HOW IS COCAINE USED?
Cocaine is a known common drug that still continues to be abused. When we think of cocaine, most people immediately visualize a skinny white line of powder on a flat surface, along with a straw and a sharp edged object for straightening the line. Then we’ll think of a user closing one nostril with their finger while using the straw to snort the entire line up the other nostril. Then maybe they’ll rub the rest of the powder on their gums. This is the most common way cocaine is used.
Another way is by taking bumps of small amounts on their finger and quickly snorting up. However, cocaine can also be dissolved into a liquid form and injected into the body using needles. Crack cocaine comes in a solid rock form that users heat to create vapors which are smoked. Cocaine may also be mixed with other drugs such as heroin or alcohol to alter the high.
HOW DOES COCAINE AFFECT THE BRAIN?
Cocaine is connected to the natural brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine is a part of our reward system, making us feel good when we experience good things. For example, when we smell good food and we get excited to eat it. The natural dopamine process circulates in the brain. Brain circuits from a transmitting neuron control the release of dopamine, making sure we’re only being rewarded when we should be. When dopamine is released, it travels over to a receiving neuron. Once we feel the kick, the dopamine travels back to the transmitting neuron. This is a cycle of release and returning.
Okay, so now cocaine enters the body. Cocaine then blocks the circuit from allowing dopamine to return. So while dopamine continues to be released and can’t return, it causes a build up between nerve cells. This creates the feeling of being high.
HEALTH RISKS CAUSED BY COCAINE
Cocaine has been connected to anxiety, paranoia, irritability, restlessness, and panic attacks. Some people experience psychosis and hallucinations. Cocaine damages nasal passages, lungs, and arms if injecting. Some users don’t understand the risk of possibility of having an allergic reaction to drugs on the street which can lead to death. Because cocaine acts as an appetite suppressant, malnourishment and unhealthy weight loss is a risk. Chest pains resembling a heart attack are common. Cocaine increases the risk of stroke, seizures, and inflammation of heart muscles, as well as aortic rupture. Moving disorders such as Parkinson's disease may also occur. Mentally, users struggle with sustaining attention, controlling impulses, memory loss, decision making, and performing motor tasks. Mixing cocaine with other drugs and alcohol greatly increase a user’s risk of health issues as well as potential death.
TREATING THE WHOLE PERSON
Addiction shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can be an extreme internal struggle for users to sober themselves. A support system is extremely necessary for long term outcomes. This is support from family and loved ones, as well as trained medical professionals. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact Crownview Co-occurring Institute to get in touch with a medical professional who can create an individualized treatment plan to restore optimal health.