One of the most well known and most dangerous drugs in existence, cocaine causes a sharp high and an equally strong low after the effects of the drug wear off. It can have disastrous consequences in the long term, as well as in the short term. One of the most dangerous factors of cocaine use is the high likelihood that a user will become dependent, building up a tolerance to the drug over time and constantly chasing the rush they first felt when taking it, a high that is unattainable without increasingly larger and more dangerous doses.

Why Do People Use Cocaine?

There are many reasons as to why someone may end up using a particular substance at a given time. Some reasons people use illicit substances are listed below:

  • Peer pressure
  • Troubled home life
  • Curiosity
  • Coping with trauma
  • Escapism
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

To better understand as to why someone may use a substance such as Cocaine, the first question that must be asked is why they use any substance in the first place. There are a great many people who use substances to compensate for some sort of unpleasant, or sometimes even tragic, circumstance in their lives. These factors lead to what is referred to as initial use. 

The first time someone uses a substance, they experience a high like no other. The first time that a dopamine overload is sent to the brain’s pleasure center, the distortion of ordinary pleasures begins. When someone uses drugs, the pleasure center is triggered. Users come back to chase what they felt initially, but no high will ever be as strong as the first. It is as if they’re chasing the wind. 

The more someone uses in order to achieve the high they desire, the more dependent the body becomes on the substance. Eventually, the mind and body cannot function properly without the drug, and this leads a user to experiencing withdrawal. Some symptoms of withdrawal include the following:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Coldness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping

Withdrawal symptoms are very difficult to combat. Functioning properly is immensely difficult when constantly feeling the pull back to drugs or alcohol. Once the body experiences withdrawal, it is a sign that one has become dependent on a particular substance. 

There are also other reasons someone may become to abuse a substance. Sometimes, people are born with genes that are largely responsible for addictive behavior. Presence of biological mental disorders can increase one’s risk of addiction. Not only that, but the environment one grows up in has a huge impact on their developing a substance use disorder. 

Many factors go into someone’s environment. Circumstances that some people have little control over could include both family and economic status. Other factors such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse, parenting problems, and peer pressure have a detrimental amount of influence on someone’s potential addiction. 

One’s development can also influence drug usage. This is where biology and environment work together to influence someone’s decision-making. Granted, development isn’t necessarily everything, as drug addiction can really begin at any age, not just a young age, depending on initial and repeated use, the earlier one uses in their development as an individual, the more likely they are to develop a substance use disorder. 

In the area of development, young people probably have the hardest time. As far as brain chemistry is concerned, they are just scratching the surface on their ability to think critically and analytically. There are areas in their minds that lead their decision making process; this largely connects to judgement and self-control. In summary, because young people’s decision making processes are still developing, it makes them more susceptible to drug use and addiction. 

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine 

Short-term effects of cocaine use include the following:

  • Lessened appetite, or loss of appetite altogether
  • Hallucinations, especially the tactile hallucination of bugs crawling under the skin
  • Anxiety, paranoia, panic and psychosis
  • Depression and disrupted sleep patterns
  • Seizures and uncontrollable convulsions
  • Dilated pupils, nausea, and an increased breathing rate
  • Contracted blood vessels
  • Possibility of sudden death from a high dose—this can and does occur even if it’s the first time a user is taking cocaine.

The immediate effect of cocaine usage is often the high that users so desperately crave: an intense high that lasts only briefly. It’s quickly followed by the opposite: a depression and intense craving for an additional dosage of the drug. Even after the immediate effects of the drug wear off, the short-term consequences that will continue to bother the user once the high has finished.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Over a period of time, the long term effects of cocaine usage include the following health conditions:

  • Severe decay of the teeth, damage to kidneys, liver, and lungs
  • Psychosis, reproductive damage and infertility
  • Chronic depression
  • Permanent heart and brain damage in the blood vessels
  • Both auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Confused exhaustion, irritability, and malnutrition
  • Nose tissue destruction, respiratory failure, and infectious abscesses depending on the method of drug intake (sniffed, smoked, and injected, respectively).

Regular use of cocaine has much farther reaching impacts than just the short-term effects listed above. It will interfere with the way your brain works, and rewire it into constantly craving another dose of the drug. 

The drive for a person to use again becomes all encompassing, causing formerly stable people to do anything to get it, including theft, murder, or suicide when they are unable to stave off their cravings. Even without experiencing withdrawal, there are several ways that cocaine can be extremely harmful to the user. 

What Kind of Treatment is Available?

There are many treatment options available for those who are suffering from addiction to cocaine, some of which include the following:

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment options are perfect for those who suffer from more severe substance abuse such as cocaine addiction. Patients who participate are granted access to professional medical personnel 24/7, living in the care of our facilities. They are also given weekly access to professionally licensed therapists and psychiatrists. This rehab method could take anywhere between 28 days and six months to complete, depending on the specific needs of each patient. 

Outpatient Treatment

Used to treat more mild cases of addiction, or to serve as a stepping stone between residential treatment and the world outside of rehab, outpatient treatment is an option that allows patients to attend recovery, but live in the comfort of their own homes. Those who participate are given 10-12 hours of weekly access to professionally licensed therapists and psychiatrists. This method of treatment could take anywhere between three months and one year to complete. 

Detox Treatment

In rehab, detox, or medically assisted treatment (MAT), is used to help patients come off of drugs comfortably. The symptoms of drug withdrawal and complications of dependency lend themselves immensely frustrating in regards to recovering successfully. This is why it’s so easy for those who detox by self-medicating to relapse. When our patients use MAT, they are able to take medicine that helps curb their withdrawal symptoms, thus making it more likely to become non-dependent on a substance comfortably. 

Do I Need to Pursue Treatment?

Throughout the world, there are many different people who come from various places and cultures. Every individual is unique, and their needs concerning their addiction will reflect as such. As far as whether or not you may need treatment, chances are if you’re asking that question, you should at least weigh your options. Doing research and finding out as to whether or not a specific method may be helpful for you will go a long way in deciding for yourself. If you need to know for sure, there are resources available on this site to help you.

Some people will weigh the question as to whether or not they need treatment depending on what it will do to them or their families financially. Concerning this aspect of treatment, there is good news. If you feel as though you cannot afford treatment, there are options. If you have insurance, whether through your own provider or the affordable care act, there are ways to pay for your rehab through that resource specifically. There also may be some governmental grants you could be eligible to receive. When it comes to paying for rehab, the reality of the cost is difficult to measure, but there is an even higher cost when one doesn’t seek help for their addiction treatment needs. 

Finding Help  

Although the side effects of cocaine use are immense, there is still hope for users to succeed in their goals of attaining a drug-free lifestyle. Here at Discovery Institute NJ, we are dedicated to providing relief and healing for those suffering from addiction and regular substance abuse. If you or someone you know is struggling with cocaine or other drug addiction, Discovery is here to help. Learn about how our proven programs can help you or your loved one begin to beat addiction and reclaim a successful life.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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