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.
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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
- Problems sleeping
- Impaired judgment
- 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:
- Snow White
- Happy Trails
- Nose Candy
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
Everyone’s addiction is unique and it ultimately requires individual assessment by a doctor to diagnose someone with cocaine abuse.