What is cocaine addiction?
This is a stimulant drug, which means that it speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and the rest of the body. It is commonly snorted, inhaled, or injected into the veins. Cocaine addiction is far more common than people think, which makes its powerful effects, even worse an enemy to deal with in drug rehab!
Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca bush (Erythroxylum coca), which is native to South America. The leaf extract is processed to produce 3 different forms of cocaine:
- Cocaine hydrochloride: a white, crystalline powder with a bitter, numbing taste. Cocaine hydrochloride is often mixed, or ‘cut’, with other substances such as lactose and glucose, to dilute it before being sold.
- Freebase: a white powder that is more pure with less impurity than cocaine hydrochloride.
- Crack: crystals ranging in colour from white or cream to transparent with a pink or yellow hue, it may contain impurities.
Risk of cocaine addiction
Cocaine is a highly, highly addictive drug. People who suffer with cocaine addiction may eventually prefer taking the drug to any other activity – their lifestyles may alter completely as the cocaine addiction takes hold more firmly. Life tends to leave along with quality, dignity, passion, manners, ethics and core values and beliefs.
There have been cases of mothers selling their child, professionals spending thousands of dollars on binges costing from $20,000 to $50,000. Some may lose their jobs, families, become bankrupt, and even die. Never mind effects on everyday relationships, jobs, divorce, child issues and so on.
Physical changes in the brain
Scientists at the University of Cambridge in England identified abnormal brain structure in the frontal lobe of the brain of cocaine users that are associated with their cocaine addiction-using behavior.
The team scanned the brains of 120 individuals, half of whom were addicted to cocaine. They found that the cocaine users had widespread loss of grey matter that was directly linked to how long they had been using cocaine – the longer the abuse, the greater the loss.
The researchers also found that those with the most reduction in volume had the greatest compulsivity.
The basal ganglia, the brain reward system where cocaine exerts its actions, was also found to be much larger among those dependent on the drug. However, there was no association between the size of the enlargement and how long the person had been doing coke. The scientists believe that the enlargement may have occurred before usage, meaning that there are people who are more vulnerable to the effects.
Dr. Karen Ersche, who works at the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge, said:
“This research gives us important insight into why some people are more vulnerable to drug addiction. Not only is this important for the future development of more effective therapeutic interventions for people who have become dependent on drugs, it will also inform improved strategies to prevent cocaine addiction in the first place.”
Dr. Ersche explained that cocaine changes the way an individual thinks and feels. Those addicted to it feel an uncontrollable, overwhelming need for the drug, even in the face of very unpleasant consequences.
Dr. Ersche added:
“People with cocaine addiction describe their out-of-control drug use as a ‘compulsion’ to use cocaine. Our current work has laid the foundation for a better understanding of cocaine dependence and why this compulsion occurs.
Our findings are important because they show a clear relationship between the brain, the duration of cocaine use and some of the common attention problems that people with cocaine dependence report. These data show that cocaine dependence is a disorder of the brain, which is very relevant information for the treatment of people who are trying to beat their addiction.”
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Thus, it is unlikely that an individual will be able to reliably predict or control the extent to which he or she will continue to want or use the drug. And, if addiction takes hold, the risk for relapse is high even following long periods of abstinence. Recent studies have shown that during periods of abstinence, the memory of the cocaine experience or exposure to cues associated with drug use can trigger tremendous craving and relapse to drug use.
With repeated exposure to cocaine, the brain starts to adapt, and the reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforcers and to the drug itself. Tolerance may develop? This means that higher doses and/or more frequent use of cocaine is needed to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. At the same time, users can also become more sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine’s anxiety-producing, physical tremor and convulsion effects, and an array of other toxic effects.
Users take cocaine in “binges,” during which the cocaine is used repeatedly and at increasingly higher doses. This can lead to increased irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, and paranoia. Even a full-blown psychosis is commonplace when it comes to cocaine addiction. This is when the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations. With increasing dosages or frequency of use, the risk of adverse psychological or physiological effects increases.
Different routes of cocaine administration can produce different adverse effects. Regularly snorting cocaine, for example, can lead to loss of sense of smell; nosebleeds; problems with swallowing; hoarseness; and an overall irritation of the nasal septum, which could result in a chronically inflamed, runny nose. Ingested cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene, due to reduced blood flow. Persons who inject cocaine have puncture marks called “tracks,” most commonly in their forearms, and may experience allergic reactions, either to the drug or to some additive in street cocaine, which in severe cases can result in death. Many chronic cocaine users lose their appetite and experience significant weight loss and undernourishment.