Understanding Cocaine Addiction
Learn about cocaine addiction & abuse
Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant with effects that include intense, yet brief, increases in energy, confidence, alertness and mood. Cocaine, which is also commonly referred to as coke, blow, or crack, is most commonly abused by snorting the drug in powder form or smoking it in crystal or “rock” form. Both forms of cocaine abuse elicit similar sensations, though smoking the drug or inhaling its fumes can produce a more intense initial high.
When a person ingests cocaine, the stimulant prompts the central nervous system to release a flood of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and motivation, and then blocks the body’s ability to reabsorb the dopamine. This causes the initial rush that can occur almost immediately after a person ingests cocaine, and is also responsible for the dramatic crash or drop in energy and mood that can occur once the initial positive effect wears off. Depending upon the potency of the cocaine that a person is using, as well as his or her tolerance for the drug, the initial pleasurable effect of cocaine can begin to dissipate within a few minutes, which often prompts individuals to abuse the drug multiple times in rapid succession.
In addition to risking a wide range of negative physical effects, including sudden death due to cocaine’s impact on the heart, people who abuse cocaine also put themselves in danger of becoming addicted. Known clinically as stimulant use disorder, cocaine addiction can have a catastrophic impact on virtually all areas of a person’s life, and can be extremely difficult to overcome without proper professional intervention.
Thankfully, cocaine addiction is a treatable condition. At Life Center of Galax, we have considerable experience working with men and women whose lives have been disrupted by cocaine addiction, and we have developed effective cocaine addiction treatment programming that has helped many individuals overcome the compulsion to abuse cocaine and resume their pursuit of healthier, drug-free futures.
Cocaine abuse statistics
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that the annual prevalence of stimulant use disorder among Americans ages 12 and above is about 0.2 percent of the population. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that about 0.6 percent of the U.S. population, or about 1.5 million Americans, have used cocaine at least once in the previous 30 days. NIDA also reports that the highest prevalence of past-month cocaine abuse is found among young adults ages 18 to 25, with about 1.4 percent of this demographic group having abused cocaine in the previous 30 days.
The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which monitors drug-related visits to emergency rooms and hospital-affiliated urgent care facilities, reports that about 40 percent of drug-related ER visits involve the abuse of cocaine.
Causes & Risks
Causes and risk factors for cocaine abuse
A person’s risk for abusing and becoming cocaine dependent may be influenced by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, including but not limited to the following:
Genetic: People whose first-degree relatives, such as siblings or parents, who struggle with substance abuse are more likely to have a similar problem than is someone whose family history does not include drug problems. Also, individuals who inherit certain personality traits, such as impulsivity, also have elevated risk for stimulant use disorder.
Environmental: Prenatal exposure to cocaine can significantly increase a person’s risk for stimulant use disorder. Other environmental influences include growing up in an unstable household, especially one in which one’s parents abuse cocaine, and being exposed to violence at a young age.
- Personal or family history of substance abuse
- Personal or family history of mental illness
- Poor parental oversight
- Early exposure to substance abuse
- Early exposure to violence
- Living or working in a high-stress environment
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse
The following are among the more common signs and symptoms that may indicate cocaine abuse or addiction:
- Acting with increased energy
- Reckless and risky behaviors
- Borrowing or stealing money
- Lying about whereabouts, associates, and activities
- Trying but failing to curtail one’s cocaine abuse
- Rapid heart rate
- Elevated body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Energy bursts
- Lack of need for sleep
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Persistent nosebleeds
- Excessive perspiration
- Poor decision-making capabilities
- Overabundance of confidence
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Mood swings
Effects of cocaine abuse
Chronic untreated cocaine abuse can expose an individual to considerable damage, including but not limited to the following negative effects and outcomes:
- Family discord
- Academic failure
- Substandard occupational performance
- Job loss and unemployment
- Arrest and incarceration
- Financial problems
- Withdrawal or ostracization
- Suicidal ideation
- Heart attack
- Breathing problems
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Cognitive impairments
Cocaine abuse & co-occurring disorders
People who have developed an addiction to cocaine may also be at risk for the following co-occurring mental health disorders:
- Other substance use disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Schizo-affective disorder
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)