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Causes & Effects of Cocaine Abuse & Addiction

Cocaine, often referred to more commonly as coke, is an illegal substance that countless people throughout the world use for recreational purposes. Typically found in the form of powder or a crystallized rock, this substance can be ingested through injections, snorting, or smoking. Cocaine causes users to experience intense feelings of exhilaration and euphoria as it works to block the brain’s receptors for pain while also increasing the amount of dopamine that is being released. The high that this drug elicits is almost instantaneous, yet it only lasts for a short period of time, typically no longer than 30 minutes. Because of the short-acting nature of the high, users of cocaine often continue to use the substance chronically in order to prolong the feelings that they desire. Because of the frequency of use, people quickly find themselves developing a tolerance to the substance, leading to an increase in the amount that is used. These subsequent increases ultimately lead to the development of addiction, which, once this occurs, individuals find it extremely difficult to cease their use. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can help abusers of cocaine overcome their addictions and rediscover a sober life.

Get confidential help now: 855.396.1913 or EMAIL US.

Statistics

In the United States, cocaine is said to be the most commonly abused illicit substance. According to the office of the National Drug Control Policy, an estimated 3.6 million individuals in America use cocaine on a regular basis. Unfortunately, additional studies have shown that nearly 75% of those individuals who experiment with using cocaine go on to develop an addiction to the substance.

Causes and Risk Factors for Cocaine Abuse

Professionals in the field of mental health and addiction agree that there a combination of factors that can make some individuals more susceptible to developing an addiction to substances like cocaine than others are. Such factors are described briefly in the following: Genetic: Research has shown that there is a strong genetic link to the development of addictions. Substance abuse concerns are known to run in families, and those who have a first-degree biological family member who struggles with an addiction are much more vulnerable to struggling with an addiction at some point in their lifetimes as well. More specifically, studies have indicated that children who are born to parents who are addicted to substances are eight times more likely to become addicts themselves than are those individuals who do not share similar genetic backgrounds. Environmental: The environments in which individuals are immersed can have a large impact on their susceptibility to beginning to use and abuse various substances, including cocaine. One prominent environmental factor that can play a role in the development of addiction is an individual’s exposure to use and abuse of drugs and/or alcohol. People who grow up in environments where drug use is widespread are more likely to view the behavior as being an acceptable form of recreation, therefore making themselves vulnerable to developing an addiction to cocaine or other substance with which they choose to experiment. Additionally, infants who are exposed to cocaine while they are still in the womb are at a much higher risk for developing an addiction to coke at some point later in life as well. Risk Factors:

  • Personal or family history of mental health conditions
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Personal history of abusing other drugs and/or alcohol
  • Being exposed to the presence of cocaine while in utero
  • Having easy access to the drug
  • Being subjected to high levels of stress
  • Being exposed to crime and/or violence

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

When an individual is abusing cocaine, the signs and symptoms that may be indicative of this behavior will vary depending on the length of time that the person has been using the drug, the amount of the drug that the person uses, and the frequency in which the person is using. Examples of various symptoms that may indicate the presence of a cocaine abuse problem can include: Behavioral symptoms:

  • Change in peer relationships
  • No longer engaging in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Excessive, rapid, or excited speech
  • Prolonged periods of hyperactivity
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Engaging in violent behaviors / aggressive outbursts
  • Excessive restlessness

Physical symptoms:

  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Decreased appetite
  • Changes in physical appearance (primarily in that of extreme or rapid weight loss)
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Excessive sweating
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Dilated pupils
  • Racing heartbeat

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Ability to hyperfocus
  • Intensified sense of alertness
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Decreased ability to use sound judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Prolonged periods of mania
  • Heightened levels of irritability
  • Heightened levels of agitation
  • Heightened levels of unwarranted anger
  • Sudden, dramatic mood swings
  • No longer showing interest in things once interested in

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Cocaine Abuse

The prolonged abuse of cocaine can have countless adverse effects on all areas of a user’s life. One’s physical health is at risk for rapid deterioration as the abuse of cocaine continues. With sudden death being the most tragic circumstance that can result from prolonged coke abuse, other examples of adverse health effects that have been known to occur include:

  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Paranoia
  • Permanent damage to the heart and blood vessels
  • Malnutrition
  • Damage to the kidney, liver, and/or lungs
  • Destruction of nasal tissue
  • Loss of a sense of smell
  • Respiratory failure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

In addition to negative health consequences, the abuse of cocaine can also render users susceptible to experiencing adverse effects in other areas of their lives as well. Examples of other such effects may include:

  • Occupational failure / job loss / chronic unemployment
  • Financial turmoil
  • Familial strife
  • Disturbed interpersonal relationships
  • Interaction with law enforcement, including possible incarceration

Co-Occurring Disorders

It is not uncommon for people who are struggling with an addiction to cocaine to simultaneously be suffering from symptoms of another type of mental health condition. In some instances, the preexisting presence of a mental illness may have led an individual to begin using cocaine while, in other cases, the use of cocaine may have elicited the onset of symptoms of other mental illnesses. Some of the most commonly cited disorders known to co-occur with cocaine use disorder include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: When a person has been using cocaine excessively or chronically over a prolonged period of time, and then suddenly ceases use of the substance, he or she is likely to go through a period of withdrawal. Examples of symptoms that are known to arise in the event that someone is withdrawing from cocaine may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Heightened levels of anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Elevated feelings of irritability
  • Elevated feelings of agitation
  • Unwarranted feelings of aggression
  • Excessive restlessness
  • Feelings of depression
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams / nightmares
  • Intense and overwhelming cravings for the drug

Effects of cocaine overdose: Whenever an individual consumes more cocaine than his or her body is capable of metabolizing, an overdose is likely to occur. As is true for an overdose of any substance, a cocaine overdose should be viewed as a medical emergency and treatment should be sought immediately in order to prevent a fatal outcome. Examples of signs that may indicate that a person has overdosed on cocaine can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hallucinations
  • Profuse vomiting
  • Entering a state of delirium
  • Extreme chest pains
  • Hyperthermia
  • Irregular breathing
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Losing consciousness

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