Substance Abuse
Substance Abuse: Cocaine

Understanding How Addictive Cocaine Is

Addiction can strike seemingly from nowhere. Every day, we all struggle with the innumerable stresses of modern life—and we all make mistakes as we try to deal with them. Unfortunately, with some choices, it only takes one mistake to alter the course of your life irrevocably. Taking cocaine is one such mistake, and its dangerous nature is well-documented. Understanding how addictive cocaine is will help you and your loved ones better identify and avoid the threat.

With thorough knowledge of this drug and the harm it brings, we can all better offer compassion and understanding to those who have already fallen prey to it. Luckily, through the advances in medical treatment, there are real cocaine recovery treatment options that offer a chance to turn things around and get back on track. At Chapman Rehab, we believe in the power of recovery treatment and prove time and again that education coupled with patient-focused care can and does make the difference, even with addictions as extreme as that to cocaine.

What Is Cocaine?

Most people are familiar with the term cocaine. Though it goes by many names on the street, the average person is familiar with its more common forms due to the efforts of media to increase awareness. The drug itself arises naturally from the leaves of the coca plant, and people have taken advantage of its stimulant properties for centuries. However, it wasn’t until the 1900s that it was concentrated into an applicable drug.

For decades, cocaine was just one of many misunderstood ingredients added into food and medicine. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take too long for doctors to realize that the medications they prescribed were causing a severe addiction. Since then, it has fallen out of commonplace medical use and primarily continues its heinous existence on the streets and illegal markets.

How Cocaine Impacts the Brain

As a stimulant, cocaine predictably causes a rush of dopamine in the brain. However, the unique behavior of this drug also causes cells to cease communicating properly. The result is a static backlog of dopamine that creates a prolonged high, and two things occur as a result. The first is a sharp downturn in the brain’s ability to react to dopamine. As with any chemical, natural or otherwise, there is a balancing point. When that point is upset, increased tolerance occurs. In other words, it takes higher doses and more frequent use to experience a rush like the first few times.

As usage inevitably increases, so does the overall impact of the drug on a person’s chemical makeup. Few people realize that taking a foreign chemical has a permanent effect on the brain’s functions, down to a molecular level. We see this in action in the way mood-stabilizing medications can work with safe environments, exercise, and a quality diet to balance a person’s mood and manage their mental illness. In the case of strong illicit drugs, however, the shift in the chemical workings of our brains is often profound and immediate. The permanent damage will often manifest in many alarming ways.

Side Effects of Stimulus Addiction

Many types of chemical stimulants exist as both legally prescribed and illegal drugs. Most experts accept cocaine as one of the most dangerous of the illegal variety, as the onset of stimulant-related symptoms is very rapid. Initial use results in a sensation of high energy that can last up to thirty minutes. It’s a relatively short high, compared to other designer drugs and even alcohol abuse, which, again, reinforces frequent repeat use. During the initial high, users describe a sense of elation. With this comes feelings of mental alertness and an illusion of heightened senses, but it can also often result in irritability and a sense of paranoia toward those around them.

Over time, using cocaine wears away at both the body and the mind. Nausea and exhaustion are regular symptoms for most users. An increase in body temperature, high blood pressure, and muscle tremors may begin to develop. As a result of the heart overworking, many report a quickened heart rate and even irregular beats, putting users at extreme risk of a heart attack.

The preferred method of receiving the drug also has an impact. Depending on whether the user smoked, ate, snorted, or injected the cocaine, regular side effects may include asthma, the decay of internal organs, loss of smell, difficulty swallowing, and collapsed veins. The chances of contracting a blood-borne disease are high in needle users, and HIV is a major risk for cocaine users as the drug severely impairs the immune system.

Common Treatment Options

Ultimately, treatment options depend on the individual. How each person’s body reacts to a chemical is part of understanding how addictive cocaine is. No two cases are exactly alike, and as such, medical professionals must be involved in every step of the process. Depending on the severity of the situation, the first step in treating cocaine addiction is typically hospitalization. As noted, this drug takes a dramatic toll on a person’s health and rapidly alters the body’s chemical balances. To properly detox, time and professional observation are necessary.

Once they are stable again, patients will typically move to an in-patient facility. Commonly, these are in separate wings of hospitals or a nearby building. The idea behind them is to free up hospital beds while keeping patients close enough to receive regular visits from hospital staff. An in-patient center will continue the arduous task of detoxing the patient as they begin the daily battle against cravings. Along with medical care comes the first stages of teaching patients new coping tools using mental and physical therapy.

At the final stages of professional treatment, patients can reenter society and return to their lives. Typically, this stage comes with a routine scheduled visit to a local outpatient facility. Chapman Rehab is one such establishment. We work with teens and young adults struggling with addiction in their everyday lives. Besides professional addiction treatment and access to medical staff, we also offer an array of educational tools and therapy. The role of an outpatient facility is to support the ongoing fight to continue resisting drug abuse. Reach out to us today to speak with a compassionate staff member ready to answer your questions about drug awareness education and different treatment options.


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