Frequently Asked Questions About Cocaine Use & Addiction
Whether it's used as an additive in other drugs or taken on its own, this white powder has been linked with some of the most disturbing medical conditions known to man. But what exactly happens when someone ingests cocaine? And how widespread are these problems today?
Let's take a look at six terrifying facts about cocaine use and addiction.
Crack vs Cocaine
For those who aren't familiar, there are two main types of cocaine commonly found around the world: crack cocaine and powdered cocaine. Both have their pros and cons -- although both carry high risks for health complications. Crack cocaine, which comes from processed "coca leaves" containing cocaine hydrochloride, was once very popular among users because of its fast-acting effects, but over time became less common as more people began switching to the purer form called cocaine base or simply "coke." In fact, the street name "crank," referring to the mixture of baking soda, water, sugar, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, methadone, caffeine, and/or methamphetamine that turns into crack cocaine, likely originated during the 1980s crack epidemic. Crank causes severe brain damage, lung infection, heart attack, liver disease, kidney failure, coma, death, etc., and even caused one Miami woman to lose her baby while she inhaled fumes from burning crack pipes. Today, however, crack remains illegal throughout much of America, though not all states ban it outright.
Powdered cocaine, also referred to as coke, is made by extracting cocaine out of coca paste using solvents such as ether or ethanol. This product contains no additives or fillers like saltpeter or baking soda, making it cheaper and easier to produce than crack cocaine. It's typically smoked through glass straws or injected directly into veins via hypodermic needles. Unlike crack cocaine, powdered cocaine doesn't cause any physical harm until after repeated consumption. Users may experience mild euphoria, insomnia, appetite suppression, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, dilated pupils, elevated body temperature, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and shortness of breath due to hyperventilation. But just like crack cocaine, long term usage can result in severe mental illness, memory loss, permanent personality changes, stroke, cancer, organ damage, and premature death.
Snorting cocaine usually involves placing small quantities of the drug between your upper lip and teeth then sucking in air so that the powdery substance enters your nasal passages. Once inside, cocaine travels up past your nose, down into your throat, and finally down into your stomach where it begins digesting along with food particles. If snorted properly, sniffed incorrectly, or if consumed orally, only a tiny amount of cocaine will reach your bloodstream and central nervous system. However, according to research cited in Time magazine, if snorted correctly, cocaine can enter your blood stream within seconds. The resulting rush feels similar to being drunk or having sex, except that your mind isn't affected in nearly the same way. You'll feel extremely alert, energized, talkative, confident, full of energy, and able to focus better. Unfortunately, snorting too often leads to dependency and abuse, especially considering the quick onset and intense high associated with this method of ingestion. Snort cocaine once per day and you're looking at serious trouble later.
Smoking (Crack) Cocaine
Smoking crack cocaine requires a special device known as a crack pipe. A piece of tin foil coated with aluminum foil serves as the filter, preventing larger chunks of crack cocaine from entering your lungs. Then a small opening near the bottom of the pipe allows smoke to escape into the user's nostrils. As soon as this occurs, the person sucks in sharply to create suction, drawing in concentrated amounts of cocaine vapor into his lungs along with small bits of ash left behind from previous hits. Smoking crack cocaine results in numerous negative side effects including respiratory depression, lung infections, bleeding gums, tooth decay, abscesses, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis, hypertension, strokes, cardiac arrest, pancreatitis, malnutrition, obesity, diabetes, skin rashes, nerve pain, seizures, psychosis, impotence, erectile dysfunction, blindness, deafness, kidney stones, liver tumors, enlarged prostate gland, colon obstruction, digestive disorders, glaucoma, and cancer. Long term exposure to crack cocaine is particularly dangerous since it alters the structure of DNA in various parts of your body, leading to birth defects, miscarriages, infant mortality rates, and a host of cancers. So don't try this at home!
Cocaine and Alcohol
Many individuals combine drinking heavily with taking recreational drugs, sometimes simultaneously. When combining cocaine with alcohol, the overall effect is intensified. Withdrawal symptoms become worse, and tolerance builds quicker. Alcohol makes everything seem funner and you might find yourself doing things you normally wouldn't consider without booze present. Cravings are heightened, and the desire to drink becomes overwhelming. Other substances, such as cigarettes and cannabis, can be combined with cocaine. Taking three lines of cocaine together with weed, acid, ecstasy, or GHB can make your trip last longer and potentially increase risk for accidents and violence. Drinking large amounts of hard liquor increases the speed at which cocaine affects your central nervous system, while mixing cocaine with other depressants can actually kill you. Be smart...be safe.
When ingested, cocaine works instantly upon contact with the blood vessels in your brain causing them to expand rapidly. Your heart rate rises, blood pressure lowers, breathing becomes shallow, and your entire face swells. This sets off massive release of adrenaline into your bloodstream resulting in extreme stress, panic attacks, and increased heart rate followed by chest pains and irregular heartbeat. Afterward, your head feels cloudy and numb, possibly accompanied by headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, shivering, sweating, chills, fever, excessive urination, muscle cramps, lack of sleep, dizziness, exhaustion, irritability, mood swings, confusion, slurred speech, difficulty walking, tunnel vision, ringing ears, blurred vision, flushing, constipation, and tremors. Some people may develop psychological issues such as aggression, hostility, rage, paranoia, schizophrenia, and suicidal tendencies. These feelings could persist for weeks, months, or years depending on individual circumstances. To prevent overdose, keep track of how much cocaine you ingest each week and call 911 immediately should you notice signs of distress. Never mix cocaine with other depressant medications unless directed by a doctor.
After spending several hours feeling intensely happy before going back to reality, your initial sense of well-being eventually gives way to a painful comedown. During this period, your body releases endorphins and dopamine into your brain and spinal fluid. Although initially pleasurable, they can trigger uncontrollable cravings and obsessive thoughts of wanting to consume more cocaine again. For this reason, many addicts begin self-medicating themselves with additional doses of cocaine to help ease the transition out of their current state. Eventually, the addict must go cold turkey in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Without treatment, addictions run rampant and ruin lives. Fortunately, there are effective methods available to treat cocaine dependence such as counseling, medication management, group therapy, holistic therapies, spirituality training, 12-step programs, and behavioral modification techniques. Depending on your personal situation, professional intervention may be necessary.
Getting Help for Cocaine Addiction
The type of behavioral therapy that takes place in a residential addiction treatment clinic is still the most effective cocaine addiction treatment. Motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, relapse prevention programs, and programs to enhance coping skills and self-esteem are some of the behavioral cocaine addiction treatment strategies. Participating in these types of addiction therapies in an inpatient setting, continuing therapy after discharge, and joining a recovery fellowship such as Cocaine Anonymous can all help a person recover from cocaine addiction.
1 Solution Detox, a leading South Florida addiction treatment program, is equipped to help individuals struggling with addiction to drugs including cocaine. To learn more about 1 Solution Detox or to inquire about admission to an addiction treatment program, contact them today.
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