Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine AddictionPeople living in the Andes Mountains in South America have been using cocaine as a stimulant to overcome the effects of their high altitude and in their religious ceremonies for thousands of years, but the drug only became popular in Western culture after German scientists isolated it in 1855.

The first American cocaine epidemic occurred between 1880 to about 1915 when millions were taking it in various patent medicines and tonics. Cocaine was an ingredient in the original Coca Cola formula, and added to wine, cigarettes, cigars, gum, and so forth. As people became hooked on these various products, the federal government passed the first laws regulating addictive drugs.

Even though it had become illegal to use cocaine without a doctor’s prescription, millions became addicted to the drug in a second American epidemic that began in the late 1970s and ended in the early 1990s. Cocaine had acquired the image of a hip, upscale drug used by high achievers and celebrities in Hollywood, Wall Street, and the Washington Beltway. It was indeed expensive — a serious cocaine habit could cost $100,000 a year. At the height of the epidemic in 1985, the government was estimating that 12.4 million people were addicted to powder cocaine or the newer, cheaper version called crack.

As people switched from abusing street drugs to prescription medications, cocaine abuse declined and has remained steady at 2002 levels. The U.S. government estimates that about five million people abuse cocaine, which still makes it the second-most abused illegal drug after marijuana, even though it has become less available and of lower purity. Today about 95% of cocaine comes into the U.S.A. from Colombia through Mexico, and it costs about $177 a gram, or only 74% of its price in 1982.

Nevertheless, cocaine remains a serious public health threat in the United States. Of the two million people who went to emergency room facilities in 2008 because of illicit drug abuse, 482,188 or 24% of them were there because of cocaine. Every day 2500 Americans experiment with cocaine for the first time.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant that enhances certain brain chemicals called monoamines, which in turn increase the rate of respiration, heartbeat, and blood pressure, and suppress appetite. Dopamine is a monoamine that the brain releases in response to pleasure, such as seeing something beautiful in nature. After the moment of pleasure ends, dopamine returns into its original cells or “recycles” itself. Cocaine prevents dopamine from recycling, causing it to build and increase pleasure messages to the brain. Over time, cocaine can change the brain’s entire reward system, making it harder for an addict to experience any pleasure whatsoever.

Legal Cocaine

Cocaine actually has a few legal uses, which is why the U.S. government classifies it as a Schedule 2 Controlled Substance. Schedule I substances have no medical uses and are highly addictive. Schedule 2 substances are highly addictive but have medical uses.

Next time you go to a hospital emergency room for stitches, you may be surprised when the doctor numbs the area with cocaine. Cocaine is used as a local topical anesthetic during such routine procedures, as well as for eye, ear and nose surgeries. It comes as a paste or solution that is usually only 4% cocaine. Before cocaine, eye surgery was so painful that it was almost impossible to perform. Topical cocaine is also used to reduce bleeding in mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat.

Cocaine may eventually be classified as Schedule I, because it is rarely used at all anymore. Better drugs are replacing it, even for eye surgery.

Doctors are not supposed to use cocaine on patients with cancer, chest pains, convulsions, irregular heartbeat, heart of blood vessel diseases, liver disease, high blood pressure, Tourette’s syndrome, or overactive thyroids. Children and pregnant women are not given cocaine even topically.

Cocaine is so strong that even when it is used as a topical anesthetic, you will test positive for cocaine in your urine for up to five days afterward.

Powder Cocaine

In order to make powder cocaine, suppliers take the leaves from coca, a small shrubbery, and mix them with gasoline, sulfuric acid, or kerosene to create a mash. Then they add hydrochloric acid and let the mixture dried to a powder. Next they add fillers, such as talcum powder, so that the final product is only 15% to 60% pure cocaine.

People sometimes lay the powder down in lines to snort it up their noses. Users also mix the powder with water and then inject it, or they can smoke the powder in cigarettes. Smoking and injecting cocaine produces a more intense high than snorting because of quicker absorption into the bloodstream.

