No doubt, you have heard about a lot of different drugs. You have probably learned about various substances and found out about how they can negatively affect the people who use them. But, maybe you have found yourself struggling with substance dependence in your own life. There are many different types of drug abuse problems. And each one of them is unique and causes specific issues in a person’s life. One of the commonly used and abused drugs is cocaine. This particular drug has the reputation of being a “party drug” and it’s commonly featured in movie scenes and in well-known songs. However, this drug is extremely dangerous and can be fatal to users. It’s also highly addictive, leading to a host of problems for people who get hooked. The reality is that cocaine abuse can rapidly turn into a cocaine addiction problem. And this can definitely cause major problems.
Substance abuse and misuse can cause people to deal with a lot of unpleasant and negative changes in their lives. Those who become dependent on a harmful substance often struggle to maintain a normal life. They may suffer from many cognitive, emotional, mental, and physical changes due to excessive drug use. Their families may also suffer because of these effects. When a person abuse drugs or alcohol, it becomes very difficult for him or her to break free from the bondage of that dependence problem. Many try to overcome the problem on their own. They may attempt to quit substance use cold turkey. But, it is extremely dangerous to do this. So, it is critical to get professional help and treatment as soon as possible. If you are dealing with a cocaine use problem, it will be helpful for you to learn about the dangers of cocaine use and how you can get help in overcoming this issue.
Gaining Basic Information About This Drug
First, let’s talk a little bit about what cocaine is and how people use it. Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which is native to regions in South America. The plant is harvested and highly processed to form the end product, cocaine. This drug is a synthesized, powdery substance. Cocaine can also be further processed to turn into what is called crack cocaine. Also called “crack”, this substance is a potent and more solid form of the cocaine drug. In either form, cocaine abuse can be extremely harmful.
Cocaine produces stimulant effects on the brain and reduces the brain’s ability to recycle and reabsorb a neurotransmitter called dopamine. As a result, dopamine builds up in the brain and creates the euphoric “high” associated with cocaine. Dopamine is responsible for creating a sense of pleasure. When people use cocaine, the drug can cause huge amounts of dopamine to flood the brain. This causes that “high” experience, which is pleasurable for those who are using the drug. This euphoria is one of the reasons people become dependent on cocaine. Most users continue to use the substance in order to get high and experience the euphoric effects of the drug. However, as the initial high wears off, the dopamine levels in the person’s body become depleted. This causes a “crash” that can manifest as depression and exhaustion.
Cocaine abuse is not limited to any class or background of people; any individual who uses cocaine is susceptible to the negative consequences, and cocaine abuse has impacted millions of people from all walks of life. Cocaine can be used:
- Intranasally (through snorting)
- Intravenously (through injection)
- Inhalation (through smoking)
Any of the routes of administration for cocaine can be dangerous and potentially fatal.
Identifying Common Cocaine Abuse Symptoms
In the short-term, cocaine produces stimulant effects that can cause euphoria, excessive energy, racing thoughts, twitchiness, and feelings of grandiosity, among other side effects. However, it can also be fatal, even for first-time users. At the beginning of an individual’s use, cocaine abuse may cause the following negative consequences. Initial cocaine abuse symptoms include the following:
- Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Aggression, agitation, or irritability
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures, strokes, and cardiac arrest, all of which can be fatal
With longer periods of cocaine abuse, the risk of these consequences increases. In fact, long-term cocaine abuse carries the above-listed risks, as well as even more potential danger. Some of the long-term dangers of cocaine abuse:
- Mood swings
- A tendency toward violent behavior
- Worsening of mood disorders
- Drug-induced psychosis
- Tolerance and addiction
- Frequent panic attacks and anxiety
- Gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers
- Heart and cardiovascular damage, which can lead to heart attacks
- Damage to the blood vessels in the brain
- Nasal tissue, lung tissue, or vascular damage (depending on the route of administration)
- Bleeding in the brain (intracerebral hemorrhage)
- Cognitive problems
- Motor skill problems
- Increased risk of fatal overdose
- Damage to interpersonal relationships, career, finances, and ambitions
Cocaine abuse can quickly turn into a full-blown addiction problem due to the power this drug has to alter the brain and individual functioning. Once an individual is addicted to cocaine, it can be very difficult for them to get the help they need to quit using.
More About Cocaine Symptoms: Spotting Signs of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine abuse is dangerous on its own, and it becomes even more dangerous when it turns into a full-blown addiction problem. Unfortunately, many people start out as casual users of the drug before becoming dependent on it. This can make it extremely hard to identify the problem before it has morphed into a serious dependence problem. Time is of the essence, and the best way to help someone who struggles with cocaine abuse is to identify the problem early. The sooner you recognize the issue, the sooner that individual can get the help that he or she needs. Maybe you suspect that someone you love is dealing with a drug abuse problem of some sort. But, maybe you have not seen him or her actually using a substance. Still, you have noticed some changes in the individual and you are wondering if your family member or friend has a cocaine dependence problem. If you are in this position, it is probably very helpful to learn about what a person may experience when he or she is dependent on cocaine. Some signs that may indicate that an individual is suffering from a cocaine abuse or addiction problem might include:
- Erratic or violent behavior that is uncharacteristic of them
- Lying or deception
- Drastic changes in mood, behavior, or social group
- The presence of drugs or drug paraphernalia, such as plastic baggies with powdery residue, glass pipes, rolled up dollar bills with residue or used syringes
- Inability to hold a job or a slip in work ethic
- Failure to show up for important commitments
- Needing to borrow money but not being able to vouch for what it was spent on, or unexplainable financial issues
- Manic behavior
Any of these symptoms can be attributed to other causes. But, if you are concerned that there is a drug problem involved, it is definitely better to be safe rather than to be sorry.
What To Do About Cocaine Abuse
You can speak to your loved one about your concerns. But, you may be met with indifference or even anger. This happens in many cases in which a person is suffering from a problem with drug abuse. The individual may become defensive when approached about the drug problem. This could happen in your situation. So, it is critical to have the right kind of help when a substance abuse problem is involved. You can help your loved one overcome drug misuse and abuse by referring him or her to a professional treatment center.
Perhaps you are the one who is becoming dependent on cocaine. Maybe you tried it just to experiment with it but, now, you are completely dependent on this drug. Your life has been changing little by little. Maybe you are feeling alone and afraid. You know that the dangers of cocaine use are real and you do not want to continue living with this problem. If so, then you should know that there is hope. You can overcome cocaine abuse and find freedom from this issue.
Cocaine abuse can be dangerous and scary, but there is help for those who are struggling. If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine abuse or addiction, Diablo Valley Drug and Alcohol Services can provide quality treatment to help you get freedom from substance abuse. For information, call us today at 925-289-1430.
**Originally posted on May 17, 2017. Updated on March 26, 2019.