Cocaine is a very powerful and addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. Although cocaine was considered the “it drug” of the 1980s and 1990s in America due to its widespread popularity, it has quite an extensive history. It is derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which have been chewed and ingested for thousands of years. In the high mountain ranges of South America, chewers of coca leaves would exhibit increased breathing rates and oxygen intake, which helped them better perform their duties at high altitudes. When cocaine is purified, cocaine hydrochloride is formed. This pure form of cocaine was quite popular between 1850 and the early 1900s here in the United States, when it was the main ingredient in a variety of elixirs used to treat illnesses and ailments ranging from toothaches to depression.
Americans and their legislators eventually began to notice the negative side effects and dangers of cocaine, eventually adding it to the list of drugs to outlaw in the Dangerous Drug Act of 1920 because of the dangers of cocaine abuse. Even though the negative effects of cocaine are widely known, it is still one of the most popular illegal drugs used today. In fact, according to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2009, more than 1 million emergency room visits that year were due to reactions from illicit drug use, and cocaine was named as the primary drug in 422,896 of these visits, landing it in the number one spot. And the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that more that 1.5 million people over the age of 12 used cocaine each month in 2013.
Cocaine Street Names and Usage
Cocaine, a powerful stimulant that gives users a fast-acting and intense high, is most often sold on the streets under the names “coke,” “snow,” “C,” “blow,” or “flake.” It is generally diluted with inactive substances such as sugar, cornstarch, or talcum powder but can sometimes be found in combination with heroin in a concoction called a speedball. In any form, cocaine can produce a severe addiction that can only be remedied through professional and cost-effective cocaine detox and rehabilitation.
Types of Cocaine
There are two main forms of this drug. First, there is the hydrochloride salt version of cocaine, which is the powdered form. This type of cocaine is seen in movies and ads formed into lines. This type of cocaine is snorted through the nose or dissolved in water and injected into the veins. It generally takes longer to have an effect on its user than its counterpart, freebase cocaine. But like freebase cocaine, it can produce addiction and the need for safe, customized cocaine rehab.
The second form of cocaine is freebase, which can be smoked and offers its users a high within just ten seconds. A very famous form of freebase cocaine is known as crack. Although crack is processed from powdered cocaine, it is mixed with water, ammonia, and baking soda. Crack is generally cheap to create and buy, which accounts for its popularity. In fact, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates there are more than a half-million crack users in America. Many of those who seek out private cocaine addiction treatment are users of crack cocaine.
Cocaine Brain Effects and Side Effects
Cocaine alters the chemical pathways in the brain of the user. Scientific studies suggest that cocaine specifically targets the section of the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure. In a healthy brain, dopamine is produced when someone experiences something rewarding. Once cocaine is introduced, the normal dopamine process is interrupted. The drug causes too much dopamine to reside in the space between cells. This causes an extreme state of euphoria, which lasts until the high wears off. The reason cocaine becomes so addictive is because users want to re-create that instant euphoric feeling. However, our brains adjust to ongoing cocaine usage. This means an addict will need more of the drug over time to produce that same euphoric effect. Yet the body can only tolerate a certain amount of the drug before negative physical symptoms are felt. These negative symptoms are key in moving people into seeking high-quality treatment for cocaine addiction.
Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of Cocaine
Short-term effects of cocaine: Certain effects of cocaine are felt almost immediately and can last for a few minutes up to an hour. When used in small dosages, it can make the user feel alert, energetic, talkative, and euphoric. The drug also lessens the need for sleep and food. How long the user will feel the drug’s high depends on the route of administration. For example, while smoking the drug produces immediate effects, these effects only last for up to ten minutes. Snorting the drug produces effects more slowly than smoking, but these effects can last for 30 minutes or more. Short-term physiological effects include dilated pupils, increased heart rate and body temperature, constricted blood vessels, and increased blood pressure. Large doses of cocaine can cause erratic and violent behavior in some users, as well as anxiety, paranoia, and tremors. Cocaine detox in a facility dedicated to individualized rehab programs is the best way to eliminate these effects and wean a person off of a cocaine addiction.
Severe medical complications can arise from cocaine, such as heart rhythm abnormalities, heart attacks, strokes, seizures, headaches, coma, GI complications, abdominal pain, and nausea. Although not common, death has occurred in some users after their first time using the drug.
Long-term effects of cocaine: Chronic cocaine users suffer from a variety of long-term side effects, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, malnourishment, decreased dopamine receptors leading to diminished sensitivity in that area of the brain, loss of sense of smell, issues with swallowing, nosebleeds, allergic reactions, respiratory failure, blood clots, and more. Long-term users tend to take cocaine in higher doses as time goes on. This can cause increased restlessness, irrational behavior, and full-blown psychosis and hallucinations. The only answer to such problems is successful cocaine addiction treatment and counseling to wean them away from the drug and eliminate the side effects.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
The signs of cocaine abuse are similar to other substance abuse addiction signs. Most drug addictions are recognizable by examining if the person shows behavioral alterations, sudden impulsive decisions, or drastic changes in physical appearance.
Other signs to look for include:
- Decreased desire to eat or sleep
- Increased sociability and talkativeness
- Increased activity
- Risky and impulsive decisions, especially with sexual or financial choices
- Violent behaviors, mood swings, and depression
- Missing important meetings or work
- Neglecting family, friends, and daily responsibilities
- Track marks on arms or other parts of the body (signs of injecting cocaine)
- Nosebleeds, nose crusting, runny nose, constant stuffy nose (signs of snorting cocaine)
- Lung problems, breathing issues, black or bloody mucus (signs of smoking cocaine)
If you suspect that you or someone you love may have an addiction to this dangerous substance, it is important that you seek accredited cocaine treatment as soon as possible. What was once a recreational drug can quickly turn into a dangerous and potentially fatal addiction. Get help today by calling our center or filling out the form on this page.