Cocaine Addiction Information
Cocaine is known as a common "club drug” and is one of the most notorious addictive substances on the street today. It's extremely popular for the euphoria it can cause in users as well as its intensely energizing effects.
But using cocaine doesn’t just come with the glitz and glamor of nightlife. It can also be incredibly hazardous when abused either alone or alongside other drugs like alcohol or prescription opioids.Get Help Today
Quick Links to Cocaine Information
Coke is far more addictive than most people realize.
It doesn’t take long for a casual use habit to grow into a full-blown and uncontrollable addiction. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that even modest cocaine use can cause observable brain changes that could contribute to addiction.
And once that happens, getting off of cocaine can end up being a lifelong struggle without the right kind of help.
But what actually makes cocaine so dangerous? How did it become such a widely-used drug today? What are the signs of a coke addiction to be on the lookout for and how does it impact an individual’s health and wellbeing?
And finally, how can you effectively treat a cocaine addiction and reduce the likelihood of relapsing further down the line?
We’ll take a look at all these questions and more in this definitive guide to cocaine addiction.
What Is Cocaine, and Where Did It Come From?
Coke typically comes in either the form of a white powder or as a small rock. It is usually snorted, rubbed along the gums, or dissolved and injected in its powdered form and smoked in its rock form. However, the chemical compound used in its manufacturing actually occurs naturally within the leaves of the coca plant.
This plant is native to South America, and for centuries, the native people here chewed the leaves for both their nutritional value as well as the minor stimulant effects that they produced. It is also a mild appetite suppressant. Natives in many countries in South America have used this plant with few issues. It wasn’t until the drug was manufactured into the white, powdery substance we know today that the problems with abuse, addiction, and trafficking began.
Today, it's still used as a popular recreational drug, and in the 1990s and 2000s, it 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.
In addition to the inherent toxicity of the drug on its own, cocaine is also particularly dangerous on the streets because dealers tend to mix the powder with other substances. Fillers like thiamin and sodium carbonate as well as other harmful additives like strychnine, arsenic, and even deadly opioids like fentanyl can all show up in street cocaine.
Popular Nicknames for Cocaine
Cocaine is known by many names on the street. These include:
- Big Flakes
- Nose Candy
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
- Jelly Beans
Crack cocaine carries a heavier stigma than powdered cocaine.
In fact, the US government even prosecuted the two drugs differently, placing a 100-to-1 ratio between powdered cocaine and crack weight guidelines for mandatory minimum sentencing. A 5-year minimum penalty, for example, would be designated for 500g of powdered cocaine while just 5g of crack cocaine was enough to merit the same penalty.
However, studies have shown that both drugs are equally powerful – it just depends on how quickly it gets to the brain.
And while there isn’t any evidence that crack is inherently “worse” than cocaine, smoking rather than snorting the drug can end up making it more likely to be addictive.
For instance, when cocaine powder is snorted, it has to be absorbed by the blood vessels in the nose to get into the bloodstream. From there, it travels to the heart and is then pumped through the lungs. After that, it’s pushed back to the heart and out to the organs like the brain (where it starts producing the psychoactive effects that abusers are after).
When cocaine is smoked in the form of crack, however, it goes straight from the lungs to the heart and then the brain – meaning its effects are typically felt much faster.
And the faster the brain associates an action with powerful pleasurable effects, the more likely it is to start craving the drug uncontrollably.
Cocaine as we know it was first isolated from the coca leaf in the mid-1800s in Germany.
Medical professionals of the time lauded the compound as a “wonder drug” and used it to treat everything from a “lack of vitality” and fatigue to hemorrhoids and indigestion. Even such highly praised figures as Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychiatry, and even Thomas Edison used cocaine on a regular basis.
One of the main medical uses of cocaine was as a local anesthetic. Surgeries and operations didn’t have the benefit of modern anesthesia at the time, and so drugs that could numb the area (anesthetics) were highly valuable at the time.
One surgery in particular that helped demonstrate cocaine’s effectiveness was cataract surgery. This operation, in particular, was quite difficult and painful since the anesthesia of the time often came with a host of troublesome side effects like vomiting. And that made it impossible to sedate patients during the surgery, which could be quite painful.
