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Cocaine (or “coke”) is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. While some health care providers used cocaine decades ago for valid medical purposes – such as local anesthesia for some surgeries – it is now considered an illegal drug.
Besides addiction, other serious problems can result from coke use, including a heart attack or stroke. In addition, the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis exists when injection needles are shared or unsafe sex occurs. Cocaine is even more dangerous when combined with alcohol or other drugs. Yet, as potent and addictive as coke is, recovery is possible beginning with a quality addiction rehab program.1
What Does Cocaine Look Like?
Coke is a white powdery substance, oftentimes deceptively sold by street dealers in a mixture of other white powders, such as cornstarch, talcum powder or flour, in order to increase profits. It may also be mixed with other drugs like amphetamines, which produce a similar reaction in the brain. In addition, coke is sometimes sold in the form of small white rocks called“crack,” which gets its name from the crackling sound of the rock-crystal as it is heated.
Naturally, street drugs are unregulated and their contents should always be viewed as suspect.2
How Is Cocaine Used?
People snort cocaine powder through the nose, rub it into the gums, or dissolve the powder in water and inject it into the bloodstream. Some people mainline a mix of cocaine and heroin; this is called a “speedball.”
Crack is either inhaled (referred to as “freebasing cocaine”) or smoked in a glass pipe.
People who use cocaine often take it in binges (that is, taking the drug repeatedly within a short time at increasingly higher doses) to maintain the euphoric high.1
What Does Cocaine Do?
Classified as a stimulant drug, coke speeds up the whole body. It makes a person feel full of energy, happy and excited. But then, when the “high” wears off, users come down in what’s commonly referred to as a “crash.” Exhaustion sets in, as well as sadness, anger, nervousness and/or paranoia. Shortly after taking coke, users typically have a strong craving to take another “hit” in order to feel right or better. Caution: individuals under the influence of cocaine might do things that make no sense or are dangerous.3
How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?
Cocaine increases levels of the natural chemical messenger dopamine in brain circuits controlling pleasure and movement.
Normally, the brain releases dopamine in these circuits in response to potential rewards, such as when the aroma of good food is smelled. This chemical is then recycled back into the cell that released it, shutting off the signal between nerve cells. Cocaine prevents dopamine from recycling, causing excessive amounts of this chemical to build up between nerve cells. This flood of dopamine ultimately disrupts normal brain communication and produces the characteristic cocaine high.1
How Does Use of Cocaine Lead to Addiction?
As with other drugs, repeated use of cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward circuit and other brain systems, which may lead to addiction. The reward circuit eventually adapts to the excess dopamine brought on by the drug. As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses of cocaine in order to get the same high they originally experienced, while also seeking relief from initial withdrawal symptoms.1
Signs that a Person May Be Abusing Cocaine
Many noticeable side effects may occur when cocaine is used.
Some of these physical health indicators include:
- Dilated pupils
- Raised body temperature and blood pressure
- Faster heartbeat
- Tremors and muscle twitches
Other symptoms may include irritability, lack of pleasure, anxiety, and paranoia. These psychological effects of cocaine are arguably stronger than the physical effects and can wreak havoc on the user.1
Can Users Overdose on Cocaine?
Overdosing on cocaine can certainly happen. If too much of a drug is used, it can cause a toxic reaction resulting in some very harmful symptoms or even death. Overdoses may be intentional or unintentional.
Death from overdose can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Many people who use cocaine also drink alcohol at the same time, which is particularly risky and can promote an overdose. Some users mix cocaine with heroin, which is another dangerous and potentially lethal combination.
Some of the most frequent and severe health consequences resulting from an overdose involve the heart and blood vessels (for example, irregular heart rhythms and heart attacks) and damage to the nervous system (seizures and strokes are two such possibilities).1
What Does Withdrawal from Cocaine Look Like?
Withdrawal symptoms during the detox phase can include sleeplessness, restlessness, anxiety, chills, excessive sweating, depression and, in some severe cases, suicidal thoughts. Quality professional help is suggested during detox and throughout the entire drug addiction rehab process.1
Get Help at Michael’s House
At Michael’s House, we offer a comprehensive, integrated approach to cocaine rehab treatment that includes not only medically monitored detox but also diagnosis and treatment of any co-occurring mental health issues. We offer both outpatient and inpatient/residential drug addiction treatment programs.
If you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine addiction and ready to start a new life without drug dependence, contact Michael’s House today at 760-548-4032 for information on scheduling a visit or making a reservation at our state-of-the-art facility.
3 “What Treatments Are Effective for Cocaine Abusers” National Institute on Drug Abuse. May 2016. Web. Accessed 5 June 2017.
4 “Cocaine Withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. 9 May 2017.Web. Accessed 5 June 2017.