Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the coca plant found in South America. Those who use the drug are often overly engaged, highly energetic and chatty – or morose, hostile and aggressive. The physical effects are powerful in the body, and abuse of the drug can lead to serious mental and physical disorders.

Once called a designer drug due to the high rates of abuse of the substance among the upper class, it can now be found in use among a wide variety of groups. Some snort it, some shoot it, and some turn it into a rock form called crack and smoke it.

Though it is commonly believed that cocaine is past its heyday in the United States, the fact is that the substance is still responsible for high rates of abuse, addiction and overdose across the country. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports the following statistics regarding the usage of the drug in 2012:

  • 14.5 percent of those over the age of 12 reported using the drug at least once in their lives
  • 4.6 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 25 say they used the drug in the last year
  • 3.5 percent of people over the age of 12 report using crack cocaine at least once in their lives

Additionally, NIDA cites a National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) statistic that found that there were an estimated 1.9 million cocaine users in the US in 2008; about 359,000 of those primarily used crack.

Cocaine abuse is statistically significant in the United States and contributes to the deaths of thousands of people each year. If your loved one is living with an active cocaine abuse or dependence problem, you can be the impetus for change they’re waiting for. Contact us at Black Bear Lodge today and learn more about our intensive rehabilitation program that can help your loved one get back on track.

Triggering the Reward System

Cocaine creates a high in the user by triggering the pleasure pathway in the brain, releasing large amounts of dopamine and blocking the reuptake of this chemical, which causes it to build up and create a sense of euphoria. This feeling can be addictive. Unfortunately, it’s a feeling that gets more and more difficult to achieve. Over time, users take more and more of the drug in an effort to recapture that same intensity of feeling, only to develop a physical dependence in addition to the psychological cravings along the way.

Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine

Numerous studies have indicated that use of cocaine during pregnancy can cause serious harm to the fetus, including:

  • Miscarriage
  • Low birth weight
  • Withdrawal symptoms at birth
  • Early developmental issues

A study published in the journal Pediatrics took this research a step further and found that adolescents who were exposed to cocaine in the womb had an increased risk of developmental issues during the teen years as compared to their peers.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

What a person acts like while under the influence will vary according to a number of factors including:

  • The length of time spent actively abusing cocaine
  • The length of the binge
  • Other drugs of abuse frequently used
  • Co-occurring mental health issues

Though your loved one may be chatty and engaging or surly and aloof, there are a number of signs of an active addiction that can indicate the need for treatment. These include:

  • Possession of paraphernalia used for carrying or ingesting cocaine (e.g., rings or lockets with white compartments that have white residue, needles, etc.)
  • Lying about using the drug, frequency of use or amount used
  • Stealing money to pay for cocaine
  • Experiencing negative consequences at work due to use of cocaine
  • Suffering from mood swings that include depression, hostility, anxiety, and euphoria

Unfortunately, cocaine abusers and addicts can inadvertently put their lives in danger and threaten the safety of those around them by making poor choices under the influence or in pursuit of more cocaine. Getting behind the wheel, having unprotected sex, keeping drugs in a house with children, being high when responsible for the safety of others – these are just a few incidents that are red flags for an addiction that requires immediate intervention and treatment.

Slang Terms for Cocaine+

Terms used to refer to cocaine on the street vary according to region and time period. Some current names for cocaine include:

  • Coke
  • Blow
  • Coca
  • Snow
  • Flake

Health Risks of Cocaine Abuse

When someone regularly introduces cocaine into their system, a number of health problems become a concern. These can be acute, occurring while the person is still under the influence of the drug or slowly build over time due to regular use.

Health problems commonly caused by the abuse of cocaine include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues, including stomach pain and nausea
  • Malnutrition due to decreased appetite
  • Increased risk of HIV due to sharing needles or having unprotected sex with an infected person
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Sudden death

Additionally, the method of ingestion can bring with it a host of unique health problems. For example, those who inject the drug have a higher risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C or developing allergic reactions. Swallowing the drug can lead to bowel gangrene caused by lessened blood flow.

Snorting the drug can cause:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Hoarse throat
  • Constant runny nose
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lost sense of smell

Cocaethylene+

When cocaine and alcohol are taken together, the two substances combine to create a new toxin called cocaethylene. This drug has a longer half-life than cocaine, which means it stays in the system longer. However, it brings with it an 18- to 25-fold increase in risk of sudden death as compared to use of cocaine alone and can lead to severe damage to body organs including the liver.

Mental Health Issues Caused by Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

When a cocaine user ingests the drug in a binge or regularly takes more and more over time, the result can be the development of a number of mental health symptoms. These can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Hostility
  • Restlessness
  • Aggression or violence
  • Severe paranoia

In many cases, these issues pass with the drug as it leaves the body. However, when chronic abuse is an issue, they can be long lasting and require treatment to overcome. In the case of underlying mental health issues that are exacerbated by use of cocaine, Dual Diagnosis treatment is recommended.

Are All Methods of Cocaine Ingestion Deadly?+

Yes. Though each method of cocaine ingestion produces a different intensity of high in a different amount of time, all introduce toxic levels of cocaine into the bloodstream and can cause an acute cardiac event that can end in seizure, coma and death.

Treatment for Cocaine Abuse and Dependence

The National Institutes of Health report that about 13 percent of those who seek drug addiction treatment do so because they are dependent upon cocaine or crack. Like all drugs of abuse, an intensive and comprehensive treatment plan can help the addicted person to stop using the drug immediately and begin learning how to live life by making positive choices that promote wellness and health.

Treatment specifics will vary from patient to patient, but in general, cocaine addiction treatment may include:

  • Medication. There are no drugs specifically approved for the treatment of cocaine addiction and abuse, but there are a number of medications that are in research and have been shown to be effective to diminish cravings in early trials.
  • Behavioral therapies. A number of therapies have been proven to be effective choices in addressing cocaine abuse and addiction. Motivational incentives, specifically, have been proven beneficial in helping patients to remain dedicated to sobriety and continue to engage in therapy long enough to make progress and implement real change in their lives.
  • Group support. 12-Step groups and other support groups can help those in recovery to find the peer support they need to stay focused on their sobriety and remain committed to treatment principles on a day-to-day basis.
  • Additional treatment. Family therapy to improve relationships at home, alternative treatments that amplify recovery progress, therapies that address co-occurring mental health disorders, holistic treatments that improve stress relief, practical help for day-to-day challenges like legal assistance or updating job skills – all this and more can put the finishing touches on a treatment program that is truly comprehensive in preparing the patient to re-enter the real world.

Aftercare options should follow a comprehensive cocaine addiction treatment program. This should be a continuation of the therapies and treatments that worked during rehab and allow the patient to remain active in recovery for as long as necessary to avoid relapse.

Hope for the Future

A number of studies come out every year showing progress on numerous fronts when it comes to cocaine addiction treatment. Some recent studies are even working toward the creation of vaccines effective for use in cocaine addiction treatment. Those who seek help at a reputed, high-end addiction treatment program like Black Bear Lodge are sure to find the comprehensive, evidence-based treatment necessary to heal.

If your family member is struggling due to cocaine dependence alone or in combination with other substances, we’re here to help. Call us today.