Cocaine Addiction and Abuse

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Despite its glamorization as a popular party drug, cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. Millions of people use cocaine recreationally for its jolting and euphoric effects, but the fast-paced high of this drug is followed by a debilitating crash. The need to regain the high often leads to a whirlwind of addictive behavior and severe consequences. Cocaine addiction is a grim reality that should not be taken lightly, and it demands immediate attention. Fortunately, The Recovery Village can assist people who are ready to defeat their addictions and begin a drug-free life.

Cocaine is a stimulant narcotic that is most commonly sold in a white powder form or a powdery clump that’s partially broken down. It can be inhaled through the nose, smoked, injected with a needle, rubbed into the gums, or swallowed. A variant of the drug, known as crack cocaine, which looks like rocks or crystals, is more commonly smoked and can be even more addictive than the standard form. Crack cocaine is an excess substance created during the process of making pure cocaine. It’s known as a cheaper and dirtier version of the drug.

When ingested, cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) unleashes high levels of dopamine into the brain, giving an immensely euphoric high to the user. The feeling is short-lived, leaving those who use it wanting more after the quick high subsides. This cycle often leads to cocaine addiction.

Pure cocaine has a unique smell and taste. The powder is made after extracting the active ingredient alkaloid from coca leaves, and mixing it with sodium bicarbonate and bleach. When purchased on the street, cocaine is very often diluted or “cut” with any number of other chemicals like detergents, amphetamines and silicon. Those who use this impure cocaine are even more at risk of developing cocaine addiction and overdosing, as there is usually no way to determine which hazardous ingredients are being ingested.

In its purest form, cocaine is derived from the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca.) For a period of time, cocaine was used medically in the United States as a surgical anesthetic in the late 19th century and gradually went on to become a household drug. One of its most infamous mainstream uses was as an ingredient in Coca-Cola and other popular beverages, like  wines. It was eventually banned for a time, until it resurfaced as an abused drug in the 1960s. In the ’70s and ’80s, cocaine became a fixture in the party scene as well as during the time of disco and rock’n’roll. It also became widely accepted in social settings, not unlike marijuana and alcohol. As awareness of the dangers of the drug became apparent, its popularity finally saw a dip in the 1990s. However, this substance still claims thousands of lives every year and sends tens of thousands into the downward spiral of cocaine addiction.

Due to its consistency, dealers tend to sell cocaine in small, tightly wrapped or twisted-up plastic bags. Cocaine is one of the most expensive drugs on the market, so cocaine addiction is also very expensive. Due to its high cost, the average person who uses it likely holds only small amounts at a time. When sold on the street, cocaine tends to come in grams or ounces. Larger stocks of the drug are sold in heavyweight plastic bags or dense, rectangular units of plastic wrap. These are referred to as “bricks.” You may find cocaine in a solid, chalk-like form as well, which can be easily broken down into the eventual powder. The powder is usually then formed into thin lines or “bumps” to be snorted up the nose.

Because of the high demand for the drug and its nondescript appearance, dealers tend to mix it with similar light powders to take advantage of buyers. These powders may include:

  • Baking soda
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Sugar
  • Laundry detergents
  • Boric acid
  • Laxatives
  • Local anesthetics
  • Amphetamines
  • Silicon
  • Talcum powder

Street cocaine may contain certain additives that actually speed up or intensify the high. Dealers add cheap substances to extend their supply and maximize their profit. Impure cocaine can appear off-white, pinkish or brownish depending on the ingredients.

Crack cocaine takes on more of a crystalline or rock-like consistency. It varies in color from white to yellow to pale rose. This substance has a growing reputation as a hyper-potent and addictive drug that is dangerous due to its affordability and availability. Someone who becomes addicted may find themselves turning to crack as an inexpensive way to feed their cocaine addiction, which can greatly exacerbate health risks and the severity of their dependence.

Cocaine is considered highly addictive and one of the most habit-forming substances on the planet. As soon as the drug enters the brain — whether through inhalation, smoking or injection — it warps the brain’s pathway and its production of certain chemicals related to pleasure and stress. The person who uses it then associates certain positive feelings with memories of their cocaine high, and naturally starts to crave another fix in hopes of recreating the sensation. Stress triggers can also set off these cravings, which can vary from person to person. This is why cocaine addiction often ensues substance abuse.

There is no telling when cocaine addiction can take hold. Cocaine, particularly crack cocaine, can lead to addiction after just a single use. The person misusing the drug may forego school, work or personal obligations in order to seek out more of the drug. The restlessness and anxiety that occur between uses can quickly become overwhelming and lead to a complete loss of judgement. Due to that loss of judgement, some people may ruin their financial stability as they chase the next high. They may also rapidly develop a tolerance to the drug, which means that it takes a stronger dosage to achieve the same euphoric effect. With cocaine in particular, this tolerance can develop and remain in place even after prolonged periods of abstinence. Whether this behavior develops over the course of a week or steadily over several months, it eventually comes at the cost of a person’s professional, social and emotional stability.

