Harms of cocaine addiction

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We address information regarding the detrimental effects of cocaine addiction on the brain and body, methods for cessation, and the imperative for sustained sobriety. Given its alarming prevalence, particularly in our country where usage can begin as early as age 12, cocaine addiction demands serious consideration.

What is it? Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. It typically induces short-lived sensations of heightened energy, and increased verbosity.

In America, the age of use has dropped to 12!
It is perceived as a “luxurious” drug due to its high cost and perceived purity. However, it is commonly mixed or “cut” with various substances like sugars, flour, cornstarch, laxatives, local anesthetics, and amphetamines to maximize profits. Currently, cocaine is listed as a Schedule II drug, indicating that while it has a high potential for abuse, doctors can prescribe it for specific medical uses such as local anesthesia for certain surgeries. Nonetheless, such prescriptions are rare in contemporary times.
The social stigma attached to cocaine use tends to be less harsh, with derogatory terms like “junkie” and “addict” more commonly applied to users of harder drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine. Despite its reputation as a drug of affluence, cocaine addiction can affect individuals from all walks of life. Some users may turn to crack cocaine, a cheaper alternative. Crack is a processed form of cocaine that is found as small white “rocks” and is usually smoked. *The use of any kind of drug is harmful to health. In 2014, an estimated 1.5 million individuals aged 12 and above in the United States were active cocaine users, with approximately 354,000 of them using crack. In that same year, around 913,000 people aged 12 and above in the U.S. were battling a cocaine use disorder, indicating that nearly two-thirds of all cocaine users end up struggling with a harmful addiction to this potent drug.

It was even featured in Coca Cola in the 1800s!
Cocaine stands as one of the most ancient, powerful, and perilous stimulants known to man, captivating users with its intense euphoric effects. Historically, Native Peruvians chewed coca leaves exclusively during religious ceremonies. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the renowned psychologist, was a habitual user of cocaine, championing its use as a “wondrous substance” to alleviate depression. In the late 1850s, cocaine found its way into various elixirs, tonics, and even the newly invented soft drink, Coca-Cola, lasting for several years.
From the 1970s through the 1980s, cocaine became a staple in Hollywood’s party culture, celebrated as a drug that offered energy and sociability. Cocaine was first isolated in 1859 by the German chemist Albert Niemann, but it was not until the 1880s that it gained significant attention in the medical field. The drug’s popularity soared in 1886 when John Pemberton included coca leaves as an ingredient in his new soft drink, “Coca-Cola,” with the stimulating effects contributing to the beverage’s success.
As Coca-Cola became a household name, cocaine use surged, and its adverse effects became more apparent. Public outcry eventually led the company to remove the drug from the beverage in 1903. By 1912, the detrimental impact of cocaine was undeniable, with a spike in hospitalizations and a reported 5,000 cocaine- related deaths in the United States. The substance was officially prohibited by 1922, and by 2008, it had become the world’s second most trafficked illegal drug. (Heroin, another banned substance, comes first.)

Cocaine Addiction’s Perils: A Brief yet Intense High and its Aftermath
The distinguishing factor of cocaine addiction lies in the remarkably fleeting nature of the high it produces:
On average, the euphoria from snorting this harmful and illegal substance spans just 15-30 minutes. These ‘highs’ are subdued, as the drug takes more time to enter the bloodstream through this method. Conversely, smoking cocaine results in a more potent ‘high’ due to its swift absorption into the bloodstream, but this sensation lasts a mere five to ten minutes. Following the initial surge of euphoria, users are left in a state of despondency, fueling an intense craving for more of the drug and in larger quantities.
Cocaine poses severe risks to users. Given the drug’s short-lived high, individuals have been known to engage in extended binges lasting four days or more, consuming cocaine relentlessly in escalating doses. As the amount or frequency of use rises, so does the likelihood of experiencing severe psychological distress, including panic attacks, paranoia, and hallucinations. Overcoming addiction is a monumental challenge, often requiring multiple detrimental consequences for an individual to consider quitting. These could range from passing out, depleting financial resources, legal troubles, to hospitalization. Regardless of the consumption level or frequency, cocaine heightens the probability of the user suffering a heart attack, stroke, seizure, or respiratory failure, any of which can lead to sudden death.

