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What is Cocaine? What are the Effects?
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant. Principally, cocaine produces psychoactive and addictive effects by acting on the brain’s “limbic” system – the regions of the brain that regulate pleasure and motivation. Cocaine’s immediate effect gives rise to feelings of euphoria and the desire to continue using. These effects, with extended use, often lead to cocaine addiction.
Due to the highly addictive nature of cocaine, the Federal government classifies it as a Schedule Class II controlled dangerous substance (meaning it has a high potential for abuse and dependency).
What are the Common Methods of Cocaine Use?
There are three main ways users take cocaine, including:
- Inhalation: (most common) powdered cocaine is inhaled/snorted through the nose.
- Injection: powdered cocaine is dissolved in water and injected directly into a vein (“intravenous”) or injected just under the skin (“skin-popping”). This method increases the intensity of the high, but infections are more common.
- Smoking: powdered cocaine is processed into hardened “rocks” which can be smoked or vaporized and inhaled, after which it rapidly enters the bloodstream through the lungs. This is commonly called ‘free-basing’ or smoking “crack”.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction & Cocaine Abuse?
The signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction and cocaine abuse vary from person to person, and by method of ingestion. The more common symptoms and signs of cocaine addiction are:
- Loss of the sense of smell
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronically runny nose
Cocaine addiction and cocaine abuse typically produce behavioral or personality changes. Often, the personality changes directly reflect the increase in cocaine use (both in terms of amount and frequency). The changes include:
What are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction & Abuse?
When taken in high doses, or used in binges over extended period, cocaine can cause the user to experience delusions, paranoia, and disorientation. Cocaine users may display aggressive or antisocial behavior and may suffer psychosis (a state in which the person loses touch with reality, including experiencing hallucinations).
Ingesting cocaine can cause the body to experience reduced blood flow in the gut, causing ulcers and gangrene of the bowel.
Users who inject cocaine will have marks at the injection sites called “needle tracks.” Because most available cocaine is a street drug, it is often adulterated (“cut”) with other substances. Users who inject the drug may suffer allergic reactions, which can cause death.
The most common health problems resulting from cocaine addiction & abuse are:
- Heart problems (including an enlarged heart or heart attack)
- Respiratory problems (including respiratory failure)
- Nervous system problems (including strokes)
- Digestive problems
- Contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases (by sharing paraphernalia, including needles)
- Serious skin infections
- Severe allergic reactions
How Does Cocaine Addiction and Abuse Affect the Brain?
In our regular day-to-day life, the brain releases low amounts of a neurotransmitter called “dopamine” in response to pleasurable activities. Cocaine addiction and abuse affect the brain by increasing the release of dopamine, which causes feelings of intense pleasure and euphoria. Cocaine use also prevents the normal re-absorption of dopamine by the brain’s nerve cells.
Cocaine abuse causes the body to builds a tolerance to the increased levels of dopamine. The body then craves/desires increasing levels of cocaine to sustain the feelings of pleasure and euphoria, often leaving the user with feelings of withdrawal and depression when dopamine levels drop. These feelings are sometimes referred to as cocaine withdrawal or cocaine blues.
What Can You Do?
Please call our New Jersey treatment center today to find out what substance abuse programs may be available for you or your loved one. Call our treatment center 24 hours a day at 877-385-6358, or contact us here.
Advanced Health’s New Jersey drug and alcohol rehab is licensed through the New Jersey Department of Human Services Office of Licensing, is a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, and has received the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal for Quality in Behavioral Healthcare.
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Advanced Health and Education can help anyone recover from addiction or substance abuse. We offer customized treatment and a balanced application of support and accountability that will help you end your addiction.