Cocaine: What You Need to Know
Cocaine is a stimulating substance that gives users an intense high and an abundance of energy and pleasure. However, cocaine is very addicting, and can lead to struggles with dependency and major health problems.
In the past, cocaine was used for some medical procedures and as a type of treatment for certain conditions, but those practices have been discontinued, due to the dangerous side effects. Now, cocaine is primarily a recreational drug that is associated with risky lifestyles.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine produces a variety of effects, many of which make it a preferred drug for recreational users. A small dose of cocaine can make a user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and more mentally alert. A user may also exhibit decreased appetite and become hypersensitive to sight, sound, and touch. The duration of these effects depends largely on the route of administration. The effects of snorting cocaine, for example, last for 15 to 30 minutes but have a relatively slow onset, while the effects of smoking crack come more immediately but last only about 5 to 10 minutes.
Physiologically, cocaine use causes restricted blood vessels, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, and increased body temperature. With heavier doses, the user might experience restlessness, muscle twitches, tremors, irritability, anxiety, paranoia, or vertigo. There are a number of unexpected medical complications that may occur with cocaine use as well, such as disturbances in heart rhythm, heart attack, seizures, stroke, or even coma. Death can also occur on rare occasions.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Chronic cocaine use can lead to a variety of medical complications. Long-term effects vary, of course, depending on the duration of use, frequency of usage, type of cocaine used, and form of administration used. In general, chronic cocaine use can lead to a number of cardiovascular issues, such as irregular heart rhythm, dysfunction of the heart muscle, inflammation of the heart muscle, or heart attack. As for the brain, chronic use can lead to seizures, narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain, stroke, and structural and functional brain deterioration. Additionally, a chronic user of cocaine may develop respiratory issues, viral hepatitis, kidney disease, kidney failure, gastrointestinal complications, sexual dysfunction, vascular problems, and skin lesions. Each method of administration—injection, snorting, or oral—has its own associated health problems as well.
Mental Effects of Cocaine Addiction
During this period, the user will be irritable and start to be lethargic. Over prolonged periods of use, cocaine can cause immense brain damage, and even contribute to cases of psychosis, depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders.
Physical Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Over long periods of time, a person can develop an irregular heart rhythm, which is incredibly dangerous. In addition, vital organs can be damaged by continuous cocaine abuse, such as the liver and kidney.
What are the Common Signs of Cocaine Use?
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether a loved one is using cocaine. Learning some of the most common signs of cocaine use can help you better identify when there might be a problem. Here are some of the most common signs of cocaine use:
- Unusual bouts of excitement, confidence, talkativeness, etc.
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Unusual sleeping patterns
- Dilated pupils
- Frequent runny nose or nosebleeds
- Needle marks on arms, legs, hands, feet, or neck
- Brief absences, after which the person is in a completely different mood
How Much of a Problem is Cocaine Use?
Cocaine addiction affects people from all walks of life, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. It is the second most popular illicit recreational drug in the United States, behind only cannabis. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 4.7 million Americans aged 12 years and older reported having used cocaine at some point in the past year. Rates of cocaine use and addiction seem to be on a slight decline in recent years, perhaps due to rising prices, but cocaine use remains a significant issue nonetheless. The U.S. alone sees over half a million cocaine-related emergency room visits every year, and over 200,000 people seek treatment for cocaine dependency every year.