Understanding Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine abuse is the misuse of the drug cocaine. The cocaine abuse definition includes persistently using cocaine to obtain the high that accompanies cocaine use or using cocaine for the increased stimulation that it causes. Cocaine has a few medical uses in certain very specific situations, primarily in controlling nosebleeds, especially during or after surgery inside the nose. Cocaine misuse quickly leads to a cocaine addiction for most people that misuse cocaine.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is derived from the leaves of the coca plant. Cocaine enhances the effects of a chemical in the brain called dopamine. This enhancement leads to a sense of increased energy and power. The increased effect of dopamine also causes the euphoric and pleasurable sensation that creates the high of cocaine.

People who hear about the effects of cocaine may wonder, “Is cocaine bad for you? If it makes you feel good and have more energy, what’s wrong with that?” The increased rate at which your body has to work when you use cocaine can lead to these side effects and can cause long-term damage to your body, including:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic
  • Aggression
  • Problems sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired judgment
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium
  • Sudden death from cardiac arrest.

Common Cocaine Nicknames and Street Names

There are several common nicknames and street names for cocaine. Many of these names are based on the white, flaky appearance of cocaine. These names include:

  • Coke
  • Snow
  • Powder
  • Snow White
  • Blow
  • Sugar
  • Flake
  • Toot
  • Happy Trails
  • Nose Candy
  • Yeyo
  • Johnny
  • Charlie

How Addictive Is Cocaine?

People who use or are using cocaine may wonder, “Is cocaine addictive, and if so, how addictive is coke?” Statistics show that approximately 25% of those who start using cocaine recreationally will develop an addiction to cocaine. Many times people addicted to cocaine will not take the important step of realizing that they have an addiction and will remain in a state of denial.

Why is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine is addictive due to the physical and psychological effects that it has on the brain. Often, cocaine addiction results from some combination of these two factors.

Physical Addiction to Cocaine

Physically, cocaine is addicting because of an effect called dependence. As the brain and body become adjusted to the chemical changes that cocaine causes, they start needing cocaine to continue functioning normally. This need can lead to withdrawal symptoms when cocaine use stops. The body, as it needs cocaine to continue normal functioning, creates cravings for cocaine that many people find irresistible.

Psychological Addiction to Cocaine

Psychological addiction to cocaine occurs when cocaine fulfills a psychological need. The increased energy and stimulation that cocaine causes may make the person using cocaine feel better about interacting in social situations. The high that cocaine creates may help someone overcome feelings of inadequacy or depression. There are different psychological needs that someone may attempt to treat using cocaine. The common factor will be that cocaine is used to help cope with a psychological need. This commonality means that the person using cocaine needs cocaine to help them continue to cope with the initial psychological need.

Cocaine Addiction Rates and Statistics

In 2014, a National Survey on Drug Use and Health study found that 1.5 million people over age 12 used cocaine within the last month. This same study found that within the previous 12 months, 913,000 people met the diagnostic criteria for being addicted to cocaine. This statistic means that 0.4% of the population in the United States is addicted to cocaine. Using these statistics it is possible to calculate a rough addiction rate of cocaine for recreational cocaine users that is about 60%. Other statistics vary, with one study finding the cocaine addiction rate for recreational cocaine users to be 25%.

How Is Cocaine Abuse Diagnosed?

Cocaine abuse must be diagnosed by a licensed doctor who will take a variety of individual factors into consideration. Ultimately, the doctor will likely use several criteria out the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) to evaluate if you have a cocaine addiction. Typically, diagnosis depends on having at least two of the following criteria:

  • Hazardous use of the drug
  • Social or interpersonal problems related to use the drug
  • Neglected major responsibilities to use the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Developing a tolerance
  • Using larger amounts
  • Repeated attempts to quit or control the use of the drug
  • Excessive time spent using the drug
  • Physical or psychological problems related to the use of the drug
  • Activities replaced by drug use
  • Cravings

Everyone’s addiction is unique and it ultimately requires individual assessment by a doctor to diagnose someone with cocaine abuse.

Therapies and Approaches to Cocaine Abuse Treatment

Cocaine abuse treatment typically starts with an initial detox where the drug is cleared from the body and the effects of withdrawal are managed by a healthcare professional.

As the drug clears from the system, treatment shifts to developing coping mechanisms that help maintain continuous sobriety. This shift can involve medications and therapies. A commonly used therapy that many find helpful is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which involves learning about the underlying motivations behind our behaviors and learning how to change those motivations so that it will lead to a change in behavior. Long-term treatment will involve a follow-up to ensure that sobriety is maintained.

