What is cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant drug, that is powerful and addictive. Cocaine substances can alter brain function if used persistently. Cocaine is a schedule II drug, that has a high risk for abuse, and is commonly administered by medical professionals and used as a local anesthetic in small surgeries. As illicit drugs on the streets, cocaine comes in a fine white crystalline powder, and known as Coke, C, Powder, or Blow. Individuals who abuse cocaine use two types of cocaine: the water-soluble hydrochloride salt and water-insoluble cocaine base, freebase. Users inject or snort the hydrochloride salt in a powder form. The method of administration varies from oral, through the nose or intravenously, or by inhalation.

How does cocaine affect brain function?

Cocaine acts by binding the dopamine transporter, therefore blocking the removal of dopamine where it would normally bind to specialized proteins while acting as a chemical messenger caring signals from neuron to neuron, which is called a reward system.  Cocaine interferes with the normal function of the brain and therefore causing the euphoria normally experienced after using the drug.

What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?

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  • euphoric and energetic
  • talkative and heightened alert
  • hypersensitive to light, sound and touch
  • decreased appetite or need to sleep
  • restlessness and irritability
  • anxiety and panic
  • tremors, vertigo, and muscle cramps
  • headaches, seizures, and strokes
  • abdominal pain and nausea
  • cardiovascular issues
  • sudden death

What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?

  • increased irritability
  • restlessness
  • panic attacks and paranoia
  • psychosis (loss of reality)
  • hallucinations
  • convulsions
  • lung problems
  • the risk for contracting HIV and hep C
  • weight loss
  • stroke and seizures
  • impaired cognitive functions

Continues use of cocaine may result in tolerance, so the higher dosage and more frequent use of cocaine may be needed to produce similar effects. Changes in brain function may lead to compulsive drug-seeking and neglecting natural pleasure like family, friends, eating and enjoy activities. Cocaine dependence and becoming immune to cocaine toxicity may increase the risk of overdose and death.

What are cocaine withdrawal symptoms?

An individual who repeatedly uses and abuses cocaine may experience the following withdrawals symptoms when making an attempt to quit or taper cocaine intake:

  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Severe drug cravings
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Nightmares
  • Psychological and physical weakness
  • Loss of concentration
  • Lower sexual drive
  • Decreased activity level
  • Loss of interests
  • Irritability

What is the treatment for cocaine addiction?

If an individual with a cocaine addiction makes a decision to get help, there are several steps to be taken to accomplish a successful recovery. The first step is to undergo a detoxification process, that will flush harmful toxins from the addict’s body. This procedure is usually performed under medical professional’s supervision and may be associated with powerful withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the severity of the case, the procedure may be rendered in a medical setting, either in-patient or outpatient. Addiction medications may be prescribed to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Once the medical part of the treatment is completed,  the patient then admitted to a rehab center to undergo comprehensive behavioral therapy and counseling that is critical in a successful recovery. The treatment plan is designed around a person’s individual needs and progress.  A recovering addict learns how to deal with life’s challenges without using drugs.  Applying a cognitive-behavioral to the rehab treatment, allows a recovering individual to learn the skills of coping, managing cravings, and triggers. Family support during and post-treatment is vital in achieving a successful recovery!

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