Street names for cocaine are Blow, C, Coke, Crack, Flake, and Snow.

Crack Cocaine

To make crack cocaine, suppliers add hydrochloride salt and baking soda to the mash mixture. This dries into white crystal rocks that are 100% pure cocaine, and therefore stronger than the powder version. The name comes from the fact that when the crystals are heated and smoked by pipe, they make a crackling sound.

The legal consequences of using crack cocaine were considered unfair to poor people. While those who were caught with the more expensive powder version often escaped prison sentences, there were mandatory sentences of five to ten years for using or possessing even small amounts of crack. On June 21, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fair Sentencing Act passed by Congress could go into effect immediately, in order to eliminate such discrepancies in cocaine laws.

Short-term Effects Of Cocaine

Side effects of cocaine can be chills, stomach pain, confusion, dizziness, lightheadedness, excitement, fast heartbeat, hallucinations, sweating, sudden headache, and nausea.

People who snort cocaine can develop constant cold symptoms such as wheezing, red nose, coughing, and runny nose. They have problems swallowing, hoarseness, nosebleeds, and they lose their sense of smell.

Long-term Effects Of Cocaine

Cocaine is considered one of the two most addictive drugs in the world. As one former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, “Cocaine is the single most addicting drug known to mankind. Mothers have given up their babies to get it.” What is insidious about cocaine is that the second time you use it is never as good as the first. You keep using it to try to regain the first high that got you addicted, and you keep using more. Some cocaine addicts take their drug in amounts that could kill a non-user.

Although the physical withdrawal symptoms for cocaine are not as difficult to manage as the ones for narcotic drugs, the psychological withdrawal from cocaine is considered the hardest of all addictions. Stimulants like cocaine that speed up the central nervous system actually cause more serious health problems more quickly than addictions to narcotics, which slow down the central nervous system.

Long-term abuse of cocaine causes very severe damage to vital organs. The drug is bad for the heart because it raises blood pressure while at the same time constricts arteries, thus raising the risk for heart attacks and heart disease. It constricts blood vessels in the brain, which can cause stroke. It impairs sexual function in men. Cocaine addicts often develop rhabdomyolysis or gradual kidney failure. Cocaine addicts can also develop buzzing in their ears, insomnia, constant diarrhea, seizures, and malnutrition from lack of appetite. Bowel gangrene, a very serious condition, often occurs among those who inject cocaine. Cocaine users have much higher rates of Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. One study found that within two years, 40% of coke users have Hepatitis C, and 50% to 80% have it within five years, and not necessarily because they share needles. The study actually found higher rates of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS among those who snort the drug. The researchers believed that both men and women got infected by trading sex for drugs or otherwise engaging in risky sexual practices.

There is some evidence that as the human brain adapts to cocaine, the person will gradually develop certain paradoxical symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia, and convulsions.

Why Do People Abuse Cocaine?

Cocaine lifts moods and causes feelings of empowerment and euphoria, making people talkative, energetic and alert. Gender studies indicate that men feel its effects faster and more intensely than women, which may explain why for every seven males using cocaine, there are only five women. Tolerance for cocaine develops very quickly, and once addicted, the person keeps craving more cocaine.

While some people can use cocaine on just an occasional basis, about 10% of those who experiment with it develop serious addictions. The effect of cocaine only lasts 15 to 30 minutes, so heavy users smoke one pipe after another the way cigarette smokers do. Another pattern of abuse is called “binging.” The person uses cocaine many times within a very short time, and this practice can lead to dangerous reactions such as panic attacks, paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations. It is also bad for the heart.

Cocaine addicts can “crash” after they use their drug. This means they develop depression, fatigue, anxiety and other symptoms that can last for days. A “crash” usually prompts them to take more cocaine.

