Drug addiction is one of the most prevalent health crises of our time.
Currently in the United States, we are dealing with a large-scale opioid crisis, and many other countries are suffering from similar epidemics.
But the key to solving any problem is understanding it. In this article, we will not be talking about an opioid, but a stimulant: cocaine and crack cocaine.
This drug saw a rise in popularity in the 1980s, and it is still on the streets today. So many people out there are suffering because of their cocaine habit and if we are to help them, we must understand the drug ourselves.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a highly-addictive stimulant drug derived from the coca plant in South America.
Cocaine is mainly processed into two forms:
- Cocaine hydrochloride
- Crack cocaine
Cocaine hydrochloride is a white powdered form of the drug. Crack is made by processing cocaine hydrochloride with ammonia or baking soda and water into white crystal chips, chunks or rocks.
How is Cocaine Used?
Cocaine users take the powdered form of the drug by snorting it through the nose or by dissolving it in water and injecting it directly into the bloodstream. It is also sometimes rubbed into the gums.
Crack is a smokeable form of cocaine. Users will heat the crystals, often in a spoon, and inhale the vapor.
The duration and intensity of cocaine's effects vary depending on the way the drug is taken. Snorting and injection are direct lines to the bloodstream, allowing for the effects to take hold quicker, last longer, and feel more intense. Smoking crack creates a less intense high that lasts much shorter than the powdered form.
How Does a Cocaine Habit Start?
These highs are so euphoric that it brings the users back to it over and over again, despite the many negative effects on their health.
Repeated and regular use will create a physical dependence on the drug where the body has become more tolerant of its effects and actually begins to rely on its stimulation.
Users who try cut back or quit altogether without the help of trained rehab specialists will often go through intense, potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
What Are the Side-Effects?
According to the DEA, the side-effects that keep users hooked on the drug are:
- An instant euphoric state or "rush"
- Increased alertness and excitation
However, there are a number of negative effects such as:
- Restlessness, irritability, and anxiety
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
These are just the short-term effects and we can already see that this is a dangerous substance to abuse. The long-term effects, however, make that even more abundantly clear.
What Are the Long-Term Effects?
Using cocaine over long periods of time (often known as "binging") can have a number of harmful effects on the body long-term.
According to the National Institute of Health, some of the effects vary depending on how the user takes the drug.
- Those who snort cocaine over time may experience loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing.
- Users who take cocaine in the mouth may see severe bowel decay.
- People who frequently inject cocaine into their bloodstream are at high risk of contracting bloodborne diseases.
There are also several harmful effects that are caused by the drug itself:
- Movement disorders, including Parkinson's disease
- Severe paranoia
- Losing touch with reality and experiencing auditory hallucinations
These are merely the most common effects, there have been many other harmful effects to users' bodies associated with the drug.
What Treatment is Available?
Before we can talk about treatment, we must first correct an incorrect assumption many people have about drug addiction. Drug addiction is not simply a bad habit that users can just will themselves out of, it is a chronic illness and needs to be treated as such.
Treatment is available through several drug rehabilitation centers and programs. This treatment usually includes counseling, medication, and long-term follow-up to ensure that relapses don't occur.
The intensity of treatment will depend on the substance and how long the user has been addicted to it. But cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs on the streets, so freedom from cocaine addiction will require a lot of work from both parties: the patient and the rehab program.
What Are the Signs of Withdrawal and Overdose?
Watching a loved one go through drug rehabilitation therapy can be incredibly traumatic. You should know that these are some of the signs of withdrawal they will experience:
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased hunger
- Cravings for the drug
- Chills, nerve pain, and muscle aches
There are also many physical signs if someone overdoses on cocaine. If you see someone who you believe to have a cocaine habit experiencing these symptoms, you should call an ambulance right away:
- Increased sweating, body temperature, or heart rate
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion, seizures, tremors
These symptoms can be frightening to witness if you don't know what's going on, so take the time to familiarize yourself with this list so that you can be prepared.
Counseling is often a part of drug rehabilitation therapy, but some programs do not provide it in favor of focusing on the patient's physical healing. But it is a vital part of the process.
If you or someone you know is recovering from a cocaine habit, consider getting therapy. Even if your body has fully recovered, your mind will need help to back to a healthy state.
You can click here to find the right rehab for you or your loved one.