Cocaine: From Abuse to Addiction
In its powdered salt form, cocaine is typically snorted, and it an immensely popular party drug. However, in addition to being extremely dangerous in certain circumstances, cocaine is also highly addictive. Here’s what you need to know about the frightening risks attached to habitual cocaine use.
How cocaine affects the mind and body
Cocaine is a strong stimulant, and it boosts the levels of dopamine in your system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is linked to reward-motivated behavior, and it is naturally released in response to physically pleasurable experiences like sex and eating. As a result, cocaine produces an intense high of approximately half an hour, making the user feel more sociable, energetic and excitable. These feelings can be especially enjoyable for insecure or shy people, who suddenly find themselves able to be bold and outgoing in bars or at parties.
Cocaine also produces classic physical side effects, including an increase in body temperature, appetite suppression, nausea, headaches, dilated pupils and feelings of paranoia. After a high, the typical cocaine comedown involves irritability, lethargy and problems with focus and attention. Habitual abusers of cocaine often end up with nasal problems, ranging from nosebleeds to a completely deadened sense of smell.
How cocaine addiction develops
Since cocaine only provides a brief high, users often feel tempted to snort the drug more frequently. This urge tends to be compounded by the fact that people become tolerant to cocaine, needing larger amounts to produce the same high. However, when you use more cocaine, you experience more unpleasant and long-lasting comedowns, which only increases the urge to use the drug more often.
Cocaine users can quickly and easily become obsessed with obtaining their next hit of the drug, and this addiction comes with profound physical and psychological consequences.
The risks of cocaine abuse
Firstly, cocaine use can cause sudden death, even if the user does not overdose. Heart attacks and strokes are fairly common adverse reactions, both of which are fatal in a large percentage of cases. Social users of cocaine will often mix it with alcohol, and this is a particularly dangerous choice. The combination of cocaine and alcohol leads the liver to produce cocaethylene, a chemical that enhances a cocaine high but also increase the likelihood of sudden death.
Secondly, the emotional risks associated with cocaine should not be underestimated. The drug can be very expensive, so addiction also brings a significant financial burden; it is not uncommon for addicts to lose their homes or abandon previously important hobbies. Meanwhile, those in relationships can find their cocaine use causing arguments and increasing the likelihood of domestic violence. There is also some evidence that cocaine abusers are more promiscuous.
It is also worth noting that cocaine addiction is linked to the development of anxiety disorders and to episodes of cocaine psychosis. Similar to paranoid schizophrenia, cocaine psychosis leads to a terrifying inability to differentiate between reality and delusions. Suicides and violent altercations may result from these frightening hallucinations.