Cocaine addiction is known as something that affects famous and rich people like celebrities and sports figures, but the fact of the matter is that it can happen to anyone. This highly illegal drug is the second most trafficked drug in the U.S., and its use is rampant. While it is portrayed in the media as a fancy drug for the rich and powerful, a coke addiction affects more than just the elite. Many individuals suffer from cocaine addictions and are in need of assistance. That is why we at the Discovery Institute want to help educate you, and hopefully lead you on the path to recovery. If you or a loved one are suffering from cocaine addiction, please consider reaching out to us.

How Do People Use Cocaine?

There is a difference between cocaine and crack. Cocaine is generally consumed through snorting, in which case the individual may ingest it through their nose. It takes three minutes for the drug to enter the bloodstream. However, when smoked, it becomes crack. Crack is able to enter the bloodstream at a much faster rate.

The Dangers of a Cocaine Addiction

Short term, cocaine causes problems with getting rest, excessive hyperactivity, shaking and trembling, inability to relax, and anxiety. Long term, coke can lead to major heart issues and even death. 

Cocaine is a drug that highly elevates your cardiovascular system. In certain circumstances, our hearts are not able to keep up with the stress, and we may experience heart failure, cardiac arrest, and other debilitating conditions with the heart.

Depending on the ways coke addictions are ingested into the body, it can have multiple long-term side effects. If snorted, after a long period of time the individual may lose their sense of smell, could develop nose bleeds, and have difficulty swallowing. If smoked the individual could develop long-term effects of having a higher likelihood to develop respiratory problems, as well as a higher risk of developing pneumonia. When an individual consumes this drug via swallowing, there is a very high chance they will develop severe bowel decay, which results from decreased blood flow. Finally, if the individual chooses to inject cocaine, they will have a higher risk to contract HIV, hepatitis C, other bloodborne diseases, and have issues with their skin tissue. 

About Dopamine

Normally, dopamine recycles back into the cell that released it, shutting off the signal between nerve cells. However, coke addictions prevent this recycling from happening. This cuts off the nerve cell’s communication, stopping their normal communication. This changes the brain’s reward system and leads to the development of a higher tolerance. This means they will need to take more and more of the substance in order to achieve the high. There are plenty of dangers related to coke addiction. However, the risk is developing the addiction itself. Below we will see how an addiction is formed. All of the above problems flow out of an addiction, rather than vice versa. Below we will discuss the ways addiction is formed.

How Do Cocaine Addictions Develop?

Our brains and bodies are wired to crave things that make us feel good. However, since humanity has harnessed the ability to create substances that change the brain’s chemicals, it is no longer able to tell the difference. Thus, when an individual uses substances that make the brain feel good, it craves them again and again. The problem is the person’s memory, pleasure, and reward centers of their brains are rewired. Thus, the individual may no longer feel normal without the substance. In fact, the brain is no longer able to attain the synthetic pleasure which was felt during the high, and now even life’s greatest joys will pale in comparison to the high.

Addiction is Not a Choice

A cocaine addiction, like any addiction, is not a black or white moral choice. Granted, a person should not engage in behavior which abuses substances, but drug use is such an accepted phenomenon in the culture, a person who chooses to use a drug cannot be automatically assumed to have chosen an addiction. Just like a person who smokes did not choose lung cancer, or a person who struggles with excessive food consumption chose to develop diabetes. But addiction is similar because it is also a disorder.

The difference between viewing addiction as a disorder, as opposed to a moral choice, has large scale implications for treating it. Frankly, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to treating substance abuse. Many individuals argue that addiction is a choice. But, this is far from the truth. Scientifically speaking, addiction is actually a disease. Since this is the case, those who suffer from substance abuse require professional and medical attention.

This is why addiction cannot be considered a black and white choice. However, there is always a choice to seek recovery. In fact, viewing addiction as a disorder helps to rework the way stigma is handled. Many addicts struggle with managing triggers (this will be discussed later on). Some of these triggers are guilt, depression, anxiety, or isolation. Thus, when a parental figure, spouse, or loved one isolates the addict, kicks them out, or makes them feel like they have made a horrible decision (understandably so,) the addict might get triggered.

This is why the disease model is so important. Viewing addiction as a disease means the individual is sick and must go to a hospital. Cocaine addiction is very treatable, the problem is that not many get the treatment they need.

Cocaine Addiction and Combined Substances

Combined with any drug cocaine can be a big problem, but it is especially an issue with alcohol. The energy that cocaine produces tends to make people drink more which leads to binge drinking and can cause a toxic buildup in the person’s system that can lead to overdose.

When an individual combines cocaine and another drug, this becomes known as polydrug use. Cocaine and alcohol have a unique combination, which is extremely harmful. This is one of the most common combinations of substances. It actually leads to the development of an entirely new chemical within the body. This new chemical is called cocaethylene. The polydrug use dangers of cocaethylene are as follows:

When cocaine enters the bloodstream already filled with alcohol, it becomes cocaethylene instead. Cocaethylene has similar effects as cocaine. However, it is 20 times more likely to result in death and it can cause seizures, liver damage, and immune system damage. It also leads to an increase of around 30% of cocaine in the body, thus putting an increase of strain on the cardiovascular system.

Another commonly combined pair is cocaine and opiates. It is not uncommon to see blood vessel ruptures, stroke, heart attack, and cardiac arrest from this combination. Also, since cocaine negates the sleepy effects of the painkillers, the individual may misjudge their prescription (or general measurement) and take way more opiates than they desired. Needless to say, this leads to some intense side effects, withdrawal effects, and possibly overdose.

Co-Occurring Disorders and Cocaine Addiction

A large contributor to coke addictions is co-occurring disorders. In cases of co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, individuals experience multiple disorders simultaneously. They cease being two different disorders, and form one stronger, and more difficult to treat dual diagnosis. Many experts are now encouraging treatments that treat the two disorders as one and attempt to treat both. This is because it is known that these two disorders (like mental illness and a coke addiction) feed into each other, and can potentially cause one to form the other.

Mental illness is one of the biggest contributors to addiction. Some kinds of mental illnesses that commonly occur with coke addictions are Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and bipolar disorder. It is very important that you get diagnosed and receive treatment for these illnesses. This is because many people who struggle with these diseases might self-diagnose to attempt to cope with their mental illness. However, unintentionally, this will lead to them becoming dependent upon the substance. In other cases, they may already struggle with a coke addiction, and become isolated or stressed. This could lead to the development of mental illness.

The most important thing to remember from these co-occurring disorders is that they are very treatable, but you must receive treatment. No one has to go through this alone. Consider doing group therapy, for improved accountability. If your loved one struggles with a cocaine addiction, consider seeking family counseling, since many now consider addiction to be a family disease.

Contact Us

It is not too late to get help. If you or a loved one struggle with a cocaine addiction, please consider reaching out today. We at the Discovery Institute know that recovery may seem daunting, but we want to take it one step at a time with you. We have representatives available around the clock to answer questions, or simply be there for what you want to talk about. Consider reaching out to us today by calling (844) 433-1101. You owe it to your loved ones, other addicts, and yourself to get the recovery you deserve.

References

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9243342

http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k13/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED.htm

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.