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Cocaine Addiction

Table of Contents:

I, the unfortunate Doctor Polyakov, who became addicted to morphine in February of this year, warn anyone who may suffer the same fate not to attempt to replace morphine with cocaine. Cocaine is a most foul and insidious poison.

lines of white powder cocaine and credit card

What is Cocaine?

coca cola truck - cocaine used to be in coca cola

Cocaine Nicknames:

Cocaine nicknames include: coke, snow, powder, white, white girl, Christina, blow, yayo, fish scale, lines, toot, and Tony. Street names for crack include: hard, rock, base, and flay.    

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug produced from the leaves of the coca plant. Processed cocaine comes in the form of a fine crystalline powder that is white or off-white. Historically, accounts of derivatives of the coca plant being used for their stimulant effect go back thousands of years. Cocaine, the chemically active component of the coca plant, was isolated and named in 1860. By 1863, cocaine was being marketed to the public as a cure for many afflictions and even being dissolved in fortified wine beverages. By 1884, cocaine was being used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures and by 1886 the first recipe for Coca-Cola was produced which included cocaine. At one point cocaine was even being used as a treatment for morphine addiction!

Eventually, the medical world became aware of cocaine addiction and in 1914 the Harrison Narcotics Act made cocaine illegal. This unfortunately was not the end of the story for cocaine, as cocaine addiction soared in the 1980’s with the introduction of crack cocaine and continues to be a problem today. Nowadays, powder cocaine can be bought on the street in most major US cities by the gram or as an 8 ball of cocaine (3.5 grams).

Cocaine Use

Crack vs Cocaine

Crack cocaine is the free base form of cocaine which is “cooked up” from powder cocaine. Crack vaporizes at a much lower temperature than cocaine hydrochloride (powder cocaine) allowing it to be smoked. Smoking cocaine that has not been cooked into crack produces little to no effect. Because crack can be smoked, it enters the blood stream very quickly and reaches the brain within 8 seconds producing a short but highly intense rush. According to the Manual of Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment, this rapid onset makes crack the most addictive form of cocaine.

Snorting Cocaine

Insufflation, or snorting cocaine, is the most common way that the drug is used. This is the preferred method for party-goers and clubbers because they can easily slip into the bathroom and snort lines of cocaine with a rolled up dollar bill or straw or sniff “bumps” of cocaine off their hand or the tip of a key.

Smoking Cocaine

As mentioned earlier, smoking crack is the most common way that crack cocaine is used. Smoking cocaine that is sprinkled on top of marijuana or tobacco is common as it is a less obvious method. When crack is heated it becomes an oil, so most crack smokers will use a glass pipe stuffed with some form of metal screen to catch the oil as it runs. Cocaine addiction is more likely to occur from smoking cocaine as a result of the rapid onset.

Injecting (IV) Cocaine

Powder cocaine can be easily dissolved in water and injected to produce an immediate intense rush similar to smoking crack. This method of injecting cocaine is called shooting cocaine or mainlining. Commonly, cocaine is mixed with heroin and injected as a speedball. Cocaine addiction occurs more often when injecting than when snorting as a result of the rapid onset and increased bioavailability.

Cocaine and Alcohol

Because cocaine is commonly associated with nightlife and partying, it is often used in combination with alcohol. The stimulant effect of the cocaine is used to reduce the drowsiness the accompanies drinking. This allows users to keep the party going – drinking more alcohol over longer periods of time. Mixing alcohol and cocaine is dangerous however, because it prevents the user from recognizing when they have consumed too much of either. In addition, using alcohol with cocaine causes the liver to produce a substance called cocaethylene, which is much more toxic to organs and increases the risk of immediate death by 18-25 times compared with cocaine alone.

Signs of Cocaine Use

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature and blood pressure
  • Increased heartrate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Erratic behavior
  • Anxiety or paranoia
lines of cocaine and rolled up dollar bill
Lines of cocaine and rolled bill for snorting
syringes used to shoot cocaine
Insulin syringes are used for injecting drugs

Cocaine Effects

What Does Cocaine Do to You?

Cocaine produces its effects mainly by increasing the amount of dopamine available in the brain. Under normal circumstances, neurons in the brain release the neurotransmitter dopamine in response to different stimuli, and the “extra” dopamine that doesn’t find a receptor to bind to is recycled. Cocaine stops that extra dopamine from being recycled, creating a buildup of dopamine at the synapse (space between the dopamine producing and dopamine receiving neurons). This flood of dopamine in the limbic system produces feelings of pleasure and euphoria, creating the cocaine high.

How Long Does Cocaine Last?

A cocaine high is relatively short but depends on how it is consumed. The high from snorting cocaine typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes, while the high from injecting or smoking cocaine lasts only a few minutes. This short-lived high means that users have to continue to use and increase their doses to avoid the cocaine comedown.

Cocaine Comedown

When a user stops using cocaine after a spree, they experience a depression known as a cocaine comedown. During this period, people tend to feel apathetic and lethargic. The duration of this period depends on how much and how long a person was using.

Side Effects of Cocaine

  • Tremors and muscle twitches
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthermia and sweating
  • Restlessness, irritability, anxiety, and panic
  • Nausea and loss of appetite

How Cocaine Effects the Heart

The most serious risk of long-term cocaine use is damage to the heart. Cocaine is particularly damaging to the heart because it simultaneously increases how much oxygen the muscle tissue of the heart requires and reduces the supply of oxygen to that tissue. As a result, cardiovascular effects of cocaine include:

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Arrythmias
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Aortic dissection
  • Endocarditis
  • Sudden death
image showing excitatory effects of cocaine on neurons in brain
cocaine can damage the heart of cocaine addicts

Cocaine Addiction

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Lying and secrecy
  • Financial problems
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and interests
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden changes in hygiene
  • Changes in friends and acquaintances

Because the limbic system not only controls the reward pathway of the brain, but also impacts memory formation, cocaine addiction is common and very difficult to overcome. Cocaine withdrawal does not include the kind of physical symptoms that you may see with alcohol or opioids, but there are psychological symptoms that are common when a person who is addicted to cocaine stops using it. Cravings for cocaine last months and even years after a person has stopped using cocaine. The details of exactly why these cravings last so long are not fully understood, but research shows that cocaine use actually changes the structure of nerve cells in the brain and even changes the expression of some genes.

How Addictive is Cocaine?

While cocaine does not produce physical dependence, that does not mean that it is not addictive. Because of the powerful rush associated with cocaine use, particularly when smoked or injected, addiction can occur very rapidly. Crack cocaine addiction typically occurs much more quickly than powder cocaine addiction. How long does it take to get addicted to cocaine? There is no clear answer to this question as addiction develops differently for each person, and factors like mental health, family history of addiction, and many others affect whether or not someone will develop a cocaine addiction.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

In the past decade, new drugs have emerged that doctors and therapists have hoped would be effective as medication for cocaine addiction. While some have showed promise, there is still no medication available that has proved consistently effective in treating cocaine addiction. The most effective cocaine addiction treatment is still the kind of behavioral therapy that takes place at a residential addiction treatment center. Some of these behavioral cocaine addiction treatment methods include motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, relapse prevention programs, and programs designed to develop coping skills and self-esteem. Participating in these kinds of addiction therapies in an inpatient setting, continuing therapy after discharge, and joining a recovery fellowship like Cocaine Anonymous can all greatly increase a persons chance at recovering from cocaine addiction. 1 Solution Detox is a leading cocaine addiction rehab center. Give us a call to learn more about our Palm Beach detox and drug rehab.