What Happens to Your Body When You Use Cocaine?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 1.5 million Americans aged twelve and older reported having used cocaine in the 30 days prior to the survey.
Over seventy percent of the world’s cocaine comes from Colombia.
In 2015 over five million people reported using cocaine at some point during the year. Users have admitted spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars a week to support their cocaine habits.
These statistics are alarming. So, what is this drug causing such havoc?
Cocaine is a white powder chemical created in a laboratory. It is derived from the coca plant. Yes, that same plant that was used in the production of coca cola when it was first introduced.
By the time a person uses cocaine, it is something totally different, something much worse.
It is man-made and often mixed with other chemicals. Cocaine that is sold on the street is rarely just pure cocaine.
The same is true for crack cocaine, which is cocaine mixed with a hardening compound like baking soda. This allows cocaine to be smoked rather than snorted.
Cocaine can also be injected by boiling it down with water. In any form, cocaine can damage the brain.
Your Brain on Cocaine
When you inhale, inject or snort cocaine, your brain experiences a high. It’s the chemicals from cocaine that cause this reaction in your brain.
Cocaine makes the brain feel reward at a maximum level. It does this by increasing the amount of dopamine in the limbic system, or front part of the brain.
Dopamine is considered a feel-good chemical that tells our brain and our bodies to get excited, to be happy, and to be energized. Normally, your brain produces the right amount of dopamine we need for each situation. The brain then stores the rest of the dopamine for later use.
When on cocaine, all the dopamine, including the stored dopamine, is released at once. That means you are getting an excessive amount of dopamine, making you feel excessively good.
When the brain feels this way, it’s automatically set up to repeat this behaviour so it can continue to feel good. The brain is triggered to continue to use cocaine to get the short-term benefit of being high.
The effects of cocaine do not last long, however. After about thirty minutes, the brain recognizes cocaine is leaving the system. Your brain wants to feel good again so it will make you focus on using the drug again.
Cravings, as they are called, can be intense. It’s difficult for many people to resist the urge to use cocaine again, to keep that feeling of being high. This is how many can become addicted to cocaine.
Cocaine, when first used, creates a euphoria. Over time, this euphoria fades and you become focused on obtaining that euphoria again and again. These obsessive thoughts and behaviors lead to addiction.
When a person becomes addicted to cocaine, damage to the body can follow.
Cocaine and Your Body
Cocaine is a powerful drug. It can change a person’s genes and even nerve cells.
Initial effects of cocaine on the body include dilated pupils, elevated heart rate and increased body temperature. You also feel euphoric and either move around a lot, talk a lot or both.
Cocaine can have a different effect on each person using it and due to the method of use.
One person may inject cocaine and experience euphoria followed by vomiting and headaches. Others may inhale cocaine and feel euphoric with abnormal strength.
Long-term use of cocaine is less attractive. It causes nose bleeds, chronic diarrhea and paranoia. It can damage teeth and alter your nervous system. In more severe cases, cocaine can trigger hypothermia due to the excessive sweating associated with its use.
Cocaine has also been known to cause a heart attack and death.
When a person becomes addicted to cocaine, it is the withdrawal symptoms that become unmanageable. Cocaine causes a “crash” when the brain senses it is running out of cocaine and needs to replace it.
This crash brings anxiety, panic attacks, depression, restlessness and inability to sleep. Many people try to replace the cocaine with alcohol or other addictive drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is not an appropriate solution.
Relationships can be ruined by addiction. But there is hope! With the right support, you can overcome cocaine addiction.
How You Can Overcome Cocaine Addiction
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine accounts for at least six percent of treatment center admissions.
The Federal Drug Administration has not yet approved a medication to help combat cocaine addiction. They are, however, testing options. One of which is a vaccine that attaches to the cocaine and blocks it from reaching the brain.
When a person ingests cocaine, no matter in which form, this vaccine will block the cocaine from working. This would be a terrific way to keep people from relapsing on cocaine.
Behavioral treatments include contingency management (CM) and uses a reward system as an incentive to stay sober. It requires a person to submit urinalysis tests to earn prizes or rewards.
Cognitive behavioral therapies have shown great benefit to those in recovery. A person can work with a counselor to change behaviors and thoughts that lead to relapse.
In-patient treatment services allow a person to get both professional and personal feedback from counselors and peers. A person could plan to reside for at least thirty days at an in-patient facility. The more time in treatment, the greater the rate of success.
Out-patient treatment is essential for recovery. Moving from in-patient to out-patient counseling can ease the transition struggles for someone re-entering life after treatment. An out-patient treatment plan can include traditional and alternative therapies.
For instance, meditation can offer great relief when you are feeling anxious during recovery.
Support groups are also beneficial once you return to your home life after in-patient treatment. Finding others who truly understand what you are experiencing helps you feel less alone in your recovery. It also gives you access to people and resources for the times you are thinking of relapse.
Groups such as Cocaine Anonymous can be a suitable place to connect with others.
Cocaine can do real damage on your brain and your body. There is help, however. The earlier you start your road to recovery; the less damage will be done.
If you are struggling with cocaine use or addiction, you don’t have to do it alone. You can reach out to one of our therapists today, who are available to discuss treatment options with you by phone or email (we’ll respond within 24 hours). There are also numerous facilities ready to help you become sober for good, which we can help connect you with. You can start your journey to sobriety today.