Transitioning from recreational use to addiction, an individual can find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle. It’s not uncommon for a cocaine addict to exhaust their paycheck within a weekend, leaving them penniless by Monday. The following week is spent grappling with depression, anxiety, and the aftermath of their choices, alongside plummeting dopamine levels that exacerbate their depressive state. Despite vowing to abstain from cocaine, the arrival of the next weekend often resets the destructive cycle.
Once ensnared in this downward spiral, halting the descent before hitting rock bottom is immensely challenging.

“Cocaine stands as one of the most ancient, powerful, and perilous stimulants
known to man, captivating users with its intense euphoric effects.”

The effects on the brain and body
Both freebase (crack) and powder cocaine flood the brain with neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Under normal circumstances, the brain naturally produces and recycles these chemicals, but cocaine obstructs this process. This build-up of neurotransmitters leads to intense, ephemeral bursts of euphoria, compelling users to seek out more of the drug. As tolerance to cocaine builds quickly, habitual users require progressively larger doses to achieve the desired high.
Upon concluding a cocaine binge, the ensuing dopamine crash can be particularly perilous. Dopamine is associated with pleasure, and the brain interprets its surge as a reward, making it increasingly difficult for users to derive pleasure from other sources. The drug commandeers their attention, overshadowing fundamental needs such as food, sleep, and meaningful connections. If the brain fails to regain its normal balance, prolonged cocaine abuse may culminate in persistent depression, necessitating ongoing mental health care.
Cocaine can also inflict lasting damage on the brain. Damage to the linings of veins and arteries can result in chronic headaches due to impaired blood flow to the brain, potentially leading to blood clots and strokes. Seizures are a risk both during a binge and with long-term abuse, potentially requiring extended treatment. Reduced levels of glucose metabolism have been observed in various regions of the brain in cocaine users, leading to suboptimal neuronal performance and possible cell death. Furthermore, cocaine can elevate stress hormones like cortisol in the brain, potentially causing irreversible damage to the cardiovascular system. A study from Johns Hopkins University has suggested that cocaine might prompt brain cells to start consuming themselves. The research observed cocaine inducing autophagy in mouse neurons, a process where cells begin to devour themselves from the inside out. This cellular self-cannibalization occurred as the cells purged valuable resources during metabolism, resulting in a stress-induced reaction. * Autophagy is a natural process that allows cells to digest themselves. This process is typically important for cell renewal and cleansing the body. However, in some cases, such as drug use, autophagy can be activated excessively or abnormally, leading to harm to the cells. Therefore, in this context, autophagy can
have a negative effect. Intriguingly, this phenomenon was also noted in mice born to mothers that had consumed cocaine during pregnancy, despite the offspring themselves not being dependent on the drug.

Cocaine’s Psychological Impact
(Depends on the dosage and the user’s tolerance)
Enhanced alertness and vigilance Reduced fatigue
Boosted energy levels
Clarified thought processes Heightened focus
Mood elevation
Mild to intense feelings of euphoria
Improved athletic performance accompanied by increased irritability
*Certainly, all these effects are very short-lived and are followed by a deep crash.

Understanding Cocaine Psychosis
Cocaine psychosis is a transitory mental health condition typically induced by prolonged and excessive drug consumption. It is often metaphorically described as an “overdose of the mind.” When the brain becomes overwhelmed by toxic levels of cocaine, it loses its grip on reality. Symptoms can range from paranoia and delusions to full-blown hallucinations, leading to erratic, uncontrollable behavior. Individuals suffering from cocaine psychosis may experience intense delirium, potentially resulting in bizarre or violent actions. Hospitals and treatment centers may need to implement extensive restraint measures to prevent harm to the affected individual or others. During episodes of cocaine psychosis, paranoia and suspicion are common, and research has linked numerous incidents of violence, accidents, and injuries back to excessive cocaine use. The condition is often marked by confusion, irritability, fear, paranoia, hallucinations, anti-social behavior, and aggression.

Physical Repercussions!
Identifying signs of cocaine addiction early on is crucial to prevent fatal outcomes. Here are some physical effects associated with cocaine use, including but not limited to:
Rapid heart rate Nosebleeds
Elevated blood pressure Raised body temperature Excessive sweating Accelerated
breathing Dilated pupils
Sleep deprivation
Loss of appetite
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to overdose on cocaine! The drug can lower the body’s seizure threshold, leading to seizures or strokes in vulnerable individuals, and potentially causing heart muscle damage, aortic rupture, and heart attacks, all of which can be fatal!

