Before the opioid epidemic flooded the airwaves with its devastating effects, the United States experienced a different kind of drug crisis. In the 1980s, cocaine addiction was rampant throughout the country. The Hollywood elite was notorious for their cocaine consumption, and Fleetwood Mac frontrunner, Stevie Knicks, has been very candid about her cocaine addiction.

While the opioid crisis is still much worse than any cocaine epidemic, the usage of the substance has increased in the past several years.

Believe it or not, cocaine was once used medicinally, and it’s still classified as a Schedule II substance, which means it is addictive but can be used in a medical setting.

While other types of medication have primarily replaced cocaine, it’s still frequently used as a recreational drug. When the substance is abused, cocaine has a significant potential to cause physical dependence, which can lead to addiction. Addiction will eventually lead to physical and psychological problems. Some of which can include withdrawal symptoms and overdose. Fortunately, addiction can be treated with proper help.

If you or someone you love is developing a substance use disorder as a result of cocaine use, you must be aware of the signs of addiction. Becoming aware of the issue will help you or someone you love get the treatment needed before suffering any serious consequences. Even the most severe examples of cocaine addiction can be treated.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is known as a powerful stimulant that is mostly used as an illicit recreational drug. Years ago, it was widely used as a medication to treat various ailments ranging from toothaches to a local anesthetic for eye surgery. Those days are long gone, and it is seldom used for that purpose today.

Cocaine works by blocking the reuptake of dopamine in your nervous system. Instead of removing or recycling the excess dopamine in the system, cocaine leaves it to bind to more receptors. As a result, it causes feelings of power, excitement, and increased energy.

Dopamine is closely linked to the brain’s reward response. The reward center of the brain is the target for addiction. When the brain mistakes cocaine for healthy, rewarding activities, it will alter your reward center into needing cocaine as a life-sustaining activity.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction symptoms will appear pretty rapidly after someone starts using the drug regularly. If you are abusing cocaine, a substance use disorder will develop quickly, and it’s vital to seek help immediately. With that said, even a severe substance use disorder can be treated.

The first sign that your cocaine abuse is turning into a problem is a growing tolerance to the standard dose. If you have been using cocaine and notice the regular dose has less of an effect, you may be developing a tolerance. It means that your brain and nervous system are adapting to the drug in your system. If you continue to use cocaine and increase your dose, it can lead to physical dependency and cause changes in the brain.

Dependency is characterized by your brain starting to integrate cocaine use into your brain chemistry. Instead of relying on naturally occurring receptors in the brain, it will depend on cocaine to facilitate normal brain function. It means that quitting cocaine will result in uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • General discomfort
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue

A substance use disorder will result in addiction when you use the drug compulsively. Cocaine is commonly used in a party setting, but those who become addicted may stop using it for fun and start using out of necessity. At a certain point, the drug use will get out of control, and you will still use despite severe consequences.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes that cocaine exposure causes the brain to adapt, and reward pathways will become less sensitive to natural reinforcers.

The brain circuits involved in cocaine addiction will become sensitive, which will lead to displeasure and negative moods when you do not have the substance.

The way cocaine is consumed is a cause for concern as well. Snorting cocaine causes long-term effects that include:

  • Hoarseness of the voice
  • Chronic inflammation – runny nose
  • Irritation of the nasal septum
  • Losing the sense of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Difficulty swallowing

What Is Involved in Cocaine Addiction Treatment?

Treating cocaine addiction is a process involving medical treatment and psychotherapy. The goal is to help you achieve lasting recovery. Addiction is a disease, and it is treated with evidence-based therapy by experienced professionals, clinicians, and therapists. When you enter into treatment, you will go through an intake process that assesses your current needs, and which treatment will be most suitable for you.

The first step in the process is the highest level of care, which is known as medical detox. The goal is to get you through the withdrawal process comfortably. Some cases of withdrawal can lead to depression or suicidal thoughts. Medical professionals can offer medications that will help you overcome these thoughts and overcome the worst symptoms.

The next step will follow the continuum of care and can result in placement in a residential treatment program, intensive outpatient program, or outpatient center. It depends on the severity of the addiction and many other characteristics. The purpose of the continuum of care is to ensure the person gets everything they need out of addiction treatment.

Cocaine Abuse Statistics

  • 80 percent of the world’s cocaine supply originates in Colombia
  • The United States is the largest consumer of cocaine worldwide
  • 14,556 overdose deaths took place as a result of cocaine in 2017
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