Some celebrities who have died from cocaine overdoses or are publicly known to have cocaine problems are John Belushi, Chris Farley, River Phoenix, Margaux Hemingway, Whitney Houston, Robert Downey Junior, Gary Busey, Richard Pryor, Demi Moore, Drew Barrymore, Eddie Van Halen, Kate Moss, Daniel Baldwin, Naomi Campbell, Kristie Alley, Ike Turner, and the writer Stephen King.

What Drugs React With Cocaine?

Since cocaine is an illegal drug, most of the information about drug interactions comes from federal data kept about emergency room visits.

Drug abusers frequently mix stimulants with depressants, and this combination is dangerous because the heart rate and rate of respiration is both stimulated and depressed at the same time. Even teenagers who take alcohol with energy drinks have suffered heart attacks. Nevertheless, mixing heroin and cocaine (speedballing) is both popular and deadly. Cocaine should never be combined with any narcotics, including legal prescription painkillers, or any drug that suppresses essential nervous system such as marijuana, anti-histamines, allergy medicines, cold remedies, and so forth.

Cocaine plus alcohol is the most common cause of drug-related deaths. The combination produces a chemical in the body called cocaethylene, and it is more dangerous than either alcohol or cocaine. Cocaethylene forms in the liver and can cause sudden death. Between 30% and 60% of cocaine addicts combine it with alcohol.

Cocaine Overdoses

Seventy-five percent of illicit drug fatalities involve cocaine, more than three times that of any other illegal drug. The vast majority of cocaine-related deaths are suicides, homicides, or automobile fatalities.

Cocaine overdoses or cocaine intoxication has symptoms of tremors, vertigo, paranoia, psychosis, or disorientation. The person should be taken to an emergency room facility.

Withdrawal From Cocaine

Whether you develop withdrawal symptoms after you stop using cocaine depends on individual factors such as how much cocaine you were using, how long you used it, and so forth. Many people have no physical withdrawal symptoms whatsoever.

The usual physical symptoms are muscle cramps, nausea, confusion, fatigue, insomnia, aches, pains, tremors, increased appetite, and chills. Psychological symptoms may be irritability, drug cravings, suicidal thoughts, inability to concentrate or feel pleasure, anxiety, and depression.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

One of the main goals of research at the National Institute of Drug Abuse is to find medications to ease cocaine addicts through withdrawal and to help them achieve long-term abstinence from their drug. Medications that act within the dopamine receptors and a vaccine that keeps cocaine from entering the brain are both being tested. Disulfiram, a drug used to treat alcoholism, is showing promise in trials. However, at this time there are no medications available.

Former addicts have told their counselors that it is easier to come off heroin than cocaine because cravings and memories of cocaine can linger for months and even years after withdrawal.

The only treatments available to help cocaine addicts achieve abstinence involve changing behaviors, learning to cope with drug cravings, and to handle situations, people and places that trigger drug relapses. Motivational Incentives, a therapy that involves giving former addicts rewards for not using cocaine, has shown to be effective. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which involves working with a counselor one-on-one to challenge self-destructive beliefs, is also extremely effective.

In 2007, cocaine addictions accounted for 13% of all admissions to drug treatment programs. The majority of these people were using other drugs with cocaine, and half of them had untreated comorbidities or mental disorders such as depression, unresolved childhood trauma, low self-esteem, and so forth. Many female cocaine addicts have eating disorders. A recent study of 1600 former cocaine addicts found that if they remained in a residential treatment center for three months or more, their relapse rates were half of those in short-term care. Residential treatment centers can provide comprehensive programs that address both addiction and comorbidities. They provide intensive counseling, and can help people find a new direction in their careers or education. Once the person leaves a therapeutic community, he or she usually will continue in counseling near their homes and attend local support meetings such as Cocaine Anonymous.

Signs You May Be Addicted To Cocaine

If you can answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you should consult your family physician or local mental health center about how you can obtain professional help for your cocaine problem.