Cocaine Addiction Recovery Rates

According to one study, about 60% to 78% of those who attempted to quit using cocaine on their own experienced a setback. Treatment and therapy can improve the odds of maintaining abstinence by as much as 50%, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Key Points: Cocaine Abuse

There are several key points to keep in mind regarding cocaine abuse:

  • Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug
  • Cocaine use has several dangerous and potentially deadly side effects
  • Cocaine addiction can be physical and psychological
  • Cocaine addiction must be diagnosed by a doctor
  • Recovery rates for cocaine addiction improve with treatment.

Common Questions about Cocaine Use

  • How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your System?

    Cocaine can stay in your system for anywhere from 3.3 to 5.5 hours after you take it for the last time. Cocaine also has an active metabolite called benzoylecgonine, and that takes longer to be expelled from the body completely. It’s usually between one and two days before the metabolite leaves the system.

    Even though it metabolizes within about four hours, a cocaine screen can show the use of the drug for around two to four days in urine. With saliva cocaine testing, the half-life of the drug is around two hours, but there have been some traces of cocaine found in saliva as long as 19 hours after someone took the drug. With hair testing, cocaine may show up in results for at least 90 days after someone has used the last dose.

    However, for someone who is a long-term or heavy user of cocaine, the drug can stay in their system and be detectable on a cocaine test for longer. In certain types of drug screens, cocaine can show up in the results for up to three months after someone uses it. Continue reading to learn more about cocaine half-life and how long it can stay in your system.

  • Can Cocaine Overdose Cause Cardiac Arrest?

    While cardiac arrest is most often linked to cocaine injections, it can occur with snorted or smoked cocaine as well. Heart problems like cardiac arrest can occur even if you are not a regular user of cocaine. It is possible to go into cardiac arrest the first time that cocaine is used. Heart problems can occur as soon as a few minutes after cocaine use, and as late as a few days after use. Learn more about cocaine’s effects on the heart.

  • Can Cocaine Use Cause Psychosis?

    Cocaine use can harm many different areas of your body. One of the parts of the body that cocaine can damage is your brain. Cocaine can hurt your brain by interfering with the way you understand the world around you. Doctors have known for a long time that cocaine can cause changes in a person’s mental status. One of those changes is psychosis, which involves losing touch with reality.

    Cocaine psychosis is very common. Doctors have found that up to 86% of people who use cocaine may experience psychotic symptoms at some point. About 96% of people with cocaine psychosis will have hallucinations. Hearing the non-existent is the most common kind of hallucination experienced with cocaine. Additionally, along with that 96%, about 90% of people with cocaine psychosis experience symptoms of paranoia.

  • Can Cocaine Cause Schizophrenia?

    No, cocaine does not cause schizophrenia. However, cocaine can mimic some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Also, people with a co-occurring mental illness are more likely to have a substance use disorder (SUD). Continue reading to learn more about how cocaine can affect schizophrenia symptoms.

  • How to Tell if Someone is on Cocaine?

    People using cocaine will show characteristic signs of use. Cocaine use has symptoms that are physical, mental, and emotional. Cocaine impacts several organ systems and causes long-term damage.

    Physical signs and symptoms of cocaine use are:

    • Large, dilated pupils
    • Headaches and migraines
    • Hoarseness
    • Impotence
    • Increased body temperature
    • Nausea
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Bloody nose or running nose
    • Sniffing
    • Stomach pain
    • Twitching or shaking

    Cocaine use also has psychological or behavioral side effects. At first, these side effects may be easier to notice than physical side effects. Psychological side effects include:

    • Anxiety
    • Bursts of elevated mood and euphoria
    • Emotional swings
    • Hallucinations
    • High energy levels
    • Hypersomnia (oversleeping)
    • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
    • Irritability
    • Lethargy and introversion
    • Loss of appetite
    • Paranoia
    • Short attention span

    The presence of drug paraphernalia is a clear indicator of drug use. Cocaine can be ingested in a few different ways, potentially involving an assortment of paraphernalia to do so. The most common ingestion method is snorting through the nostrils, but cocaine can be injected or smoked. Continue reading to learn more about how to identify the signs of cocaine use.

If you or a loved one live with alcoholism or are struggling to quit using alcohol, consider seeking professional help. Restore Africa® specializes in treating alcohol addiction and helping people recover from alcoholism. Contact one of our caring representatives to learn how Restore Africa® can help you or a loved one start on the path to a healthier future.

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