However, ophthalmologist Carl Koller found that soaking the eye in a cocaine solution kept the eye numb and (equally importantly) kept the patients from flinching during the operation.
After patients began dying from cocaine overdoses and the public started recognizing the addictive nature of the drug, its sale and use was outlawed entirely by the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914.
What Is Coke Cut With?
Despite peaking in 2007, the purity of street cocaine is again on the rise. According to the DEA’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, the average purity in 2016 was around 56.4% with the price per pure gram at $165 (compared to 47% and $220 in 2014).
And while purity is on the rise, drug dealers continue to mix cocaine with a variety of other substances to increase profit, boost potency, and get users even more hooked than before.
According to Verywell Mind, there are three types of substances in particular that cocaine is often cut with: psychoactive ingredients, cheaper anesthetics, and fillers.
Psychoactive Ingredients – Many dealers will cut their batch of cocaine with a number of ingredients that either intensify the psychoactive effects of the drug or add new ones entirely. These can end up giving abusers a more powerful high while also increasing their risk of growing addicted.
On top of that, these additional psychoactive substances can cause even more problems with vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Plus, mixing them with cocaine can also lead to cross addictions as well, making it even harder to finally get clean.
Some of the most common added psychoactive ingredients include:
Cheaper Anesthetics – As a local anesthetic, cocaine tends to numb the mouth and gums when rubbed against them. This is often a way that people test just how pure the batch is they’re aiming to purchase.
However, dealers today are mixing coke with a variety of cheaper local anesthetics to help simulate this numbness and, thus, trick buyers into thinking their batch is purer than it really is.
And while these compounds don’t carry the same high of cocaine, they can certainly end up causing some additional damage to the body’s overall health.
Anesthetics you might find in street cocaine are:
Fillers – One of the main reasons for mixing cocaine with other substances is to increase the amount of product a dealer has on hand, thus boosting profits. As a result, dealers tend to add a massive amount of filler substances to get the most out of how much cocaine they have.
In some cases, these fillers are harmless. However, many others can actually cause serious damage to mucous membranes in the nose, the esophagus, or even internal organs – making cocaine even more dangerous.
The most popular fillers found in much of today’s cocaine include:
Signs of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is highly sought after by people for its stimulant effects. It gives users the feeling of extreme happiness and energy. Often this can cause feelings of being over-excited which can lead to talking and rambling at a hundred miles a minute.
It’s these sensations of boundless energy and euphoria that often cause people to use the drug in highly social settings like nightclubs and parties.
And while the increased energy and euphoria of the drug is the main draw for substance abusers, cocaine also comes with a host of uncomfortable short-term side effects as well. According to MedlinePlus, some signs of cocaine use to watch out for include:
- Feeling high, excited, talking and rambling, sometimes about bad things happening
- Anxiety, agitation, restlessness, confusion
- Muscle tremors, such as in the face and fingers
- Enlarged pupils that don't get smaller when a light shines into the eyes
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever, sweating
The long-term effects of cocaine are debilitating.
According to NIDA, 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.
Cocaine use is also associated with a higher risk of contracting these diseases even when it isn’t injected. This is because coke tends to hamper immune cell function on its own. And when you combine that with the impaired judgment that often comes with abusing the drug, unsafe sex practices can make it far easier to catch HIV, hepatitis, and other dangerous diseases.
Since cocaine causes suppressed appetite, addicts can also become malnourished and are at increased risks for movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Some users also develop serious neurological effects like intracerebral hemorrhage and “balloon-like bulges in the walls of cerebral blood vessels.”
And the long-term effects of cocaine abuse aren’t just physical either. Many chronic users find that their brain (now structurally changed because of their addiction) is less able to produce pleasure from other natural activities.
Users can also end up developing a sensitization to cocaine – and that can lead to a higher likelihood of feeling the drug’s negative effects (anxiety, convulsions, etc.) with a lower dosage of coke.
Why Is Cocaine So Addictive?
Cocaine and crack cocaine work by changing the way your brain works on a cellular level. And for the most part, it all has to do with a particular chemical called dopamine.
