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What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that is commonly snorted, injected, or smoked. It can also be rubbed on the gums and absorbed into the bloodstream. It comes from the coca plant found in South America, and can be processed into several different forms.

Cocaine is white in appearance and usually takes the form of a fine powder. Street names for it include coke, C, snow, powder, or blow. If the powder is processed into a crystal form (often with other ingredients processed in), it becomes what is known as ‘crack.’ Crack cocaine kicks in more quickly than its pure counterpart, and is smoked instead of snorted.

Cocaine was used medicinally before the 1900s, but it has since been classified as a Schedule II drug because of its dangerous effects and potential for dependence.

Cocaine affects dopamine in the brain, the chemical controlling the pleasure and reward system. Usually, the brain releases dopamine in response to potential rewards, such as food or sex. When the reward is gone, it moves the dopamine back into the cell that released it. Cocaine prevents dopamine from moving back into the cell, creating a buildup in the nerve cells. In this way, cocaine produces euphoria or a ‘high’.

Cocaine Side Effects

Because cocaine is highly addictive, users become very dependent on the drug and need it to accomplish everyday things. Some significant behavioral changes indicate cocaine use. Here are just a few:

  • Unexpected energy in the morning or evening
  • Rapid speech
  • Unusual enthusiasm
  • White powder below nostrils
  • Repeated trips to the bathroom or other secluded places
  • Unexpected interruptions to drive somewhere or meet someone
  • Significant increase in sexual drive
  • Paranoia
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Weight loss

Another common effect, aside from erratic behavior, is an empty bank account.

The effects of cocaine subside after only 30 minutes. Users need to take regular hits in order to maintain their high. Unless users are particularly well off or selling the drug themselves, they are hard pressed to afford a cocaine habit.

How Cocaine Use Impacts Mental Health

There are several dangers that accompany cocaine use. Mental health is especially susceptible to short-term and long-term neural damage from cocaine. This is primarily due to the fact that the cocaine effects directly modify chemicals in the brain.

Besides dopamine, cocaine also affects serotonin and norepinephrine. When in balance, these chemicals properly regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward system. However, these three chemicals are greatly increased as soon as cocaine enters the system.

When these chemicals spike to an inordinate level, it can cause major psychiatric problems, such as psychosis.

There are several mental health problems that can arise from even short-term use, such as:

  • Cocaine intoxication delirium
  • Cocaine-induced psychotic disorders with hallucination and/or delusions
  • Cocaine-induced mood disorder
  • Cocaine-induced anxiety disorder
  • Cocaine-induced sexual dysfunction
  • Cocaine-induced sleep disorder

Cocaine can damage the brain significantly, especially when used in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs.

Cocaine and Alcohol

Comorbid addictions are always dangerous, but alcohol and cocaine are especially so. . It generates a chemical called cocaethylene that is stronger than cocaine and longer lasting. Cocaethylene can cause long-term neurological and cardiac problems. Because cocaethylene is stronger than cocaine, users will often combine alcohol and cocaine to experience an even more euphoric high. Cocaine users frequently abuse alcohol.

Alcohol slows brain functions, and cocaine speeds them up. As users drink more and more, they use cocaine to counteract the drunk feeling and maintain an ‘even’ high. After using cocaine and alcohol, addicts become more bold and as a result, have the propensity to behave dangerously.

Even though users feel ‘even keeled’ or ‘sobered up’ after using cocaine, alcohol remains in their system, making them a risk to the others around them. It is not uncommon to encounter users that become angry and physically violent when combining alcohol and cocaine.

Long-term Effects

There are many dangers to using cocaine over a long period of time. Some of these include:

  • Deviated septum (from snorting)
  • Severe bowel decay from reduced blood flow (when consuming by mouth)
  • HIV and Hepatitis C (from injection)

Studies have shown that cocaine speeds up HIV infection, increasing the potential for contracting Hepatitis C, regardless of the method of use

Recovering from Cocaine Addiction

Withdrawal from cocaine is commonly exhibited as severe fatigue, loss of interest, craving cocaine, and lack of motivation. For example, addicts may experience increased interest in a subject while on cocaine but have no interest at all after the high has worn off.

While on cocaine, users might be excited and energetic but off cocaine, all they want to do is sleep. Part of withdrawing from cocaine is simply getting good sleep. This can be done safely in detox, with the supervision of medical professionals.

After completing detox, patients are admitted into 30 or 90 day programs. This time is used to bring the chemicals in the brain back into balance. It is also used to treat addicts holistically by tackling the emotional and mental components that occur alongside addiction.

What We Can Do to Help

Northern Arizona Center for Addiction has on-site psychiatrists and doctors of psychology to help treat patients with medication and therapy. After a patient’s initial assessment, NACA constantly monitors their behavior and mental state. This allows the clinical team to create the best treatment plan for each patient.

We are an inpatient/outpatient rehab and JCAHO Accredited Arizona Treatment Center. We offer world-class alcohol and drug treatment in beautiful Prescott, AZ.

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At Northern Arizona Center for Addiction, we believe that healing of the body, mind and spirit are all necessary to overcome substance abuse. We offer a wide range of rehab options in order to facilitate your personal recovery. Our clients can go through drug and alcohol rehabilitation in a safe, comfortable environment, with holistic plans customized to their needs.

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