Cocaine Addiction Information

Cocaine Addiction Information

Cocaine Addiction INformation
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. The powdered hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is cocaine base that has not been neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochloride salt. This form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that is heated to produce vapors, which are smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound produced by the rock as it is heated.

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How is Cocaine Abused?

Three routes of administration are commonly used for cocaine: snorting, injecting, and smoking. Snorting is the process of inhaling cocaine powder through the nose, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Injecting is the use of a needle to release the drug directly into the bloodstream. Smoking involves inhaling cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is as rapid as by injection. All three methods of cocaine abuse can lead to addiction and other severe health problems, including increasing the risk of contracting HIV and infectious diseases.

The intensity and duration of cocaine’s effects, which include increased energy, reduced fatigue, and mental alertness, depend on the route of drug administration. The faster cocaine is absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the brain, the more intense the high. Injecting or smoking cocaine produces a quicker, stronger high than snorting. On the other hand, faster absorption usually means shorter duration of action. The high from snorting cocaine may last 15 to 30 minutes, but the high from smoking may last only 5 to 10 minutes. In order to sustain the high, a cocaine abuser has to administer the drug again. For this reason, cocaine is sometimes abused in binges—taken repeatedly within a relatively short period of time, at increasingly high doses.

Cocaine

Brief Description:
A powerfully addictive drug that is snorted, sniffed, injected, or smoked. Crack is cocaine that has been processed from cocaine hydrochloride to a free base for smoking.
Street Names:
Coke, snow, flake, blow, and many others.
Effects: A powerfully addictive drug, cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric and energetic. Common health effects include heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, and seizures. Large amounts can cause bizarre and violent behavior. In rare cases, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?
Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure and movement, in the brain’s reward circuit. Certain brain cells, or neurons, use dopamine to communicate. Normally, dopamine is released by a neuron in response to a pleasurable signal (e.g., the smell of good food), and then recycled back into the cell that released it, shutting off the signal between neurons. Cocaine acts by preventing the dopamine from being recycled, causing excessive amounts of dopamine to build up, amplifying the message, and ultimately disrupting normal communication. It is this excess of dopamine that is responsible for cocaine’s euphoric effects. With repeated use, cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward system and in other brain systems as well, which may eventually lead to addiction. With repeated use, tolerance to the cocaine high also often develops. Many cocaine abusers report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure. Some users will increase their dose in an attempt to intensify and prolong the euphoria, but this can also increase the risk of adverse psychological or physiological effects.

What Adverse Effects Does Cocaine Have on Health?
Abusing cocaine has a variety of adverse effects on the body. For example, cocaine constricts blood vessels, dilates pupils, and increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea. Because cocaine tends to decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished as well.

Different methods of taking cocaine can produce different adverse effects. Regularly snorting cocaine, for example, can lead to loss of the sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and a chronically runny nose. Ingesting cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene as a result of reduced blood flow. Injecting cocaine can bring about severe allergic reactions and increased risk for contracting HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Binge patterns of use may lead to irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and paranoia. Cocaine abusers can suffer a temporary state of full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which they lose touch with reality and experience auditory hallucinations.

Regardless of how or how frequently cocaine is used, a user can experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, which may cause sudden death. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizure followed by respiratory arrest.

Added Danger: Cocaethylene
When people consume cocaine and alcohol together, they compound the danger each drug poses and unknowingly perform a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to produce a third substance, cocaethylene, which intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects. Cocaethylene is associated with a greater risk of sudden death than cocaine alone.

What Treatment Options Exist?
Behavioral interventions—particularly, cognitive-behavioral therapy—have been shown to be effective for decreasing cocaine use and preventing relapse. Treatment must be tailored to the individual patient’s needs in order to optimize outcomes—this often involves a combination of treatment, social supports, and other services.

