Cocaine is a common recreational drug made from the leaves of the coca plant. It can be snorted in the form of a white powder or smoked as a crystalline rock (known as crack). When under the influence of cocaine, users experience increased energy levels, feelings of happiness and elation, and increased sensitivity to sight, sound and touch. However, the long-term impact of taking cocaine can be devastating and regular use often leads to serious addiction issues.
How Addictive Is Cocaine?
When you use cocaine, it impacts you mentally and physically in a number of ways. It is these changes, especially those to your brain, that make cocaine such an addictive drug in the first place.
After taking cocaine, there are some immediate effects on the body. These include:
- High energy levels and extreme happiness
- Increased alertness and mental awareness
- Increased sensitivity to outside stimulus
- Irritability or paranoia
- Increased body temperature and blood pressure (leading to an increased risk of heart attack)
- Decreased appetite
- Inability to sleep
The effects of cocaine can last anywhere from minutes to hours, depending on the strength and whether it has been mixed with other substances, and the method of taking the drug. As soon as the effects wear off, the user is left with a craving to take more of the drug. This craving soon develops into an addiction.
Physical Effects Of Cocaine On The Body
When you consider the physical effects of cocaine on the body, many of them are negative. So, why do people have such a strong craving to take cocaine again in the first place?
It is the impact that cocaine has on the brain that leads to addiction. When somebody takes cocaine, it affects the neurotransmitters in their brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send messages around the brain and this messaging system determines how you think and feel. Certain chemicals, like dopamine or adrenaline, affect how happy and energetic you feel. Normally, when doing something you enjoy, dopamine is released in the brain and it makes you feel good. Usually, the dopamine is recycled, but when you take cocaine, that doesn’t happen. Instead, it tells your brain to keep storing it so high levels build up and that is where the feeling of extreme happiness comes from.
After the effect wears off, the brain craves that feeling again, causing people to take more cocaine. Over time, with regular use, you can completely rewire the way that the messaging system in your brain works, so it only releases dopamine when taking cocaine. This is how addiction develops and once addicted, people experience a number of withdrawal symptoms as soon as they stop taking cocaine:
- Excessive tiredness
- Increased appetite
- Sleep problems
- Poor cognitive function and memory
In order to avoid these withdrawal symptoms and feel ‘normal,’ addicts will continue taking cocaine and find it incredibly difficult to stop. The more often somebody uses cocaine, the higher their tolerance to the drug is. This means that they need to take larger amounts to feel any effect, and their addiction continues growing worse. In many cases, people start using crack cocaine because it is more potent and they are more likely to feel the effects.
Once somebody is addicted to a drug, they find it impossible to stop taking it, even though they understand the damage it is doing. Long-term physical effects of cocaine addiction include:
- Nasal damage from snorting cocaine; loss of smell, trouble swallowing, constant nosebleeds
- Lung damage, coughing, and asthma from smoking crack cocaine
- Damage to intestines from oral ingestion
- Poor nutrition and severe weight loss
- Increased risk of heart disease
Unless cocaine addicts can find a way to manage their addiction, it will drastically shorten their life expectancy and cause a lot of destructive behavior in the meantime. The right treatment programs can help people with cocaine addictions learn to control the cravings that they get when not taking cocaine. Eventually, over time, the dopamine systems in the brain are able to return to normal. So, recovering addicts can begin to find pleasure in things again without relying on cocaine to make them feel normal.
At Findlay Recovery Center we offer drug addiction rehab programs to help those struggling with cocaine addiction. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, our tailored treatment programs can help you to manage your addiction and move forward with your life.
If you are interested in the help that we can offer, you can contact us today to learn more about our treatment options.