Dopamine is a chemical that gives people the feeling of pleasure. They can get this from eating desirable food, exercising, meditation, playing video games, and doing drugs like coke. After repeated use, the drug begins to affect how the brain's dopamine system works.
On the one hand, drugs like cocaine can release as much as two to ten times the amount of dopamine that “natural” activities can. That’s what causes the overwhelming euphoria that comes with abusing the drug. And as the amount of dopamine associated with an action increases, so too does the cravings to use that drug again.
Added to that, as cocaine is abused more and more often, the body begins to physically change to accommodate its continual presence. These changes make it harder to achieve the euphoric high from the same dose. Users then have to abuse higher amounts to get the same feeling they used to.
This is what’s known as building tolerance.
When someone does decide that they want to stop using cocaine, they’ll often go through symptoms of withdrawal – uncomfortable and even unbearable physical and psychological side effects of quitting. And the higher the tolerance is, the more intense these symptoms will be.
And often addicts will continue to use the drug simply to avoid going through these symptoms, even if they really do want to quit.
Symptoms of Withdrawal from Coke
There are a variety of cocaine withdrawal symptoms to watch out for when someone is addicted to cocaine or crack. Many of them are psychological in nature. But don’t be fooled – the mental effects can actually end up being far more uncomfortable than those that occur in the body alone.
According to Mental Health Daily, some cocaine symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Appetite increase
- Body chills
- Concentration problems
- Crazy dreams
- Mood swings
- Motor impairment
- Muscle aches
- Psychomotor retardation
What Does A Coke Overdose Look Like?
Pushing cocaine abuse 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… 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.
According to MedlinePlus, some of the most noticeable symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:
- Loss of awareness of surroundings
- Loss of urine control
- High body temperature, severe sweating
- High blood pressure, very fast heart rate or irregular heart rhythm
- Bluish color of the skin
- Fast or difficulty breathing
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.
Patients undergoing treatment for a cocaine overdose may receive breathing support from equipment like ventilators, be hooked up to an IV, take medicines to control seizures and blood pressure, and be treated for complications in the heart, brain, muscles, and kidneys.
That being said, there are a few things you can do if you suspect an overdose that can make the likelihood of recovery even higher.
First, if the overdose victim is unconscious and isn’t breathing, call 911 and begin CPR. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you are alone and have immediate access to a phone, you should call 911 before administering CPR. If there are two people available, have one call 911 while the other begins CPR.
Second, if the victim is unconscious but breathing, place them in the recovery position.
Third, continue to monitor the person's vital signs until emergency help arrives. Without compromising their safety, try to determine how much cocaine was taken and when it was first used. This info can be helpful once emergency personnel arrives.
For more detailed information on administering first aid during a drug overdose, have a look at MedlinePlus’s guide here.
Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction
A cocaine abuse problem becomes a full-blown addiction when you or an individual becomes unable to control their coke use.
It’s worth remembering that it’s the compulsive drug-seeking behaviors despite negative consequences that characterize an actual addiction – not just physical tolerance and withdrawals.
And of course, any kind of addiction is an actual disease – not a choice or some sort of moral failing. And getting better means getting professional help along the way.
But before that, you need to be able to first identify the signs of an addiction to cocaine.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a coke abuse problem, have a look at this short online cocaine addiction quiz. It’s a quick and easy way to tell if a casual use habit has turned into something far more dangerous like an actual addiction.
There are a few other telltale signs of a loved one struggling with an addiction also. These include:
- Being secretive
- Losing interest in things they once loved
- 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
Therapies for Cocaine Addicts
Is cocaine addiction treatable? It sure is.
Thankfully, there are a number of wonderful therapies that exist to help a drug addict overcome their dependence.
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.
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.
These are sober communities that limit the number 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 typically 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 when recovering from an addiction to coke.
On top of that, our empirical-based programs are built on proven methods to help you overcome your addiction and stay clean for the long run.
So, if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to cocaine, the absolute best way of recovering is getting professional help. And at AspenRidge North, we offer the highest quality treatment in the area.
Call us today to start your recovery.