Cocaine Abuse and It’s Impact

Cocaine is an illegal drug that is used to stimulate the brain.  Ideally, it speeds up the function of the brain.  Cocaine is extracted from coca plant leaves and processed by blending it with other chemicals to produce various forms.  White powder also known as cocaine hydrochloride is one form of cocaine that is most common in Australia. It is mostly inhaled or injected on the user.  Chemicals that are used include lactose and glucose, which are added to increase the profits.

Another form of cocaine is “freebase” that can be smoked. It is rare and some of its slang terms are “coke”, “Stardust” and “blow”. This form is processed by blending with ammonia and one heat and smokes the vapor.  ‘Freebase’ is not water-soluble and has A high melting point.

Crack coca is also another name that is used to refer to ‘freebase’ cocaine.   Crack cocaine is another form which is made using baking soda and can have various impurities.  This is considered the most addictive form of cocaine. Crack is a term that emanates from the crackling sound that is produced due to heating prior to smoking the substance.

Most cocaine users snort the white powder into the nose; others rub on their gums or put it in water and inject it into their bloodstreams. Other users heat it up and breathe in the smoke or smoke it like a cigar. When a person snorts the drug, it quickly gets absorbed in the bloodstream via the nasal passages. Snorting produces longer effects; approximately 15 to 30 minutes than injection which can only be felt up to 10 minutes, but it can damage the nasal cavity and the throat.  If used for long or in large quantities it can cause nose bleeding and permanent loss of sense of smell.  However, even a single snorting of cocaine can cause complications of your nasal cavity and make it difficult to swallow.

How cocaine works

Cocaine is a strong addictive stimulant that creates the sense of euphoria to the user. Euphoric effects normally imply increased energy, heightened alertness, and less fatigue. Once an individual consumes the drug, they might be talkative, lose appetite, and lack the need to sleep. It works by stimulating the nervous system to produce more dopamine, neurochemicals that are responsible for happiness or rewards. Normally, the brain chemical is secreted and recycled to continue experiencing the effects.  Cocaine interferes with this process by allowing the dopamine to accumulate and send a signal to the central nervous system of reward, hence the euphoric effects.

Some cocaine users claim that they experience restlessness, anxiety, and in some cases irritability. Nevertheless, the effects are short -lived and the longest that the strongest form of cocaine can make the user experience the effects is 15 minutes. The faster the absorption of the substance to the bloodstream, the more intense and rapid the effects of ‘high’ effect of cocaine.

Henceforth, the users will want to take more within short periods in order to experience such and thus it can develop into a binge pattern.  This can lead increased irritability, restlessness, and insomnia.  Sadly, one can lose touch with reality and experience hallucinations.  Metabolism of cocaine just like most drugs takes place in the liver. Less than 1% of cocaine is excreted through urine.  Benzoylecgonine is the primary metabolite of cocaine and can only be detected in the urine sample 8 days after taking the drug.

Users might develop tolerance; the urge to consume more in order to feel the effects they earlier felt with just a small amount of the drug. Others increase the amount trying to intensify and prolong the effects of the substance.  Besides, some individuals can become extra sensitive to the effects even while taking small dosages. This explains why some cocaine users can die even after low doses.  Cocaine can be extremely addictive both psychologically and neurochemically.

Effects of Cocaine

The impacts of cocaine will depend on various factors such as the mode of intake, combination with other drugs, the amount consumed, size, weight, and health of the user.  However, there is no safe amount of drug that can be consumed and any amount puts the user at a great danger. Even medications which are prescribed by doctors can cause unwanted side effects. Therefore, it is very essential to be mindful when taking any drug.

Immediate effects of cocaine

Cocaine rush lasts in between 15 to 30 minutes after consumption depending on how the user took it e.g. smoking, snorting or injection. Snorting has delayed immediate impacts on the body, but they stay for a longer period.   Smoking and injection have more rapid effects which can start even after 7 seconds. However, they are short-lived (5 to 10 minutes.)

The shorter duration tends to produce more intense effects to the user that increases the cravings and the frequency of use. This explains why crack cocaine is more addictive than other forms. The stimulation of production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for positive feelings or pleasure is one of the cocaine impacts on the brain that leads to subjective ‘high’ and later dependence or addiction.

Some individuals consume cocaine in a misguided way as an attempt to boost their physical performance. This is because it decreases the need to sleep, increases energy, and generates feelings of confidence.  Some students use it to keep them awake in order to study or accomplish a challenging assignment.

Since the drug is known to reduce appetite, some people use as an aid to reduce or manage their weight. Sadly, whichever the reason that makes you use the drug, it is harmful to the health, can lead to tolerance, dependence, and later addiction. The following are some immediate effects of cocaine consumption;

  • Euphoric feelings (more energy, increased happiness or positive effects, alertness),
  • Accelerated heart rate and increase in body temperature.
  • Dilated or enlarged pupils and dry mouth.
  • Loss of appetite and increased blood pressure.
  • Craving for sex, increase in libido, and a burst of energy.
  • Increased talkativeness or a quiet rapture.
  • Increased sense of well being or confidence and decreased need to sleep or insomnia.
  • Anxiety, panic, and agitation or irritability.
  • Increased performance on easy tasks and feelings of vast physical strength and mental capability.

