Cocaine’s original use was for medicinal purposes but is most used for recreational purposes. Because it is a stimulant, people try it once to get high, and whether their intent was to have fun or to escape, they like the feeling and are likely to try it again. The addictive properties of cocaine are powerful, and it does not take long for the brain and body to become addicted. In turn, it does not take long before the negatives of cocaine use outweigh the positives, yet the addiction can be relentless. Breaking free of cocaine addiction is difficult, but not impossible.
What Is Cocaine?
The drug we know as cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca plant. In South America, where the plants originated, people have long ingested the leaves for use as a stimulant. Once cocaine hydrochloride was isolated from the plant leaves as the chemical with stimulant powers, it was used in many home remedies and was originally used in the early recipes for Coca-Cola. However, it was later discovered to have very powerful addictive properties which could alter the very structure of the brain with repeated use.
Cocaine is most used as an illicit street drug in today’s world. It is ingested by snorting the powder, injecting the soluble form directly into the bloodstream, or by smoking it in a processed form known as crack. The high that people experience is produced by the drug interfering with the natural dopamine transmitting process within the brain, giving an amplified sensation that also creates a natural desire for more of this experience. Unfortunately, this process can easily modify the brain’s natural reward, emotion and motivation circuitry, creating an addiction.
Short-Term Side Effects of Cocaine Use
Some of the short-term side effects of cocaine use include:
- Decreased need for food and sleep
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
- Restlessness, irritability, violence, panic, anxiety and paranoia
- Abdominal pain and nausea
- Possible tremors, vertigo and muscle twitches
- Severe cardiovascular issues such as heart attacks and changes in heart rhythm
- Neurological issues like headaches, seizures, strokes and coma
- In rare cases, it can cause sudden death from causes including cardiac arrest or seizure
It is also dangerous to use cocaine in conjunction with alcohol or heroin, both of which increase the chances of serious cardiac issues, overdose and death.
Long-Term Side Effects of Cocaine Use
When cocaine is used repeatedly and for a longer period of time, these side effects are also prevalent:
- Cocaine tolerance (more of the drug is needed to achieve the same high and increased risk of overdose)
- Cocaine sensitization or allergy (producing more toxic side effects or even death)
- Severe psychological and physiological levels of restlessness, panic attacks, paranoia and psychosis, as well as long-term changes to brain structure
- Lost sense of smell, hoarse voice, problems with swallowing, nosebleeds and chronically inflamed, runny nose
- Lung damage and worsening of asthma
- Risk of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C
- Appetite changes, including significant weight loss and malnourishment
- Damage to the gastrointestinal tract including ulcers and tears
- Chest pains, stroke, inflammation of the heart, aortic ruptures, and other damage to the heart
- Intracerebral hemorrhage, or a type of bleeding on the brain
- Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders
- Impaired cognitive function such as impulse control, memory, decision-making regarding rewards and punishments, sustained attention and motor skills
- Very high risk for relapse, as triggers can become stronger with long-term abstinence
- Specific risks to mom and baby include possible death of both, and prenatal cocaine exposure can impact the child for life
How to Break Free of Cocaine Addiction
Just because cocaine is a highly addictive substance with many negative short- and long-term side effects, does not mean it is impossible to break free. Seeking cocaine treatment can be as simple as joining an outpatient treatment center. There you will invest time in yourself as you receive medical and psychological evaluations, therapy, participation in groups and more. Caring professionals guide you through the process and support you as you seek cocaine treatment. We can build a support network that will help you work through cravings, learn to rebuild your life, and even help you with practical issues such as finding work or housing. Breaking free of cocaine addiction begins with you being willing to make the effort.
Cocaine may be very addictive, but you are stronger than you may know. You can seek cocaine treatment and help free yourself from the many dangers and negative side effects of cocaine use. Call us at New Life at (877) 929-2571 to take that first step in breaking free from cocaine addiction. Our Maryland outpatient treatment program offers cocaine treatment with both outpatient and intensive outpatient care. Our goal is to put you back into the driver’s seat of your life. Don’t let another day go by where you risk everything for cocaine. Make the call right now. We have been helping people overcome addiction for more than 35 years.