out of a need for a cheaper alternative to powder cocaine. Whereas powder cocaine is the more expensive option and thus associated with the higher class, crack cocaine is lower in cost and associated with use in lower classes and among minorities.

Crack cocaine is used through smoking, typically with a glass pipe. The name “crack” is derived from the sound that crack cocaine makes when heated. Crack can be sprinkled as a topping onto marijuana or tobacco before being smoked.

Powdered cocaine is often snorted, but some people may rub it onto their gums or mix it with water and inject it into a vein. Each method of use comes with unique risks beyond the dangers of cocaine use itself. Cocaine can also be combined with heroin to create a unique concoction called a speedball. This mixture can be injected into a vein.

Dangers Of Cocaine Use

Using cocaine can lead to long-term effects on a person’s health. Smoking crack can damage the lungs and is thought to be the most addictive way of using the drug. Rubbing cocaine on the gums or snorting it can eat away at the fragile tissues in the mouth and nose, causing tooth decay and erosion of the nasal cavity.

Cocaine can also alter your brain structure and natural reward system over time. Cocaine works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that is released as a reward for positive actions like eating and exercise. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to cocaine regulating dopamine and becomes less effective at doing it on its own.

These changes in brain structure lead to instability of mood. A person who regularly uses cocaine may experience irritability, panic attacks, psychosis, and hallucinations.

The change in brain structure is also what leads to addiction, a mental craving for cocaine, and the inability to stop using it despite negative effects. Through the cycle of craving and using, addiction can be devastating to a person’s health, relationships, and overall well-being.

Cocaine Tolerance And Sensitization

Many people take higher and higher doses of cocaine the longer they use it because their brain develops a tolerance to its effects. The brain also experiences sensitization, which means that it takes less cocaine to produce unpleasant side effects like anxiety and convulsions.

A person who is addicted to cocaine is likely to continue using it at increasing doses to avoid side effects. This increases the risk of overdose and other adverse consequences.

What Cocaine Overdose Looks Like

Cocaine overdose can occur even the first time someone uses the drug. It can also happen as the result of bingeing—taking overlapping doses to maintain a high.

Symptoms of a cocaine overdose can include

  • High body temperature and sweating
  • Loss of awareness or bodily control
  • Racing or irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing or panting

Mixing cocaine with other stimulant drugs makes overdose more likely. It increases stress on the heart and makes the occurrence of stroke or seizure more likely.

Combining cocaine and depressant drugs like heroin (“speedballing”) is also dangerous. The opposing effects of these drug types make it difficult to tell how much someone can take without overdosing. Since heroin stays in the system longer than cocaine, a person may not realize they’ve taken too much until the cocaine wears off.

Drinking alcohol with cocaine forms a third substance in the liver called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene may increase the sense of euphoria, but also raises heart rate and cocaine concentration in the blood.

While all methods of using cocaine come with the risk of overdose, snorting, and injecting the drug may be the most dangerous. While smoking crack cocaine causes it to enter the lungs before reaching the brain and bloodstream, snorting and injecting take the drug directly to the blood, where the whole dose takes effect at once.

Cocaine Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms are another indication that someone is addicted to cocaine. These occur when someone stops taking the drug because their brain is rapidly attempting to adjust to functioning without the substance.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are the opposite of the cocaine high. Depression, fatigue, increased appetite, and decreased activity may all indicate cocaine withdrawal, especially if a person is usually full of energy.

Because withdrawal is an unpleasant process, many people continue taking cocaine to avoid it. Even though excessive cocaine use can produce similar negative effects, it also produces a sense of euphoria and gives some relief to these symptoms. This traps many people in the cycle of addiction.

Treatment For Cocaine Addiction

At Vertava Health Ohio, we consider each person’s unique experience with addiction and create a treatment plan just for them. Our inpatient rehab program deals with symptoms of addiction as well as the factors in someone’s life that cause or contribute to substance use.

We use evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help individuals change thoughts and behavior that lead to unhealthy habits.

Yoga, hiking and other recreational activities provide a healthy alternative to the stress relief many people seek in cocaine use. Our long-term program gives each person the time and support they need to transition from crippling addiction to lifelong recovery. Our treatment center is ready for you. Make the call today at 888-481-7821.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to stop cocaine addiction?

Stopping cocaine addiction on your own can be difficult and even dangerous if you have been using it for a long time. The best and safest way to stop a cocaine addiction is to seek professional addiction treatment.

At Vertava Health Ohio, our medically-supervised detox program will ensure that you have the safest and most comfortable detox possible. After detox, you will experience top of the line care and programming that is tailored to your needs and concerns. Designed in collaboration with licensed professionals, our program goes beyond a standard 30-day addiction recovery program.

Breaking free from cocaine addiction will not be easy, but our patients are tough. Together, we can overcome cocaine addiction.

How to help someone with cocaine addiction?

It can be tricky and challenging to help a loved one with a cocaine addiction. If your loved one’s addiction is not very severe, it may be possible to head off the addiction early on.

However, addiction is tough to break on your own or even with the support of loved ones. Encouraging your loved one to seek help through a professional addiction treatment program or offering to research good programs for them to enter can be a healthy, positive way of showing support.

What does cocaine addiction feel like?

When you have a cocaine addiction, you might feel as though your life revolves around the times you get to use and seek relief from problems. You might notice that you spend a lot of time thinking about your next fix or where to get more cocaine.

Even if you want to quit, you might discover that you have overwhelming urges to use again, even though you don’t want to.

It can be scary for some people to acknowledge the reality of having an addiction but remember: treatment is available to you. Every day, people recover from addiction. You can too.