However, when the immediate effects or ‘rush’ of cocaine is worn off, the user may experience a ‘crash’ that is normally characterized by tension, anxiety, depression, total fatigue, and radical mood swings.

Cocaine overdose

By simply inhaling cocaine once, you risk overdose of the drug.  The amount of the substance that can cause overdose depends on various things such as physiology and health condition of the user, together with other drugs that one might be using.  Combining cocaine with other drugs like alcohol can create a serious risk of overdose.  If one takes more cocaine than their body can cope with can suffer from an overdose.

One can continue smoking or injecting to experience the effects, buts end up risking their health.  Injections are common ways of overdosing cocaine since the drug gets into the bloodstream directly and quickly gets into the brain. An overdose of cocaine produces the following effects;

  • Anxiety and sleep disorders.
  • Delirium and delusions.
  • Paranoia, convulsions, and tremors,
  • Chest pain, heart attack, and increased heart rate.
  • Muscle weakness, seizures, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Stroke, convulsions, and hypothermia or low body temperatures.

Many of the effects of an overdose of cocaine can be fatal quickly or lead to a coma. Therefore, if one experiences an overdose they should immediately seek medical care. Kidney failure, coma, stroke, and cerebral hemorrhage are common symptoms of a cocaine overdose, and if not medically addressed immediately they put the user at a risk of heart failure or death.

If one consumes large quantities of the drug or use it frequently, they can suffer from cocaine psychosis. This is characterized by paranoia, hallucinations, and violent behavior. The effects vanish some days after the individual has stopped taking the drug.

Long -Lasting Effects of Cocaine

With repeated consumption of cocaine, the brain gets used to the drug such that the reward generating chemicals become less sensitive to the natural reinforceRs.  Consequently,  the signals responsible for stress become extra sensitive and this leads to an increase in stress levels and negative moods when one stops taking the drug.  The effects are termed as withdrawal symptoms and make the user keep on consuming the drug in order to avoid them.

The longer the period of cocaine usage, the greater the damage to the physical health and brain  Cocaine addiction is one of the long term impacts of cocaine as the user gets used to depending on the drug for positive effects other than the natural ways such as food, relationships, and natural rewards.  The following are some potential long term impacts of cocaine;

  1. Damage of the nasal cavity

Since most cocaine users consume the drug by snorting, the nose suffers most.   People who consume high quantities of cocaine experience nose bleeding and long use can destroy the sense of smell of the user permanently.  The nasal cavity is made of delicate tissues which when exposed to this strong stimulant can incur irreplaceable damage. Cocaine contains elements that destroy the cartilage in the septum.

Also, it damages the bones inside walls of the nasal cavity.  This leads to a permanent deformity of the nasal cavity referred to as nasal septal perforation.  After the nose is damaged, the effect spreads down to the mouth and throat.  This ends up complicating breathing and eating of the cocaine user.

  1. Alters the metabolism of the user

It can be ironical to state that cocaine use impacts negatively on the metabolic system. Shortly after consumption of the drug, one’s appetite is reduced hence enhancing metabolism.  Consequently, this leads to a drastic reduction in weight, which to an individual working on weight, can be perceived as a blessing in disguise.

In fact, many models and celebs have claimed that their reason behind the use of cocaine is to stay slim.  Nevertheless, one should note that cocaine is not a safe weight tool management. This is the first thing that a patient who is recovering from cocaine addiction is taught.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge claim that cocaine consumption can dramatically change the functioning of the metabolic system.  It makes it work faster and more efficient.  However, when one stops using the drug and starts treatment, the metabolic change goes away.  Therefore, many people recovering from cocaine use might gain excess weight.  This can trigger a relapse or cause frustration and depression.

People going through the treatment process are taught how to acknowledge the metabolic imbalance. Also, the professionals take them through steps that are can protect their mental and physical health all through the treatment journey.

  1. The cardiovascular system

One of the short-term impacts of cocaine use as stated earlier is increased blood pressure which is caused by an increased heart rate. This is one of the ways in which cocaine affects the cardiovascular system.  These effects can be severe but vary among users.  Cocaine constricts the blood vessels hence restricting oxygen flow from and into the heart.  This leads to microvascular disease.  This drug blocks sodium and potassium channels causing suppression of cardiovascular parameters. It also increases the sensitivity of the adrenergic nerve endings.

Cocaine influences both heart rate and blood pressure through stimulation of the adrenergic.  Using the drug with other drugs such as cigarettes causes coronary vasoconstriction.  Consumption of the substance can also lead to systolic and diastolic dysfunction, simply implying an abnormal filling of the chambers of the heart.  It also leads to improper heartbeat referred to as arrhythmias and in worst cases, it can cause congestive heart failure.  All the above cardiovascular issues can be severe if one is using cocaine and has a heart condition.

