Cocaine Addiction – One of the Hardest to Break

Cocaine Addiction – One of the Hardest to Break hover background

Mar 22

Cocaine addiction is one of the harder addictions to break, and the cocaine addict should under no circumstances try to quit on his or her own. This is the type of addiction that needs the intensive, around the clock support that can only be had through an inpatient clinic.

What is Cocaine?

Unlike heroin, cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant produced from the leaves of the plant erythroxylum coca, which is found in South America. There’s evidence that cocaine has been used from as long ago as 2000 B.C. For long periods of time cocaine was considered a miracle drug and used to treat exhaustion and depression. It was an ingredient in wine and yes, in Coca-Cola. However, cocaine was removed from the soft drink in 1904.

The FDA lists cocaine as a Schedule II drug because of the high risk of addiction associated with it. It’s a Schedule II drug instead of a Schedule I drug, because it does have some legitimate medicinal uses. Some doctors use it as an anesthetic for minor surgeries.

How It Works

Cocaine works by blocking transporter proteins in the brain. These transporters usually pump neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine into and out of the nerve cells, or neurons. The neurotransmitter most affected by cocaine is dopamine. Cocaine blocks dopamine from being taken up into the transmitting nerve cells, and the system is flooded with it. This excess of dopamine brings on cocaine’s feeling of euphoria. However, when cocaine is eliminated from the body the low levels of dopamine in the nerve cells can cause an extreme depression. This might spur the person into getting more cocaine, which sets up a vicious cycle. Some addicts go on cocaine binges. This means they take the drug until the supply runs out. A binge can last between 12 hours to a week.

Because of its effects on dopamine levels, cocaine is a drug that can cause a person to be addicted to it the first time he or she uses it. Eventually, cocaine is broken down by enzymes in the blood and the liver into nearly a dozen other substances, including benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester. These and other metabolites, including cocaine, can be found in the urine as long as 15 days after use.

How Cocaine Is Used

Cocaine can be taken orally, intravenously, intranasally or through smoking. The fastest way to get cocaine into the system is through injecting it. Indeed, it is so fast that if too much is taken it might produce a heart attack or a seizure even while the drug is being injected and the needle is still in the person’s arm. People who inject cocaine can also have very bad allergic reactions.

The second fastest way of getting cocaine into the system is through smoking it. The cocaine vapors enter the lungs and are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This also allows for great amounts of cocaine to enter the system and cause an intense, but brief, high. Cocaine can also be taken orally. Chewing the leaves of the coca plant has been a tradition of the indigenous people who live in the mountains of South America. Chewing the coca leaf helps them cope with the high altitude and gives them energy to work. Cocaine can also be snorted. In this case, cocaine is inhaled as a powder. The powder has a bitter taste and numbs the tissues in the nose.

Effects of Cocaine

The short-term effects of cocaine are:

  • Extreme euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Talkativeness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Hypertension

Cocaine is easy to become addicted to and the long-term effects can be devastating. These long-term effects can include:

  • Mood disorders
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

There’s also an increased risk of cardiovascular trouble, seizures and gangrene of the bowel. The signs of abuse include a chronically runny nose or nosebleeds, track marks and otherwise unexplained weight loss. People can also experience blurred vision, convulsions and damage to the reproductive system. Women who use cocaine while pregnant are at risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or premature or low birth weight babies.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is so addictive that even the sight of the paraphernalia associated with it causes excitement in the addict. This is called an addiction cue. When the person sees a crack pipe, a needle or even visits a place or hears a sound associated with cocaine, the person’s heart rate increases. He or she begins to feel intense cravings and the compulsion to take the drug and experience the pleasurable sensations associated with it.

Withdrawal from cocaine doesn’t produce the dreadful symptoms of withdrawal from opioids. However, the person can be tormented by cravings, depression and lethargy that can last from one to 10 weeks.

The Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

The benefits of inpatient treatment are many. When a person turns to inpatient treatment for his or her cocaine addiction, they can undergo withdrawal in a safe environment where he or she is supervised by an experienced medical staff. Afterwards, he or she can learn to cope with normal, day-to-day activities that don’t involve drugs. This might involve undergoing sessions in cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be very effective in treating people addicted to cocaine. One of the main principles of cognitive behavioral therapy is that a person feels the way he or she thinks. If the person changes how he or she thinks, he or she will subsequently change his or her feelings and behavior.

Inpatient treatment also provides support if the patient finds that adjustment to life without cocaine is simply too difficult. Of course, while in an inpatient facility the patient also won’t have access to cocaine even if he or she craves it. This is much better for the patient than outpatient treatment where the cravings could send the patient into relapse before they even have time to recover from the addiction.

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