Substance abuse treatment professionals and researchers have known for years that cocaine is incredibly addictive, but new research indicates that the addictive qualities of cocaine use are more potent than previously thought.
McGill University drug researchers recently revealed their findings from a study on recreational cocaine use. Over time and consistent exposure to outside substances, the brain essentially rewires itself and causes compulsive or habitual behavioral patterns to emerge.
The McGill University study shows that this development may occur much more rapidly among cocaine users than anyone realized.
Cocaine’s Effects on the Body and Brain
Cocaine use causes the brain to release dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter that produces feelings of pleasure when the user fulfills a physical need. Eventually, cocaine users become vulnerable to visual triggers and other external stimuli that produce cravings for another dose.
If a pattern such as this continues, the user eventually requires more and more cocaine each time to achieve the desired high and feel the effects of a dopamine release. Studies indicate that approximately 17 percent of individuals who try cocaine develop an addiction to it.
Cocaine Use Alters Behavior
Addiction to cocaine progresses rapidly. The voluntary behaviors surrounding an individual’s cocaine use will quickly evolve into habitual, automatic routines and eventually become compulsions.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, so users experience higher energy levels, more acute sensations, higher mental alertness and unpredictable emotions. Users also often exhibit irritability, mood swings and extreme paranoia.
Large doses of cocaine have even been known to produce unpredictable and violent behaviors. Doses take effect almost immediately following consumption and can last minutes or hours, depending on how the cocaine was consumed.
Physical Damage from Cocaine Consumption
Cocaine users rely on various delivery methods to achieve a high. Cocaine can be processed into rock crystals and smoked, dissolved in water and injected into the bloodstream or snorted or smoked in its powder form. These methods typically leave users susceptible to various health problems.
People who snort cocaine may suffer upper respiratory problems, nosebleeds, decreased olfactory perception and frequent runny noses.
Consuming cocaine by mouth can cause significant bowel decay and restricted blood flow.
Intravenous injection leaves users at a much higher risk of contracting communicable diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV and other blood-borne diseases.
Cocaine abuse leads to various long-term health problems including malnourishment, motor skill impairment and mood disorders. Some cocaine users have reported auditory hallucinations and extreme paranoia after cocaine binges. Over time, these effects can cause lasting psychological damage.
Cocaine use also entails a high risk of overdose. If a person consumes too much cocaine in one sitting, the toxic reaction can be fatal. Cocaine overdoses often lead to heart attacks, seizures and strokes. Every year, between 5,000 and 6,000 deaths happen due to cocaine abuse.
Seeking Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
It’s vital to recognize the dangers of cocaine use and how to spot the warning signs of addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction, it’s crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible before you expose yourself to some of the serious risks associated with prolonged use. Working with an established, reputable treatment center as soon as possible is the best way to prevent these dangers and start leading a healthier life.
The first phase in treating any addiction is detoxification. During detox, the patient passes the last dose of drugs through his or her system, which often requires medical supervision.
Cocaine produces powerful withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Extreme agitation
- General feelings of discomfort
- Increased appetite
- Sleeping problems
Cravings and symptoms of withdrawal often last for months, and it’s not uncommon for cocaine users to have suicidal thoughts when experiencing withdrawal. These extreme symptoms make medically guided detox an absolute necessity.
Seek Treatment As Soon As Possible
Cocaine is extremely addictive, and the addiction progresses rapidly. That’s why it’s so vital for friends and family to act quickly if they suspect their loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction.
At The Treatment Center, our patients enjoy an unparalleled degree of personal attention from our dedicated staff of professionals. We develop customized treatment plans for each patient, because we know that addiction affects everyone differently. Explore our individualized approach to recovery by browsing our treatment programs.