Despite the fact the cocaine is frequently glamorized in movies and on television, it is a highly addictive and dangerous drug. It is often used recreationally at first, because of the euphoric, motivated, and energetic feeling it produces. Even though the dangers of cocaine use are widely known, it continues to be one of the most used illicit drugs. It’s estimated that about 14 percent of the U.S. population has used it at one time or another.
Cocaine is not only mentally and physically addictive, it can harm the body in many different ways. As a result, it is the number one illicit drug that causes emergency room visits in the country. The risks of cocaine use and dependence can be very serious, even leading to death.
Risks of Cocaine Addiction
One of the risks of cocaine abuse and addiction is extreme paranoia, a temporary state of severe paranoid psychosis. When users are in this state, they lose touch with reality and often experience auditory hallucinations. This can send them into violent rages, endangering themselves and others.
Cocaine effects the pleasure center of the brain quickly, almost instantly, and the user feels the “high” of the drug intensely. However, the feeling is short-lived compared to other illicit drugs, prompting the user to “binge,” or use the substance repeatedly in a short time. This practice makes the risk of overdose much more likely.
Regardless of the manner ingested, or the frequency of use, cocaine users can experience heart attacks or stroke. These life-threatening conditions can happen even with a first-time user. Often, cocaine-related deaths occur when the user suffers a heart attack or seizure followed by respiratory arrest.
Besides overdose and death, there are other serious health problems that result from cocaine abuse, they include:
- Severe allergic reactions
Cocaine Abuse Changes the Brain
In addition to the health risks listed above, cocaine dependence can have a negative long-term effect on the brain. Cocaine is a stimulant that increases the levels of the pleasure causing brain chemicals, especially dopamine, resulting in feelings of extreme pleasure.
It does so in two ways:
- Preventing the re-absorption of dopamine by the brain
When a user becomes dependent on cocaine and uses it over an extended period of time, the result is long-term changes in the brain’s reward system. Users then have to increase the amount of cocaine they are using to produce the same effects they experienced when they first used, and this added tolerance may cause unusual or unpredictable behavior. Long-term abuse can cause adverse psychological and physiological effects, some irreversible.
What to Expect in Cocaine Addiction Treatment
The good news is, there is treatment for cocaine addiction. The sooner you begin treatment, the less likely you are to suffer long-term side effects.
The first step of any drug addiction treatment is detoxification, or ridding your body of the substance. Detox from cocaine is not as severe or uncomfortable as it is from other drugs. However, there will still be intense cravings for the drug for some time. Cocaine addiction treatment for men at Merito includes things like exercise, yoga, and dietary supplements to aid in the withdrawal process.
After detox, psychological treatment is necessary to learn coping skills that will aid in relapse prevention and to deal with any underlying issues that contributed to the drug use. Individual and group therapy are essential to recovery.