Much publicised in the media and often glamorized in the movies, cocaine, and its more potent counterpart crack cocaine is a deadly killer of those that find themselves addicted. Cocaine falls int the category of a stimulant and it's users report that it often makes them feel more alert and energetic, along with creating feelings of euphoria as part of the "high".
The feeling a user gets from cocaine depends on how much and how often you use it, along with the manner in which you use it, either by injection, inhalation, or orally. The high experienced from cocaine is often influenced by the user's mood, expectation and environment, and whether or not you have used any other substances prior to cocaine use. Cocaine is often used with other drugs, especially alcohol and marijuana. Cocaine and heroin, mixed and dissolved for injection, is called a “speedball.”
Although cocaine is a stimulant, some people find it calming, and feel increased self-control, confidence and ease with others. Other people may feel nervous and agitated, and can’t relax. Taking high doses of cocaine for a long time can lead to panic attacks, psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia (feeling overly suspicious, jealous, or persecuted), hallucinations (seeing, hearing, smelling, etc., things that aren’t real) and delusions (false beliefs). People often experience erratic, bizarre and sometimes violent behaviour as a result of their use. With regular use, people become tolerant to the euphoric effects of cocaine. This means they need to take more and more of the drug to get the same desired effect.
At the same time, people who use the drug regularly may also become more sensitive to its negative effects, such as anxiety, psychosis (hallucinations, loss of contact with reality) and seizures. Cocaine also makes the heart beat faster and raises blood pressure and body temperature. While many people use cocaine on occasion without harm, the drug can be very dangerous, whether it’s used once or often.
Cocaine causes the blood vessels to thicken and constrict, reducing the flow of oxygen to the heart. At the same time, cocaine causes the heart muscle to work harder, which can lead to heart attack or stroke, even in healthy people. Cocaine raises blood pressure, which can cause weakened blood vessels in the brain to burst.
A person can overdose on even a small amount of cocaine. Overdose can cause seizures and heart failure. It can cause breathing to become weak or stop altogether. There is no antidote to a cocaine overdose. When cocaine is used with alcohol, the liver produces coca-ethylene, a powerful compound that increases the risk of sudden death beyond the risk of using cocaine alone.
Not everyone who uses cocaine becomes addicted, but if they do, it can be one of the hardest drug habits to break. People who become addicted to cocaine lose control over their use of the drug. They feel a strong need for cocaine, even when they know it causes them medical, psychological and social problems. Getting and taking cocaine can become the most important thing in their lives.
Smoking crack, with its rapid, intense and short-lived effects, is the most addictive. However, any method of taking cocaine can lead to addiction. The amount of cocaine used, and how often people use the drug, has an effect on whether people get addicted. Cocaine causes people to “crash” when they stop using it. When they crash, their mood swings rapidly from feeling high to feeling distressed. This brings powerful cravings for more of the drug. Bingeing to stay high leads quickly to addiction.
Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can include exhaustion, extended and restless sleep or sleeplessness, hunger, irritability, depression, suicidal thoughts and intense cravings for more of the drug. The memory of cocaine euphoria is powerful and brings a strong risk of relapse to drug use.
Cocaine increases the same chemicals in the brain that make people feel good when they eat, drink or have sex. Regular cocaine use can cause lasting changes in this “reward system” of the brain, which may lead to addiction. Craving and psychiatric symptoms may continue even after drug use stops. Regular long-term use of cocaine is associated with many serious health and behaviour problems.
Snorting cocaine can cause sinus infections and loss of smell. It can damage tissues in the nose and cause holes in the bony separation between the nostrils inside the nose. Smoking cocaine can damage the lungs and cause “crack lung.” Symptoms include severe chest pains, breathing problems and fever. Injecting cocaine can cause infections from used needles or impurities in the drug. Sharing needles can also cause hepatitis or HIV infection.
Cocaine use in pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage and premature delivery. It also increases the chance that the baby will be born underweight and use of cocaine while breastfeeding transmits the drug to the nursing child which exposes the baby to all the effects and risks of cocaine use.
Cocaine use is linked to risk-taking and violent behaviours. It is also linked to poor concentration and judgment, increasing the risk of injury and sexually transmitted disease. Chronic use can cause severe psychiatric symptoms, including psychosis, anxiety, depression and paranoia, and can also cause weight loss, malnutrition, poor health, sexual problems, infertility and loss of social and financial support.
If this sounds familiar to you and your behaviours, or those of a loved one you are concerned about, and you would like to make some changes in your cocaine use, take a look at the information contained in our website and the external resources for cocaine addiction that we offer here at The Liberation Place. If it's time to make a change and reach out for the support, recovery is a journey that starts with just one step, and only you alone can choose to take that step, but remember you are not destined to be alone when you choose to take that step with The Liberation Place!