Yes, coke is a highly addictive and extremely dangerous drug.
While getting high on cocaine only lasts for 30 minutes or less, cocaine stays in the system from 2-4 days after use. Plus, using the drug causes long term changes to the brain and body. Its stimulant effects can cause severe reactions that can result in death or hospitalization.
So how do drugs change brain chemistry and when cocaine affects the brain, why is it so addictive? What are the health effects of long-term coke use? Why is coke addiction so difficult to kick, and what treatments are available to help coke addicts go sober? We’ll look at each of these questions here.
Cocaine chemistry and use
Coke is a powerful, addictive stimulant drug that comes in several forms. Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which is native to South America. The leaves are processed to create purified coke, which is much stronger than the natural variety. This street drug is often diluted with harmless substances like cornstarch, talcum powder, or sugar, and sometimes it is combined with other drugs like heroin, procaine, and amphetamine. These combinations of other drugs with coke can be especially dangerous.
Cocaine can come powdered and is either snorted or dissolved in water and injected intravenously. “Crack” cocaine is the form that has been processed into a hard rock crystal, which is heated to release vapors that are then smoked. All three methods will release coke directly into the bloodstream.
What does coke do in the body?
Once cocaine enters the bloodstream, it finds its way to the brain. The faster it can reach the brain, the more intense the high that the user experiences. But how does cocaine affect the brain?
Coke affects the central nervous system by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is normally released in response to some sort of pleasurable outside signal, such as the smell of a delicious meal – but is then recycled back into the brain after a short time. Cocaine prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed by the brain, causing it to build up in excessive amounts. This is what causes the feeling of euphoria which can make coke so addictive.
How do you get addicted to coke?
Not everyone who uses coke becomes a coke addict. Some people are able to use cocaine on an occasional basis – although coke is never a safe drug in any amount. People become addicted when they start to develop a tolerance to the drug and have to take higher and higher doses to experience the initial high. They may also take the drug in repeated doses over a short period of time, which also greatly increases the risk of developing an addiction.
Who gets addicted to coke?
People from all walks of life can become addicted to coke. A 2008 study by the National Survey on Drug use and Health found that there were nearly 1.9 million people in the US who’d taken cocaine within the past month – 359,000 of which smoked crack cocaine. Most users of the drug are between the ages of 18-25. However, men are more likely to be coke addicts than women.
Long term effects of coke addiction
Depending on how the drug is taken, cocaine can have different long-term health effects. People who snort cocaine can lose their sense of smell or experience frequent nosebleeds. Ingesting coke can actually cause gangrene of the bowel. Injecting coke can result in fatal or severe allergic reactions to the drug or street additives, and increases a person’s risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis A and B. In general, cocaine use causes a loss of appetite, severe weight loss, and malnourishment.
Coke also causes permanent changes in the brain over time. Most noticeably, the brain adapts to repeated drug exposure and becomes less sensitive to the effects of dopamine over time. This makes it harder to get high from cocaine, and it also makes coke addicts more sensitive to the negative side effects of the drug, which can include:
• auditory hallucinations
• panic attacks
• psychotic episodes
How to avoid coke addiction
It’s impossible to predict who will become addicted to coke and who will not. Some people only use cocaine once and never crave it again. Others will experience intense and uncontrollable cravings for the drug after first use. Even addicts who have long periods of abstinence from the drug are likely to relapse suddenly.
Are you addicted to Coke?
If you’re addicted to cocaine, there are treatments available to help you. While there are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat coke addiction, some medications used for other diseases are showing promising results. Behavioral interventions and therapies are currently the most widely available and effective treatments for coke addiction. This might include cognitive-behavioral therapy, or living temporarily in a therapeutic community. There are also numerous community-based programs and support groups that can help, such as Cocaine Anonymous.
Questions about coke
Please leave us your questions and comments about cocaine use, abuse and addiction here. We try to answer all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt response. If we don’t know the answer to your question, we will point you in the right direction to someone who does.