Cocaine is a seductive drug. It lacks the normal physical “hangovers” of other drugs and the reek of alcohol and marijuana. As such, it appears less harmful, but this is deceptive. What many people do not know, is that it very quickly leads to severe psychological dependence. Cocaine is, in fact, one of the most addictive and deadliest drugs in the world.
If you have been caught in the cocaine trap, or if you suspect that someone is using it, then you should obtain urgent professional advice. There are specific factors which differ from one individual to the next. These need to be evaluated by a trained specialist for the best results. In the meantime, you may find useful general advice about the drug here.
Signs of cocaine abuse
People who develop cocaine dependency will often:
- Lie to others about their cocaine usage.
- Leave conversations and return in a different mood.
- Be overly cheerful, energetic and self-confident.
- Have traces of powder on the nose or clothes.
- Have straws, rolled paper, small pipes, syringes.
- Have dental decay and sores on arms, face, nose.
- Use bigger doses to get the same effect as before.
- Be moody and sick when the drug wears off.
- Crave snacks, have nightmares, feel tired.
- Not cope with everyday obligations.
- Make false promises to stop or reduce the drug.
- Do things in conflict with their own ethics, morals.
- Take big risks to get hold of the drug.
- Develop financial problems.
- Have employment or study problems.
- Argue with relatives and friends.
- Persist with abuse, despite bad consequences.
- Display typical physical symptoms of abuse.
- Deny the problem and resist treatment.
Note: Typical physical symptoms include runny nose, sores and scars, dilated pupils, nosebleeds, nausea, trouble swallowing, bowel infection, decreased appetite, weight loss.
Test your cocaine status
Take this self-test to see if you have a problem:
- Do you often use more cocaine than planned?
- Has the use of cocaine interfered with your work?
- Is cocaine use causing conflict with your partner or family?
- Do you ever feel depressed or guilty about using cocaine?
- Do you use what you have almost non-stop until the supply runs out?
- Has your cocaine use ever caused sinus problems or nosebleeds?
- Do you ever wish that you had never taken that first cocaine hit?
- Have you felt chest pains or rapid heartbeats when using cocaine?
- Do you worry about it when you don’t have any cocaine on hand?
- Do you have financial difficulties due to your cocaine use?
- Do you feel good just knowing you are about to use cocaine?
- After taking cocaine, do you need a drink or medication to get some sleep?
- Do you think about cocaine while interacting with people about other things?
- Do you often excuse yourself from company to go and take cocaine?
- Do you ever feel that other people are talking about you or watching you?
- Do you take larger doses to get the same high you felt previously?
- Have you tried to quit or reduce your usage without success?
- Did anybody suggest that you may have a drug problem?
- Do you use cocaine when you are alone and not working?
- Have you ever misled someone about how much or how often you use it?
- Do you use it in your car, the bathroom, at work, on planes, in public places?
- Are you afraid that stopping cocaine usage will decrease your productivity?
- Do you spend time in places or with people only because drugs are available?
- Have you borrowed or stolen money or sold possessions to buy cocaine?
If you answered YES to one or more questions, you should seriously consider getting professional advice.
What cocaine is and what it does
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant of natural origin; the drug is extracted from leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylon coca), found in the Andean highlands of South America. The alkaloid content of coca leaves is relatively low, between 0.25% and 0.77% and requires a process called “acid / base extraction” to separate cocaine from the plants.
On the street it has names like crack, coke, cola, chalk, blow, bump, dust, flake, nose candy, snow, sniff, toot, white, sprinkle, etc. It can also be mixed with other drugs and sold under other street names.
It is available as a soluble white powder and an insoluble, crystalised version that comes in blocks or broken chunks. It is injected, snorted, smoked, inhaled or rubbed on the gums. When smoked, it makes a crackling sound, hence the popular reference to “crack”.
Dealers mix cocaine with other powders and cheaper additional drugs. The added drugs create further addictions. As buyers never know how strong the mix is, there is a high risk of overdosing, especially whilst intoxicated.
Dealers often charge new customers a lower price to draw them in, but it is actually an expensive drug. As soon as you are hooked, the dealer increases the price considerably. To maintain their habit, addicts may turn to crime to finance their purchases.
Initially, cocaine triggers high alertness, sensitivity to sights and sounds, elevated moods and self-esteem. The signs include wakefulness, loss of appetite, rapid pulse, fast breathing, dilated pupils, restlessness, increased body temperature and delusions. With high doses, panic, paranoia and hallucinations occur. Overdosing can be fatal.
Reducing or stopping the abuse of cocaine causes severe withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, depression, stress, irritability, hostility, distrust, suspicion, anxiety, tremors, muscle twitches, vertigo, abdominal pain and nausea.
Users develop tolerance and must take progressively more cocaine to get the same effect. Soon, they need large volumes just to avoid the withdrawals. Once addicted, they focus intensely on the drug. Other interests, relationships and obligations are neglected. They can not, on their own, stop taking it.
The worst danger of cocaine is overdosing, even for experienced users. It reflects in the high percentage of cocaine-related hospital emergencies. Medical help is usually not summoned timeously. It results in lung and kidney failure, brain haemorrhage, coma, heart attacks, strokes, seizures and sudden death.
The health effects of cocaine abuse
Overdose effects: Hallucination, panic, respiratory (breathing) failure, heart attack, stroke, seizure, ruptured aorta, internal bleeding, kidney failure, cerebral haemorrhage, coma.
Treatment for cocaine addiction
Addiction is a more complex problem than most people realise. It depends on many influences which are specific to the individual. It is best to personally consult with a trained mental health worker, rather than going on hearsay and random opinions before deciding on a course of action.
Abusers often resist treatment, because they fear the withdrawals or they imagine a bleak future without drugs. They may be anxious about loss of income or reputation, and so on. They employ various manipulative methods to avoid separation from the drug.
It can be difficult for the average person to convince a resistant drug user to accept treatment. However, professional therapists are proficient at motivating abusers and they know how to consult with employers. Reputable rehab centres will be able to assist you with these obstacles.
Modern treatment methods effectively soothe the withdrawals and heal the underlying emotions that preceded the drug usage. It also includes preparation for dealing with awkward events after patients had finished the treatment program.