In understanding the effects of cocaine, it is vital to understand the addictive nature of drugs.
Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs available today.
Cocaine is a psychological stimulant, releasing a powerful sense of euphoria upon use.
As it increases alertness and energy, it directly affects the nervous system and the brain.
This means that addiction can occur quickly, even without the user knowing.
Cocaine use produces feelings of pleasure. Cocaine ‘rewires’ the brain in a sense, affecting the production of neurotransmitters or the chemical messengers of the brain.
These chemical messengers carry signals such as dopamine. Dopamine is also released when you have sex, do activities you enjoy such as listening to music or getting exercise.
When you carry out these actions, this boosts your level of dopamine throughout the brain, producing feelings of enjoyment.
The same happens when you use cocaine.
Dopamine levels are boosted, where this surge causes intense pleasure and euphoria. You then become accustomed to these levels of dopamine, so much so that you will expect them all the time.
As a result, you will feel cravings to maintain these levels, as the usual amounts of dopamine will not be enough due to your tolerance increase.
You have then built up a tolerance to cocaine, and a larger amount and probably more often will be required for the same desired high.
Common signs of cocaine use are most linked to altered behaviour and levels of energy.
Some of the most likely signs of cocaine use:
Personal signs of use include:
The longer you use cocaine, the more addicted you will become and the more negative side effects you will experience.
It is common for those who are addicted to become isolated. They will have financial troubles, leading to lying and most likely stealing.
They will swap food for drugs or money, and the cocaine will prevent them from sleeping and ruin most relationships they have.
A cocaine addiction often leads to negative consequences, but understanding how and why you or someone is addicted can help you identify negative behaviours, leading to the goal of sobriety.
There is a difference between physical and mental addiction.
Addiction is classified as compulsive use, accompanied by the inability to stop.
This could affect a user’s social, private, and work-life.
Psychological addiction is synonymous with emotional dependency.
This does not revolve around physical symptoms or withdrawal, but what happens mentally.
These are signs of psychological addiction.
To be physically dependent on a drug refers to withdrawal and tolerance.
This usually means that when you start to build a tolerance to cocaine by over-use or too much in a small space of time, you will become dependent and start craving.
Once you need more cocaine to get your desired high, and experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t, you are physically addicted.
This works the same as drugs like caffeine. If you have a cup of coffee every morning, and then this stops waking you up and you need 2 or 3 cups before you feel awake, you may be addicted.
As your body adapts to drugs such as cocaine, you require more cocaine to meet these new needs.
This type of dependency can happen with any over-use of substances, even something as minute as coffee, to strong drugs such as heroin or morphine.
When your body cannot function properly without the substance you have become dependent on, you will experience intense symptoms.
Whilst cocaine does have intense physical withdrawal symptoms, it is far more mentally addictive.
Every time you use cocaine it interacts with your brain, specifically your dopamine receptors. When your levels rise, this stimulates your nervous system.
Even though the high may only last up to 30 minutes but stays in your system much longer.
Cocaine often leads to overdosing, as repeated exposure often causes a communication breakdown in the brain.
This changes the brain’s reward processing, where things that used to give you pleasure such as hanging out with friends will no longer satisfy you.
All the old activities such as reading or listening to music lose their meaning, and you have a new rewired focus, and that is cocaine.
The mental and psychological addiction of drugs can leave you feeling depressed, paranoid, anxious and without meaning.
Many believe this to be worse than just sweats and shaking, as it leaves you with suicidal thoughts and the potential for self-harm.
It can be difficult to admit that you are addicted to cocaine, but this is the first step.
Those in denial will refuse to get the help they so desperately require, so intervention may be required.
Intervention is usually done in the safe space of the user’s home, attended by friends, family or those that are deemed close to the person that needs help.
Intervention gets users to open up. When drug users feel comfortable and safe, they are more likely to be honest with you and themselves.
This is a great first step in breaking the horrible cycle of addiction.
The next step is possibly referral, to either an addiction centre or GP.
Addiction centres are better equipped to deal with addicts, and they will help to the best of their ability.
There are usually two types: inpatient and outpatient. Depending on your needs and the extent of your addiction, inpatient is 24-hour care, and outpatient is a walk-in basis.
This can be accompanied by therapy, usually cognitive behavioural therapy, to help correct the damage that cocaine has done to your brain, and prevent the development of bad habits.