Permanent Damage…
One of the gravest consequences of cocaine abuse is severe heart muscle damage. Cocaine use can result in cardiomyopathy, leading to the death of heart muscle cells. Intravenous cocaine use can also cause endocarditis, which is the inflammation of an organ’s inner tissues.
Kidney damage is another serious risk associated with prolonged cocaine use. Cocaine is believed to cause inflammation in critical micro-structures within the kidney. Furthermore, cocaine-induced heart damage may elevate the risk of stroke or brain damage due to disrupted blood flow to the brain. Even recreational use can impair the ability to control and regulate behavior, negatively affecting movement control, response to environmental stimuli, and the performance of daily activities.

Navigating Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from cocaine can be a challenging process, with the severity of symptoms depending on the individual’s history of use. A profound craving for more cocaine is one of the most pronounced withdrawal symptoms. Unlike withdrawal from substances like heroin or alcohol, which create physical dependence, cocaine withdrawal is often described as a crash. However, it can still be mentally and psychologically taxing.

During the withdrawal phase, individuals may experience a range of symptoms, including:
Appetite fluctuations
Delusional thinking

Understanding and recognizing these symptoms is crucial for those seeking to overcome cocaine addiction and for their loved ones supporting them through the process.

How to Quit Cocaine?
Quitting cocaine is a critical step toward a healthier life, and seeking professional assistance is the most effective and safest way to do so. Addiction treatment facilities provide crucial support under the watchful eye of medical professionals. Those who have developed a strong dependency or are heavy users of cocaine may struggle significantly to stop using, as they will have to contend with powerful cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In such cases, initiating the process with a detoxification program is advisable. During detox, medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, will closely monitor your mood and vital signs, and may offer medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Currently, there is no FDA- approved medication specifically for quitting cocaine or reducing cravings. The detoxification process from cocaine can span several days, and it is typically followed by a period of inpatient rehabilitation. Inpatient rehab provides a secure and structured environment, away from any potential triggers or temptations that could lead to a relapse. During rehab, you will learn strategies and coping techniques to manage cravings and live a life free from cocaine. Therapy plays a crucial role in helping you alter your behavior and improve your impulse control. Successfully navigating cocaine addiction treatment paves the way for recovery, allowing you to adopt new perspectives and make positive changes in your daily life. For those determined to quit cocaine independently, it is vital to surround yourself with supportive and positive individuals. Seek assistance through support groups, psychotherapy, and trusted friends or family members!

Post-Treatment Life
Aftercare is as vital as the treatment itself. Upon reintegration into society, you will face real-world challenges, including triggers and cravings, as you learn to live a life free from addiction. Many individuals in recovery attribute their success to participation in a 12-step program. Cocaine Anonymous is a well-known 12-step group that provides support and helps individuals find stability in their new, drug-free life. This group offers the chance to connect with others who have successfully achieved long-term sobriety, fostering a supportive community. Attendance at recovery meetings or similar groups is strongly encouraged to maintain social support. Ongoing therapy or personal counseling is crucial to sustaining recovery. Achieving sobriety is a challenging feat, but maintaining it is the real battle. Recovery is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort, as a single lapse could potentially restart the cycle of addiction.

Quitting Cocaine Independently: Is It Possible?
Attempting to quit cocaine abruptly and without support is not advised, and doing so alone can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. If your cocaine use is infrequent, you might be able to stop using without professional help, though intense cravings are likely to occur. While it is feasible to quit cocaine without detox or rehab support, it is not recommended, as this approach often results in relapse. For the sake of your physical and psychological health, consulting a doctor or addiction professional before attempting to quit cocaine is crucial.

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The information and statements on our website are not intended to guide individuals towards medical diagnosis and treatment. Please consult with your doctor for medical diagnostic and treatment procedures. The contents are shared for informational purposes only, derived from scientific studies prepared by EMC Medya Yayıncılık Ticaret Ltd. Şti.’s researchers, consultants, and authors/scientists, as well as compilations from publicly available publications. Our texts do not contain health statements related to medical diagnosis or treatment

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