Cocaine Addiction Information

Cocaine is known as a common "club drug." It's extremely popular for the euphoric effects it causes in users. It also gives a person lots of energy. This is why teens and young adults favor using cocaine in nightclubs, concerts, bars and parties. Drugs like Ecstasy, GHB, ketamine, and methamphetamine are popular for the same reason.

What makes cocaine so dangerous, and how did it become such a widely-used drug?

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What is Cocaine, and Where Did It Come From?

Coke is an addictive stimulant drug derived from the coca plant. The coca plant is native to South America, where the leaves are chewed. Although the plant itself contains vital nutrients for the people living in South America, it's predominantly used for the stimulant effects. It is also an appetite suppressant. Natives in many countries in South America have used this plant with few issues until it became the white, powdery substance we know today.

Cocaine as we know it was first isolated until the mid-1800s in Germany.

It can be used for various medical purposes such as an anesthetic, but it is now an illegal drug. It is often found in powder form. As a street drug, it is white and crystalline. Some drug dealers will cut the cocaine with powders such as talc and cornstarch to make more money off the product. Other times, they can dangerously mix the drugs with other stimulant drugs.

Today, it's still used as a popular recreational drug, and in the 1990s and 2000s, experienced a resurgence in use. The biggest demand is here in the United States. Teens and young adults with money to spend on luxury items are more likely to purchase and consume cocaine. Processed cocaine is grown and made in South America still. The countries of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru are the main exporters to the US. Most cocaine has to come through Mexico or the Caribbean in order to get to the US from South America. Many smugglers take advantage of poor "mules" or couriers that take small, packaged quantities over the US border.

Popular Nicknames for Cocaine

Cocaine is known by many names on the street. These include:

  • Blow
  • Big Flakes
  • Bump
  • Coke
  • Cola
  • Crack
  • Dust
  • Flake
  • Line
  • Nose Candy
  • Rail
  • Rock
  • Snow
  • Stash
  • Yeyo

It's important to know all names for the drug, especially if you're dealing with teens. They may try to use new or different words to hide their addiction from you. Over the decades, popular names for drugs can change. When in doubt, do an internet search of the term.

Cocaine VS Crack - What's the Difference?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), "Another popular method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called ‘freebase cocaine'). The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are inhaled into the lungs. This form of cocaine is called Crack, which refers to the crackling sound of the rock as it's heated."

Crack cocaine is also referred to as:

  • Black Rock
  • Cookies
  • Dice
  • Grit
  • Hail
  • Jelly Beans
  • Nuggets
  • Rocks

Crack cocaine has become more popular over time when compared to powdered coke. NARCONON states, "Between 1992 and 2000, crack cocaine grew in dominance and powder cocaine shrank. Arrests at a federal level for powder cocaine dropped from 6,671 in 1992 to 5,241 in 2000, while those for crack cocaine more than doubled to 4,706."

Why is crack cocaine a more popular drug than powdered coke? Crack has an even shorter "high" duration. The cravings, once the drug is no longer working, are very strong. This means greater and greater amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the initial high. Users often binge all day (or over multiple days) until the drug runs out. The following "crash" is difficult and debilitating. The cravings can turn into a long-term addiction.

Why is Cocaine So Addictive?

Cocaine and crack cocaine works by changing the way your brain communicates. Dopamine is a chemical that gives people the feeling of pleasure. They can get this from eating desirable food, exercise, mediation, playing video games and doing drugs like coke. After repeated use, the drug begins to affect how the brain's dopamine system works. The more the cocaine is used, the more difficult it is to achieve the "euphoria." Therefore, more of the drug is needed. This leads to higher tolerances of the drug.

The "high" experienced is followed by an uncomfortable "crash" that can leave a person with abnormally low dopamine levels. What ensues is depression, anxiety, and a strong craving for more cocaine. Withdrawal symptoms also include increased appetite, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and slow thinking.

Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is highly sought after by people for its stimulant effects. It gives users the feeling of happiness and energy. However, the negative effects include:

  • Irritability
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Hypersensitivity to light, touch and sound
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal or homicidal tendencies

Long term effects of cocaine are debilitating. If a user was snorting the drug, they may experience loss of smell, nosebleeds, runny noses and issues swallowing. If the cocaine was swallowed, it could lead to bowel issues such as decay and reduced movement (motility). Needle injection is perhaps the most dangerous. Needle sharing can lead to HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases.

Since cocaine causes suppressed appetite, addicts can become malnourished and are at increased risks for movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Pushing addiction too far can lead to overdose. Can a person overdose on coke? According to NIDA: absolutely. "Yes, a person can overdose on cocaine. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death. An overdose can be intentional or unintentional. Many people who use cocaine also drink alcohol at the same time, which is particularly risky and can lead to overdose. Others mix cocaine with heroin, another dangerous—and deadly—combination. Some of the most frequent and severe health consequences leading to overdose involve the heart and blood vessels, including irregular heart rhythm and heart attacks, and the nerves, including seizures and strokes."

Overdoses are usually treated by first responders (EMTs). Since the likely symptoms of overdose are heart attack, stroke, and seizure, they will do their best to restore blood flow and stop the seizure.

Not all symptoms of addiction are physical though. Here are some other signs of someone dealing addiction:

  • Being secretive
  • Losing interest in things they once loved
  • Defensiveness
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Borrowing money; getting into debt
  • Breaking up with their significant other
  • Not interested in personal hygiene
  • Unexplained leaves of absence
  • Job loss; problems at work
  • Easily agitated

Is cocaine addiction treatable? Thankfully, there are wonderful therapies that exist to help a drug addict overcome their dependence.

Therapies for Cocaine Addicts

Breaking the cycle of addiction is crucial to sobriety. Cocaine addiction is very treatable. A detox program is essential, followed by one or a combination of the following:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

This helps addicts overcome their coke abuse by teaching them to avoid triggers that lead to a pattern of addiction. The negative thoughts and behaviors that lead to drug abuse are identified and managed. Cravings are avoided by keeping away from those triggers. Stress coping skills and thoughtfulness help patients avoid destructive behaviors.

Contingency management

This is done by drug addiction centers, especially those that are state funded. Contingency management provides monetary or prize incentives to encourage addicts to stay away from drugs. In return for regular, clean drug tests, patients receive their tangible incentives. While this may seem like an overly simplistic solution, well-structured programs are very successful.

Therapeutic communities

These are sober communities that limit the amount of triggers an addiction patient may face. It's a long-term solution for those with drug addictions, but it is also useful for people who suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders. Patients and therapists often live in the same community for around-the-clock support.

There are no government-approved medications available for cocaine addicts at this time. But some researchers are testing disulfiram, a drug used to treat alcoholism. Disulfiram prevents the breakdown of dopamine, but the excess dopamine can cause unpleasant sensations such as anxiety, elevated blood pressure, and restlessness. There is hope that there will be some drug therapies for cocaine dependence in the future.

Trends in Cocaine Use in the United States

According to NIDA, "Data from the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report showed that cocaine was involved in 505,224 of the nearly 1.3 million visits to emergency departments for drug misuse or abuse. This translates to over one in three drug misuse or abuse-related emergency department visits (40 percent) that involved cocaine."

Over time, new "club drugs" have hit the market. Cocaine is no longer as popular as it once was. Drugs like methamphetamine and Ecstasy are very popular. Prescription stimulants such as those used for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) have become widely abused as a "study drug" on college campuses and in high schools all over the United States.

Even though cocaine is trendy among the American youth, an addict can come in any age or gender. The truth is: it's highly addictive. The chemistry behind how cocaine (and many other drugs) affect the brain explains why people who start using it can't stop whenever they want to.

Next Steps: What to Do if You're Addicted to Cocaine

AspenRidge's North facility is ready to help you get started on finding the right treatment for your cocaine addiction. Our programs offer you a variety of flexible options to get you back on track. Through a combination of outpatient and inpatient care, your life doesn't have to come to a sudden halt.

Coke addiction can lead to deadly consequences. Our experienced, licensed team will get you the therapies you need to treat your addiction and any other co-occurring disorder you may be dealing with.