Cocaine is one of the most powerful and addictive stimulant drugs on the market today. Abusing it, however, often leads to the development of tolerance, dependence, and eventual addiction.
A stimulant drug, cocaine is produced from the leaves of the widespread coca plan that typically grows in some parts of the globe, particularly in South America. Even though health care providers sometimes use for medical reasons - such as a local anesthesia during some surgical procedures - people who take it recreationally are committing a crime. This is because the recreational use of the drug is currently illegal.
On the streets, cocaine is available in the form of a fine and white crystalline powder. Often, street dealers mix it with flour, talcum powder, and cornstarch to increase their profit margins. Some of them also lace it with other drugs, including synthetic opioids like fentanyl and the stimulant drug amphetamine. This drug lacing is highly risky because users of the combination substances often do not realize that what they are taking contains dangerous addictive and potentially harmful substances.
In fact, there has been a rise in the numbers of drug overdoses that turned out to be fatal among people who use cocaine. This is due to the rise in the lacing of the drug with other intoxicating substances. That said, on the streets, the drug is also known as blow, coke, crack, rock, and snow.
But how do people take this drug? Whether or not you are addicted to it and you attempt to use it, you will typically snort the powder through your nose. You may also rub the powder straight into your gums. Alternatively, you could dissolve the powder before injecting the resulting liquid directly into your bloodstream. In case you inject a combination of heroin and cocaine, you will be speedballing - because this drug combination is known as a speedball.
Another popular route of administration involves smoking the drug after it has been processed into a rock crystal that is known as freebase cocaine. You will then heat the crystal to produce vapors that you inhale into your lungs. This type of the drug is known as crack due to the crackling sound that the rocks make when they are heated. Alternatively, you could smoke crack after having sprinkled it on tobacco or marijuana - in the same way that people would smoke a regular cigarette.
As a cocaine user, you will typically take this drug in binges. This means that you will use it repeatedly over a short period of time but at increasingly higher doses. This would enable you maintain its intoxicating effects over the long term.
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When you take cocaine, it will increase the levels of dopamine - a natural chemical messenger - in the circuits of the brain that are linked to the reward system and the control of movement.
Dopamine is a naturally chemical that normally recycles back into the cells that released it thereby shutting off the signals between nerve cells. After using this drug, however, it will prevent this recycling process.
As a direct result, dopamine will build up in large amounts in the space in between nerve cells. By so doing, the drug will effectively stop the normal communication between these cells.
Due to this dopamine flood within the reward circuit of the brain, you will start experiencing a reinforcement of drug taking behavior. This is because the circuit will eventually adapt to the dopamine excess resulting from drug use. As a result, it will eventually become less sensitive.
When this happens, you would be said to have developed tolerance to cocaine. As a result, you will have to take it in higher doses or more frequently than you used to before you can experience the pleasurable effects that you have come to associate with the substance.
Over time, tolerance will be replaced by physical and psychological dependence. Once you are dependent on the drug, you will not be able to go for long without using it. This is because if you do not take your normal dose of the substance or completely stop using it, you will experience adverse withdrawal symptoms.
Like any other substance of abuse, cocaine causes a wide range of negative effects. These can occur both in the short as well as in the short term. Some of the typical effects that you can expect include:
When you use cocaine, its effects will appear almost immediately before disappearing after a couple of minutes to around a hour. The duration of these effects as well as their intensity will largely depend on the route of administration of the drug.
To this end, smoking or injecting the substance will produce stronger and quicker effects but they will also last in the short term. This is in comparison to snorting the drug. On the other hand, when you snort it, the drug will produce effects that last anywhere from a quarter to half a hour. Smoking the drug, on the other hand, will produce effects that last between 5 and 10 minutes.
Cocaine is like any other drug in the sense that using it repeatedly will cause you to develop long term changes to the reward circuit of your brain, as well as other brain systems. Due to these changes, you will develop addiction or a substance use disorder.
After taking this drug often for a given period of time, your brain's reward circuit will eventually adapt to the excess dopamine that the substance produces. As a result, the system will become less sensitive to this natural chemical messenger.
As a direct result, you will find yourself taking the drug in higher and more frequent doses than you used to. If you fail to do this, you will not be able to experience its pleasurable effects. Instead, you will develop withdrawal symptoms - most of which are so painful and uncomfortable that you will eventually have to take cocaine to manage them (unless you are enrolled in a medically supervised detoxification program). These withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:
As a powerful stimulant, cocaine can be quite addictive. This is due to the relatively short but still intense effects that the drug causes. Irrespective of the ways in which you abuse this substance, the following are some of the signs and symptoms that you may start displaying once you have developed cocaine addiction:
It is also possible to overdose on this drug. An overdose will occur when you take it in excess - to such an extent that it produced severe adverse effects, death, or life-threatening symptoms. The overdose might either be accidental or intentional.
It is possible to die due to an overdose either the first time you take the drug or unexpectedly thereafter. In fact, most of the people who abuse this drug also drink alcohol simultaneously. This is a risky drug combination and it could compound the risk of overdose. Other risk drug combinations involve mixing the substance with heroin or any other opioid.
The following are some of the typical signs and symptoms of a cocaine overdose:
At the moment, no specific medication is available to reverse this type of drug overdose. Typically, management will involve supportive care - but it will largely depend on the symptoms that you present.
For example, an overdose involving cocaine will typically lead to seizure, stroke, or a heart attack. For this reason, emergency rooms and first responders will typically attempt treating this problem by taking care of these conditions with the goal of:
When you first enroll in an addiction treatment program to manage your cocaine abuse and dependence, you will be required to undergo a thorough evaluation and assessment. The goal of this process would be to determine the level, nature, extent, and severity of your cocaine addiction. It will also uncover any other co-occurring medical and mental health disorders that you may also be struggling with.
The results from this original assessment will be used to create a highly personalized and customized addiction treatment plan based on your unique needs, requirements, and preferences.
After that, the recovery facility will take you through a medically supervised detoxification process. The goal would be to manage any withdrawal symptoms and cocaine cravings that you develop when you stop abusing the drug. Detox can also ensure that you overcome your physical dependence on this harmful substance.
Once you have achieved freedom from your physical dependence and you are not presenting with any other drug cravings or withdrawal symptoms, the addiction treatment program will provide you with counseling and therapy options. They will do so on either an outpatient or an inpatient basis, depending on many factors.
These options might include behavioral therapy services, such as:
Although there are currently no medications that have been approved for use in the management and treatment of cocaine addiction, researchers have already been testing some options that have proved effective in the rehabilitation of addicts who are struggling with other types of substance use disorders. These options include:
In case you have been struggling with a substance use disorder involving this drug, it is recommended that you seek addiction treatment and rehabilitation services from a qualified, licensed, and accredited rehab center. Even though the recovery process might take some time and even prove to be difficult, you can be sure that this is the only safe way that you will be able to overcome your cocaine addiction.