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Home · Addictions Treated · Cocaine

Cocaine

There are several drugs that have a rather long history of usage in the U.S., both legally and illegally. Such drugs, like cocaine, were once viewed as beneficial to those who used it. Today people know otherwise and are acutely aware of the harmful nature of cocaine, and what it can do to a person who is addicted to it.

What is Cocaine?

One of the most powerful and addictive stimulants known is cocaine. It is highly potent and has long been one of the more popular illicit drugs in the U.S. Cocaine comes from a natural source, the coca plant, which is found in South America. The coca plant is collected and chemically processed in Columbia—which produces the bulk of the cocaine found in the U.S.—Bolivia, and Peru before being smuggled into the country.

While it is an illegal drug, cocaine and some of its derivatives do have some legitimate uses. It has anesthetic qualities that make it appealing for certain medical procedures, like eye surgery, when a controlled dosage is applied topically. This isn’t very common now, as there are better and less addictive alternatives available, but cocaine-based anesthetics are used on occasion when specified. Historically, cocaine was used for medical purposes in anesthetics and analgesics available commercially and through prescription. Medically, it was thought to be a safe means of treating morphine addiction and chronic pain. Commercial products containing cocaine and coca were also added to beverages, like the original Coca-Cola recipe and Vin Mariani wine. Many treated cocaine in the same way caffeine is treated today and many notable people, including Sigmund Freud, recommending it to others. In hindsight, none of that was a good idea.

Cocaine is often in a white powdery semi-crystalized form, but its long history has allowed for many varying ways in which it is taken. Cocaine users have been known to snort the powder, dissolve it in water to inject it, smoke its chemical base (a.k.a. crack cocaine), and topically rub the powder on their gums. It is often cut, or mixed, with other substances like other drugs or household things like sugar. This dilutes the drug and allows for a supply to last longer, but it can also produce different, stronger effects. Combining heroin and cocaine into an injectable form creates what is known as a “speedball”, but this name has been applied to any kind of opioid and stimulant combination. Some of cocaine’s other names include coke, coca, snow, flake, and soda.

Effects on the User

Cocaine users often binge or take large quantities in a short amount of time. This increases the immediate effects of the drug in addition to posing a higher risk for overdose. Like other stimulants, cocaine produces a euphoric effect on the user that sets in as a rush. The speed and intensity in which the rush hits depend on the method used and the dosage, with smoking or injection causing the drug to reach the brain faster than snorting.

Psychologically, cocaine users often experience excitation, higher energy, and alertness when using. They may also be restless, anxious, or irritable, despite the euphoria. Increasing the amount the person takes due to tolerance and binging can also cause paranoia to set in while under the influence.

Physically, users often exhibit a higher heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. Their pupils dilate, they lose their appetite and often are unable to sleep due to their high. Smoking can cause additional issues like breathing difficulty during usage, such as coughing, and snorting has led to nosebleeds and nasal irritation.

These symptoms will often fade as the rush does, with a crash bringing new symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion, deep sleep, and depression. These symptoms can last for days, especially after an intense binge. As the crash subsides, the user will likely develop cravings for more cocaine.
If you or your loved one id facing the issue of cocaine addiction, call us today and let us help you get the help that’s needed.

Long-Term Effects

The above effects are usually short term and fade along with the high the drug produces. However, there are some long-term effects that develop with prolonged cocaine use. The short-term effects can cause noticeable damage, with symptoms such as a loss of appetite leading to weight loss and malnutrition. High heart rates and blood pressure can cause cardiac problems, such as a heart attack, arrhythmias, and cardiac arrest. Stokes and seizures are not uncommon either.
The method of use can also cause specific long-term effects. Oral use tends to cause damage to the different organs in the digestive system, as cocaine causes blood vessels to constrict which can cut off the blood supply to tissues. It can cause dental damage in the same way if regularly applied directly to the person’s gums.

Snorting damages the interior lining of the nose, throat, and lungs. Not only can this do significant damage to the individual’s lungs and lead to respiratory problems, but it can also reduce their sense of smell and ability to breathe through their nose. Regular nosebleeds and nasal drainage are also common, as well as difficulty swallowing.

With injecting cocaine, the person risks long-term damage to their veins and circulatory system—a vein can collapse and become unusable with repeated injections—in addition to their cardiopulmonary system. Infections and diseases from needle usage are also common, including HIV/AIDS and other blood-based conditions. Such conditions can also be contracted through risky behavior, as cocaine impedes a person’s judgment.

Overdose

Due to binging, there is a very high risk of overdosing on cocaine. Many people combine cocaine with other substances, which increases the damage being done and the risk they are taking. A fatal overdose can be instantaneous, as cardiac arrest can be triggered immediately. The short term and long term effects discussed above can set in at a much higher intensity. In the event of an overdose, there is a strong possibility of coma or death in addition to significant organ damage.

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