  • Have you faced legal problems because of cocaine, or do you worry that someday you will?
  • Does cocaine interfere with your ability to meet your obligations at home, work or school?
  • Do your friends or family members criticize you because you are using drugs?
  • Have you tried unsuccessfully to quit cocaine?
  • Do you have a problem getting through two or three days without using cocaine?
  • Do you know that cocaine is giving you physical problems, such as irritability or insomnia, and yet you keep using it?
  • Are you using cocaine to control your weight or to avoid certain emotions, such as depression or feelings of low self-esteem?
  • Are you spending too much time thinking about cocaine, obtaining it, and using it?
  • Are you using cocaine along with alcohol or other drugs?
  • Do you need to increase the amounts of cocaine you are using in order to achieve the same effects?
  • Do you experience drug cravings when you stop using cocaine?
  • Is your cocaine habit causing you financial problems?
  • Do you feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed about using cocaine?
  • Does your use of cocaine interfere with your enjoyment of other activities, such as hobbies or sports?
  • Do you feel that life is passing you by because of your problem with drugs?

Sources:

Weil, Dr. Andrew. From Chocolate to Morphine. New York: Howard Mifflin, 1998., pg. 44.

Holmes, Ann. Psychological Effects of Cocaine and Crack. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.

Connolly, Sean. Cocaine. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2001, pg. 36.

“Cocaine Facts and Figures,” from the Office of National Drug Policy,  see http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp

“Cocaine Smuggling in the United States,” Revised White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/16/new-report-cocaine-smuggling-2010

Porter, Eduardo. “Numbers Tell Failure in Drug War,”  The New York Times, July 3, 2012.

“Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

“Cocaine Facts and Figures,” from the Office of National Drug Policy,  see http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp

“Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

“Cocaine (Topical Route),” the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600467

Holmes, Ann. Psychological Effects of Cocaine and Crack. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.

“Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

Ibid.

“Cocaine (Topical Route),” the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600467

Holmes, Ann. Psychological Effects of Cocaine and Crack. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.

“Drugs of Abuse,” a pamphlet from the United States Department Of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, see www.dea.gov “Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

“Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

“Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

Liptak, Adam. “Court Weighs Revisions in Cocaine-Case Sentences,” The New York Times, April 17, 2012

Barnes, Robert. “Supreme Court Rules Offenders Covered by More Lenient Crack Cocaine Sentences,” the Washington Post, June 21, 2012.

“Cocaine (Topical Route),” the Mayo Clinic, see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR600467

” Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

“An Interview with Dr. Alan Leshner,” PBS-TV, Bill Moyers, see http://www.thirteen.org/closetohome/science/html/leshner.html

Connolly, Sean. Cocaine. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2001, pg. 43.

“Cocaine Use and Effects,” the Web MD, see http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/cocaine-use-and-its-effects

“Cocaine,” Drug Facts from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institutes of Health, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

“Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

Ibid.

Ibid.

Platt, Jerome J. Cocaine Addiction: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 1997. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

“Cocaine Abuse,” Drugs of Abuse, National Institute of Drug Abuse, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/cocaine

Platt, Jerome J. Cocaine Addiction: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 1997. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Weil, Dr. Andrew. From Chocolate to Morphine. New York: Howard Mifflin, 1998., pg. 44.

“Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

“Drugs of Abuse,” a pamphlet from the United States Department Of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, see www.dea.gov

“Cocaine,” Drug Facts from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institutes of Health, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

Platt, Jerome J. Cocaine Addiction: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 1997. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ibid.

“Cocaine Use and Effects,” the Web MD, see http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/cocaine-use-and-its-effects

Connolly, Sean. Cocaine. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2001, pg. 55.

“Cocaine,” Drug Facts from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institutes of Health, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine

Ibid, and see also “Research Reports: Cocaine: Abuse and Addiction,” The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Pamphlet revised September 2010, see http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction

Ibid.

“Cocaine Use and Effects,” the Web MD, see http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/cocaine-use-and-its-effects

Ibid.

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