Around 5.5 million Americans used cocaine in 2019. This data is according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and it depicts how prevalent the country’s cocaine addiction problem is.
Wondering if someone around you struggles with cocaine dependency? This blog explores the signs of cocaine abuse and how it affects people in the long run. It also touches on the withdrawal symptoms they may experience — plus possible treatment options.
What is Cocaine And Why It’s Addicting
Coke. Rock. Snow. Crack. These are all terms that refer to cocaine.
Coming from the leaves of the coca plant in South America, cocaine is a potent stimulant classified as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act. While medical experts can legitimately administer cocaine for specific purposes (e.g., as local anesthesia), the illegal use of the drug has become rampant, with powdered and solid forms circulating in the market.
Either form of cocaine alters how the brain functions. It triggers a spike in dopamine levels, the chemical responsible for pleasure. Frequent cocaine use will cause an individual to seek the same euphoria, ultimately leading to an unhealthy dependency.
Signs of Cocaine Use
Below is a list of signs to watch out for, including physical, behavioral, and psychological.
- Chronic runny nose
- Significant weight loss
- White powder residue around the mouth and nose
- Burn marks on the lips and hands
- Dilated pupils
- Deteriorating hygiene
- Drug paraphernalia
- Being too excited and talkative
- Marked mood swings
- Isolation from loved ones and friends
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in eating patterns
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Having financial troubles
- Lying about drug abuse
- Boost in confidence
- Loss of interest in things that used to make them happy
Cocaine’s Long-Term Effects
The above-stated signs are some of the short-term effects of cocaine addiction. Prolonged cocaine use is even more damaging.
A cocaine user will have an increased risk of cardiovascular concerns. Cocaine can cause blood clots, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. They may also experience a permanent increase in blood pressure.
The highly potent drug also poses adverse effects on the nose and mouth. Many people struggling with cocaine use develop septal perforations over time, which can cause breathing problems and changes in the nose structure.
Meanwhile, their respiratory system can suffer from a disease called “crack lung.” Medically known as eosinophilic pneumonitis, it has symptoms like cough, chest pain, and diffuse wheezing sounds.
As for the brain, someone with cocaine problems can develop mini-strokes, seizures, brain shrinking, and blood vessel inflammation. They may even have mood disorders due to chemical production changes in the brain.
However, the long-term effects of cocaine extend beyond just physical and mental health consequences. Cocaine abuse can cause an individual’s quality of life to deteriorate. It can make people isolate themselves, causing strain in relationships. And once they engage in risky behaviors, it can even have legal implications and affect their social standing.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
When someone intends to break free from cocaine abuse, they may exhibit cocaine withdrawal symptoms. These include fatigue, lack of pleasure, increased appetite, restlessness, and drowsiness. They may also experience muscle aches, nerve pain, chills, and tremors.
After refraining from cocaine use, an individual will have heightened irritability. They will feel anxious, exhausted, and dissatisfied. During this initial phase, their cravings will drop.
At this stage, they will see an increase in cravings, making them develop poor concentration. They may also display a great lack of enthusiasm in general. This phase usually lasts the longest. Relapse may occur, but treatment options are available to help them recover again.
In this phase, someone will experience cravings occasionally. But as they have become more aware of what triggers their craving for cocaine, they will be more capable of addressing those. This will ultimately lead to sustained sobriety.
Consequences of Substance Abuse
Cocaine abuse — or substance abuse in general — doesn’t only take a toll on a specific individual. It also affects the people surrounding them, compromising the personal relationships they share with those.
When someone gets chained by illegal drugs, they tend to neglect responsibilities and withdraw from social engagements. They can also display behaviors that can hurt their loved ones, physically and otherwise.
Beyond personal relationships, cocaine abuse can also put a strain on professional relationships. It can make people perform poorly at work or school, negatively affecting how others perceive them.
Looking at it from a broader perspective, people battling cocaine abuse also place a huge burden on society. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the economic cost of illicit drug use is around $193 billion — yearly.
Approaching Someone With Cocaine Addiction
If you suspect someone is using cocaine, you must practice a high level of understanding and compassion. After all, what they need the most are people who will help them recover — not those who will judge and be critical of them.
Here are some tips to follow.
- Approach them with empathy and show that you’re genuinely concerned about their situation. Reach out to them privately and open up about the subject when you think they’re most comfortable.
- Practice active listening and don’t make judgments. While maintaining a positive tone, ask them open-ended questions — instead of confronting or accusing them head-on.
- Deal with them with the utmost patience and get yourself educated about cocaine and its ill effects. In the process, don’t forget to set boundaries so you can also protect your well-being.
It takes more than just their own will or your support for them to be able to recover. It’s important to seek professional help, especially when you’re seeing them exhibit signs of severe addiction. Professionals use their expertise and tap into their experience to identify the best option for treatment for cocaine addiction.
What are Some Treatment Options
While the Food and Drug Administration is yet to approve medications to treat this type of addiction, there are various behavioral interventions available.
One of the most effective approaches is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The objective of CBT is for people to develop critical skills that they can use to cope with their addiction triggers and help ensure long-term recovery.
On the other hand, contingency management or motivational incentive programs use a prize-based system to encourage abstinence from cocaine.
People dealing with cocaine addiction may also enroll themselves in therapeutic communities so they can stay in a drug-free environment that offers rehabilitation, counseling (individual, group, family), and support services. Meanwhile, outpatient treatments are available for people who seek more flexibility: They can attend therapy sessions while continuing their daily routine.
Cocaine addiction is prevalent. And knowing its signs and long-term effects is critical if you want to offer support to others. When helping someone who deals with this issue, you must remain compassionate. Seek help from professionals and stay informed about available treatment options and possible withdrawal symptoms.
Want to help someone get effective drug addiction treatment? At Oregon Trail Recovery, they offer various programs for cocaine-dependent people, such as a partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, and sober living program. Reach out and get help for a loved one today.