“Is cocaine addictive?” is a commonly asked question regarding this substance. The short answer is yes. 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 reward pathway and its production of certain chemicals related to pleasure (such as dopamine) 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 abuse.
Historically, physical cocaine addiction may not develop as quickly as select other narcotics, such as heroin. But a psychological dependence and repeated exposure can pave the way for serious physical dependence and traumatic withdrawal symptoms. On average, cocaine addiction develops over the course of one year in people who use the drug on a regular basis. The most at-risk people who use it for eventual dependency, according to research, are those who are 21–25 years of age, female, and African-American.
Another factor to consider when answering the “Is cocaine addictive?” question is time. There is no telling when cocaine addiction can take hold. Cocaine, particularly crack cocaine, can lead to addiction after just a single use. Once in the throes of cocaine addiction, 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 between uses can quickly become overwhelming and lead to a complete loss of judgement; those who are addicted often spend every last penny to their name in order to renew their high. They may also rapidly develop a tolerance to the drug — wherein it takes a higher dosage to reach the same effect. With cocaine in particular, this tolerance can develop and remain 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 professional, social and emotional stability.
In addition to this litany of destructive behavior, not to mention the physical hazards of the drug, cocaine addiction can lead to binge sessions in which the person consumes copious amounts in a single sitting as a way to overcompensate for stress and 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.
In cases of addiction, people must admit their problem and seek help as soon as possible. If you think someone in your life is struggling with cocaine addiction, speak up. Don’t wait to see how it turns out. Rehabilitation at a certified rehab facility is often the only way to help someone break away from their cocaine addiction and return to good mental and physical health. Any amount of cocaine use is not to be taken lightly; cocaine addiction is a medical disease that cannot be addressed alone.
The faster a drug reaches the brain, the more likely a person is to develop abusive tendencies, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 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 an additional reason why crack, which is far more commonly smoked, 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, cocaine addiction can ensue.