  1. Brain

Although cocaine affects almost every part of the body, many people claim that it has huge effects on the brain.  Some people argue that the nasal cavity is the one that suffers great damage, whereas others think that it is the brain. Whichever the case, cocaine is really harmful to your health and if you have just started using it, quit with immediate effect. For people who are addicted, seek medical help and support. It can never be late.

The increased energy that a person feels after consumption of the substance is due to the neural signals in the brain which respond to the stimulant.  Cocaine triggers neurons in the amygdala, the brain’s learning center to send signals to the brain’s addiction center or in other words ventral subiculum.  This transmission of signals occurs with each singular use of cocaine.

The amygdala gets used to the exchange of the messages and produces long-term signals which secrete dopamine constantly without stopping.  In return, it makes it harder for the body to experience pleasure from the usual drug dosage.  Since amygdala is the brain’s learning center, the adjustment continues even after one quits cocaine use.

  1. Financial problems

Drugs, including cocaine, are expensive, especially if you take them on daily basis.  As one starts using cocaine, they experience good effects with may be one puff, but as one progresses, they require more in order to achieve such effects. Also, since the immediate effects are short-lived, people have the urge to take more for them to maintain the feeling.  Henceforth, the more you will spend on the drug.

The cravings are so strong such that one can do anything including borrowing money to quench the thirst.  Cocaine withdrawal triggers bad habits such as laziness and depression which can reduce job productivity, and may cause loss of employment.

  1. Addiction

Surprisingly, some people wonder if cocaine is addictive. And the answer is yes.  However, not every person who uses the drug can become addicted.  Despite the glamorization of cocaine, it is one of the strongest addictive substances around the globe.  Many people use the drug due to its euphoric effects, but in the long run, one becomes dependent on it. As soon as the drug gets into the brain- whichever way (injection, smoking or inhalation) there are chances of addiction.  It triggers the production of certain chemicals that are connected to pleasure and stress.

The effects wear off quickly giving the user a tendency to want to take more.  Consequently, the comedown involves stress, exhaustion, and other negative feelings which encourage the individual to take the drug to curb them.  Sadly, one may not notice that they addicted and it might be up to friends and relatives to look for the signs of cocaine abuse and addiction.  Detecting cocaine abuse early can be a sure way to help the person stop and get treatment.

The following are some signs that you or your loved one is using cocaine;

  • Restlessness and increased energy.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Talkativeness and increased alertness.
  • Loss of interest in other things such as hobbies and job.
  • Isolation and change of friends.
  • Dramatic mood swings and irritability.
  • Loss of appetite and weight.
  • Dilated pupils and eyes that are almost all black.
  • You can things that are left behind may be in their room.  People using drugs are highly secretive and will try to hide anything that can raise suspicions. These can include small spoons, mirrors, razor blades, powdery residue, glass or metallic straws, etc.
  • Behavioral changes.

Addiction is ideally the compulsive consumption of a drug despite the consequences. If a person is addicted to cocaine it can be very hard to stop using the drug no matter how strong the willpower.  The strong cravings often lead to compulsive behavior change such as isolation, spending rent or money budgeted for other things on cocaine use, missing work or classes to consume the drug, choosing to spend most of their time with people whom they use the drug with rather than their family members, being secretive especially on cocaine use, and the urge to stop using the drug but being unable to.

Cocaine addiction is marked by taking risks such as driving when you are ‘high’, neglecting and abandoning responsibilities, troubled relationships at work and in the family due to your emphasis on cocaine use, problems with the legal system, and the constant use even though you might be experiencing serious negative impacts such increased blood pressure, nose bleedings, weight loss, and many others.

Withdrawal and Treatment of Cocaine Addiction

It reaches a point, maybe with help of a specialist, one quit using cocaine. Since the body was used to the drug, one experiences withdrawal symptoms.  Ideally, this is due to the physical dependence of the body on the drug.  Through dependence, the brain starts to require the substance to function normally.  Whenever, the substance is not available, withdrawal symptoms chip in.  However, severity is depended on the duration of use, the frequency of use, purity of the substance, route of administration, the combination with other drugs, and the existence of other mental or physical health issues.  The following are some common withdrawal symptoms of cocaine;

  • Cocaine cravings- most people after stopping to use the drug experience a very strong urge to use the substance.
  • Mood changes – dramatic mood swings a very normal after quitting the consumption of cocaine. One may experience depression, irritability, and anxiety.
  • Agitation and suicidal thoughts.
  • Restlessness and nightmares.
  • Fatigue and increased cravings for food.
  • Slowed thinking and difficulty in concentration.
  • Inability to get aroused and the inability to experience pleasure.
  • Physical symptoms such as tremors, muscle pains, nerve pains, and chills.
  • Increased urge to consume cocaine.

Cocaine Detox 

Detox is the first step for cocaine addiction treatment.  It is a process that allows the body to get rid of any cocaine.  The process can be painful, but medications and therapies are administered to ease it.