A Constant Addiction Threat
Cocaine addiction continues to be one of the most common addiction problems in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were nearly 6,000 fatal cocaine overdoses in 2014, a 42 percent increase in deaths since 2001. While the recent explosion of heroin abuse has dominated media and legislative attention during the past few years, cocaine addiction is still alive and well throughout the country.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a dangerous and highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that’s extracted from the coca plant. The drug is grown primarily in South America in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina where it is refined and shipped to the United States for commercial sale. Cocaine is either consumed as a powder (snorted or mixed with liquid and injected) or smoked as crystalline rocks known as “crack”. Crack creates a very intense and immediate high because of its method of delivery. The primary difference between crack and regular cocaine is the removal hydrochloride during crack’s refinement process. Cocaine has gained the reputation as the “caviar of street drugs” because of its often high price tag.
What Does Cocaine Addiction Do to the Brain?
Cocaine addiction does significant, and sometimes permanent damage to the user’s brain. It causes increased flow of a chemical that causes the brain to feel pleasure and rewards, called dopamine. When a person uses cocaine, it stops dopamine from being recycled like it is with normal pleasurable feelings, like food or sex, and causes a build up in the brain which leads to the intense high. Over time this cycle can easily leady to addiction.
Some of the more common psychological symptoms of cocaine addiction include:
- Paranoid Psychosis
- Depression and Anxiety
- Restlessness and Irritability
- Thoughts of Suicide
The longer use persists, the more severe these symptoms become.
What Does Cocaine Addiction Do to the Body?
Cocaine abuse and addiction affects various parts of the body, including the major organs and central nervous system. Fatal overdose is usually caused by cardiac arrest. It restricts the flow of blood to the heart and can easily result in chest pain and stroke. In the first hour after cocaine use, the user’s risk for a heart attack is almost 24 times greater. A study by the University of Cambridge revealed that cocaine use also reduces grey matter in the brain. The drug also causes permanent nasal damage when snorted (the most popular method of use) and respiratory problems, particularly when smoked as crack.