In addition to the destructive behavior a cocaine addiction may cause, the physical hazards of the drug can lead to binge sessions in which the person consumes copious amounts in a single sitting as a way to overcompensate for their stress as a perceived sense of self-reward. A cocaine binge can cause someone to lose sight of how much they are taking and put themselves, and others, at a great risk. Drug overdose is not an uncommon outcome of cocaine binging, and it can lead to permanent internal damage or death.

Historically, physical cocaine addiction may not develop as quickly as other narcotics, like heroin. However, a psychological addiction and repeated exposure can pave the way for severe physical dependence and traumatic withdrawal symptoms. On average, cocaine addiction develops over the course of a year in people who use the drug on a regular basis.

The faster the drug reaches the brain, the more likely a person is to develop abusive tendencies. Snorting cocaine involves a longer journey through the body and to the brain than inhaling smoke. Those who smoke it, therefore, have a greater chance of cocaine addiction. This is also why crack is generally considered more likely to cause addiction. However, that does not make powder cocaine any less of a threat. Regardless of how it’s used, a cocaine addiction can ensue.

Currently, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can be used to treat a cocaine addiction. However, disulfiram is proving to be the most effective when reducing the misuse of cocaine, as found during various clinical trials. Disulfiram is not guaranteed to work for everyone, as each person’s chemical makeup is unique. The kind of DBH (dopamine beta-hydroxylase) genotype a patient inhabits can help medical professionals determine whether or not the use of disulfiram could be beneficial to ending a cocaine addiction.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse also reports that researchers are conducting tests on a possible cocaine vaccine that may be able to reduce the risk of setbacks occurring during recovery. The possible vaccine would stimulate the immune system to create antibodies that bind to the cocaine, thus keeping it from entering the brain. Just like the disulfiram, it depends on the genotype a person possessed to see how successful the vaccine will be.

It’s very important to not attempt to fight a cocaine addiction without professional guidance. Many individuals believe that they can end an addiction on their own, and attempt to abruptly cut out the drug . However, doing so causes withdrawal symptoms to come forth forcefully and allows setbacks to possibly appear. Working with The Recovery Village can give prospective clients the opportunity to work with medical professionals to find the best way to treat their addiction.

Cocaine addiction is among the most prevalent conditions treated in rehab facilities. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported around 910,000 Americans meeting the criteria for cocaine dependence in 2014. With thousands of people trying cocaine for the first time every year, it’s inevitable that many will develop an abusive habit and require treatment  from a medical professional or at treatment center. Consider the following cocaine-related statistics:

  • Between 5,000 and 6,000 of unintentional deaths in the United States each year involve cocaine.
  • In 2011, approximately 505,000 of the 1.3 million emergency room visits related to drug misuse involved cocaine.
  • In 2015, between 1.8 percent and 2.3 percent of 12th graders in the United States used cocaine.
  • 17 percent of people who try cocaine develop a dependency.
  • 50-90 percent of people who are addicted to cocaine experience relapse when attempting to detox without professional help.

Even though the mainstream appeal of cocaine may have diminished slightly, the potent powder continues to infiltrate our country and present a real danger to those who choose to experiment. Cocaine addiction is still a threat. In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard seized more than $5.6 billion in cocaine, which amounted to  416,600 pounds seized. An estimated 2,834 tons of the drug were shipped to the United States in 2016, compared to 577 tons in 2013. Only 7 percent of these shipments were seized.

The widespread availability of the drug has translated to an unfortunate toll among those who use it. Cocaine-related overdose deaths rose from 11 to 13 percent between 2010 and 2015. Additional studies show that the street price of cocaine has fallen 20 percent over the last 20 years, making it easier for people to find, purchase and abuse the substance.

Regarding cocaine addiction, people need to seek help as soon as possible. Rehabilitation at a certified rehab facility is often the best way to help someone break away from their cocaine addiction and return to good mental and physical health. The use of cocaine in any amount is not to be taken lightly. Cocaine addiction is a medical disease that should not be addressed without proper medical supervision. The Recovery Village offers a variety of nationwide locations to help individuals struggling with a cocaine addiction. Our treatment centers are fully equipped with the proper tools and resources to help you or a loved one overcome a substance use disorder. If you would like more information regarding our programs and the ways The Recovery Village can help you, call one of our representatives. Calls are  completely free and confidential. Begin the road to a cocaine-free life, today.

Burch, Kelly. “Record Amount of Cocaine Seized During 2016.” The Fix, 2 Mar. 2017, Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research). “Cocaine.” CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research), 29 Oct. 2013, Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

Doward, Jamie. “Warning of Extra Heart Dangers from Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol.” The Guardian, 7 Nov. 2009, Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

Quick Facts About Cocaine

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