COCAINE ADDICTIONCocaine, often referred to as “coke,” is made from the coca plant. Indigenous South Americans historically used the plant as an anesthetic and stimulant. Evidence that coca leaves were used can be traced back as far as ancient Peruvian civilizations. In the 19th century, chemists found that the chemical responsible for coca’s effects could be isolated. The result, cocaine, quickly gained traction for medical use as an anaesthetic. A lack of restrictions on early cocaine led to its use in a many over-the-counter products, such as elixirs and supplements. Cocaine gained popularity as a recreational drug among people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Cocaine’s addictive nature soon became apparent. Eventually, the United States classified it as a Schedule II substance, meaning it has some medical use but a high potential for addiction. With an estimated 1.9 million users in 2016 alone, cocaine remains one of America’s most abused drugs.
WHAT IS COCAINE?Today’s coke has little in common with the coca leaves chewed in South America. A higher concentration creates more dramatic highs which, in turn, creates more intense cravings and makes it more addictive. Cocaine is often sold as a powder. It can also be found in “rock” form as crack cocaine. Coke can be injected, snorted, smoked, or eaten. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2016, cocaine is primarily used by those between the ages of 18 and 25.
COCAINE & THE BRAINCoke is a stimulant. This means that it speeds up processes in the brain. Cocaine increases the brain’s production of a dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Dopamine is responsible for reward and pleasure. Cocaine creates an artificial surge of dopamine that makes users energetic, sociable, and happy. The artificially high amounts of dopamine released from cocaine often make the brain’s natural dopamine production pale in comparison. As users become accustomed to these elevated levels, they often lose interest in things that used to bring them joy. For these reasons, cocaine is one of the most addictive substances available. Cocaine is often accompanied by a host of other physical effects. Because the drug suppresses appetite, addiction can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. Coke also increases the speed at which the heart beats, which eventually leads to high blood pressure, weak blood vessels and a higher risk of heart disease. Cocaine use can be fatal in the case of an overdose. Finally, a host of issues can result from the mode of ingestion, be it snorting, shooting, or smoking the drug.
SIGNS OF COCAINE ADDICTIONThere are numerous signs of cocaine use that may help you determine if a love one is addicted. Behavioral changes, such as changes in interests, friends, and personality, usually occur first. Fluctuations in energy levels, dilated pupils, and a decreased attention span are also indications of use. More signs include:
- Lack of responsibility
- Financial troubles
- Fast weight loss
- Legal issues
Cocaine is most often snorted. Rolled up bills, powder residue, and razor blades are all signs of cocaine use.
Addiction robs users of their ability to manage simple daily tasks. Poor hygiene is a common warning sign.
Because cocaine is a stimulant, users rarely sleep when high. These binges are often followed by long periods of sleep.
Cocaine use creates periods of euphoria that are followed by depressive “crashes.” Mood swings are red flags for addiction.