What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that comes from the coca plant of South America. On its own, the coca plant is fairly harmless, but when distilled into cocaine, it can become dangerous and even deadly. People use cocaine because of the energy and extreme “high” that the drug produces. Unfortunately, the high is short-lived, while the following “crash” can last much, much longer. Although some people use cocaine as a performance enhancer, most people who use cocaine do so recreationally.
Forms of Cocaine
Cocaine comes in two different forms: powder and crystal. Those who use the powder form usually snort it through their nose or rub it into their gums. Some may also dissolve the powder into water and then inject it directly into the bloodstream. Those who use the crystal form generally smoke it. This form is often called “crack” or “crack cocaine” because of the crackling noise that it makes when one smokes it.
By 2016, nearly 15% of people ages 12 and older in the US had tried cocaine at some point in their lifetimes.
Is Cocaine Addictive?
Yes, cocaine is extremely addictive. Like many other drugs, cocaine causes addiction by hijacking the brain’s dopamine system. Dopamine is a brain chemical that causes pleasant feelings. The brain produces this chemical naturally, but when one uses cocaine, the brain floods itself with much more dopamine than humans are meant to handle. Cocaine also prevents the dopamine from going back to where it came from. At first, this rush feels wonderful, and this is how cocaine produces that energetic high. In the long run, however, humans simply can’t handle that much dopamine. The brain responds by shutting off some of its own dopamine receptors. What does that mean for cocaine users? It means that the brain is getting used to high dopamine levels. Normal dopamine levels don’t feel like enough anymore.
Eventually, a cocaine user won’t just have to use cocaine to feel high. He or she will need the cocaine to feel normal. This is how the addiction cycle begins.
Are you stuck in the addiction cycle? RehabInfo.com can help. Call 800-492-QUIT.
What makes cocaine even more difficult to quit than some other drugs is the fact that a cocaine high doesn’t last very long. Those who use cocaine often come back for multiple doses, bingeing to keep up the high. Once a person comes down from a cocaine high, he or she will experience a “crash,” or a sense of exhaustion or even depression. Often the only thing that can bring a person back up from this crash is another cocaine high.
The binge and crash cycle means that cocaine has a high potential for overdose. How much cocaine does it take to overdose? It largely depends on the person, and there’s no accurate way to guess at the answer. Signs of potential overdose include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Racing heartbeat
- Increase body temperature
- Anxiety and panic
Cocaine overdose can lead to a heart attack, seizure, stroke, or death. Anyone who uses cocaine faces a potential overdose. If you think somebody has overdosed, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
The Dangers of Cocaine
One of the biggest dangers of cocaine use is the increased risk of HIV or Hep C infection.
As stated above, many people who use cocaine dissolve the substance in water and then inject it. Shared needles come with a high risk of infection, and the more cocaine one uses, the less likely this person will be to make sure he or she has clean needles. Furthermore, even those who use cocaine via other methods have a higher risk of HIV than that of the general population. This is because cocaine causes impaired judgement and risky behavior, which often results in unprotected sex.
Other problems associated with cocaine include:
- Other nasal issues
- Increased heart rate
Each person’s body will have slightly different reactions to cocaine, and one may experience more side effects not listed above.
How to Get Help
If you have an addiction to cocaine, quitting may seem impossible. Finding help can be overwhelming. That’s why we want to make things simple. Start with one phone call. Dial 800-492-QUIT.