Currently, there are no medications for treating cocaine addiction, so this remains one of NIDA’s top research priorities. Researchers are looking for medications that help alleviate the severe craving experienced by people in treatment for cocaine addiction, as well as medications to counteract other triggers of relapse, such as stress. Several compounds are currently being investigated for their safety and efficacy, including a vaccine that would sequester cocaine in the bloodstream and prevent it from reaching the brain. Research so far suggests that addiction medications are most effective when used as a part of a comprehensive treatment program.

How Widespread is Cocaine Abuse?

www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/streetterms/default.asp

1 Harris DS, et al. The pharmacology of cocaethylene in humans following cocaine and ethanol administration. Drug Alcohol Depend 72(2):169–182, 2003.

* These data are from the 2006 Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, and conducted annually by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. The survey has tracked 12th-graders’ illicit drug use and related attitudes since 1975; in 1991, 8th- and 10th-graders were added to the study. The latest data are online at www.drugabuse.gov.

** “Lifetime” refers to use at least once during a respondent’s lifetime. “Past year” refers to use at least once during the year preceding an individual’s response to the survey. “Past month” refers to use at least once during the 30 days preceding an individual’s response to the survey.

*** NSDUH (formerly known as the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse) is an annual survey of Americans aged 12 and older conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This survey is available online at www.samhsa.gov and from NIDA at 877-643-2644.

The Truth About Cocaine

Slang-Coke, Dust, Toot, Snow, Blow, Sneeze, Powder, Lines, Rock (Crack)

Cocaine affects your brain. The word “cocaine” refers to the drug in both a powder (cocaine) and crystal (crack) form. It is made from the coca plant and causes a short-lived high that is immediately followed by opposite, intense feelings of depression, edginess, and a craving for more of the drug. Cocaine may be snorted as a powder, converted to a liquid form for injection with a needle, or processed into a crystal form to be smoked.

Cocaine affects your body. People who use cocaine often don’t eat or sleep regularly. They can experience increased heart rate, muscle spasms, and convulsions. If they snort cocaine, they can also permanently damage their nasal tissue.

Cocaine affects your emotions. Using cocaine can make you feel paranoid, angry, hostile, and anxious, even when you’re not high.

Cocaine is addictive. Cocaine interferes with the way your brain processes chemicals that create feelings of pleasure, so you need more and more of the drug just to feel normal. People who become addicted to cocaine start to lose interest in other areas of their life, like school, friends, and sports.

Cocaine can kill you. Cocaine use can cause heart attacks, seizures, strokes, and respiratory failure. People who share needles can also contract hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, or other diseases.

BEFORE YOU RISK IT
Know the law. Cocaine-in any form-is illegal.

Stay informed. Even first-time cocaine users can have seizures or fatal heart attacks.

Know the risks. Combining cocaine with other drugs or alcohol is extremely dangerous. The effects of one drug can magnify the effects of another, and mixing substances can be deadly.

Be aware. Cocaine is expensive. Regular users can spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on cocaine each week and some will do anything to support their addiction.

Stay in control. Cocaine impairs your judgment which may lead to unwise decisions around sexual activity. This can increase your risk for HIV/AIDS and other diseases, as well as rape and unplanned pregnancy.

KNOW THE SIGNS
How can you tell if a friend is using cocaine? Sometimes it’s tough to tell. But there are signs you can look for. If your friend has one or more of the following warning signs, he or she may be using cocaine or other illicit drugs:

Red, bloodshot eyes
A runny nose or frequently sniffing
A change in eating or sleeping patterns
A change in groups of friends
A change in behavior
Acting withdrawn, depressed, tired, or careless about personal appearance
Losing interest in school, family, or activities he or she used to enjoy
Frequently needing money
What can you do to help someone who is using cocaine? Be a real friend. Save a life. Encourage your friend to stop or seek professional help. For information and referrals, call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 800-729-6686.

Q&A

Q. Is cocaine really still a problem?
A. Yes. While the number of cocaine users has decreased from what was witnessed in the mid-1980′s, there have been nearly 2 million cocaine users every year since 1992.

Q. Isn’t crack less addictive than cocaine because it doesn’t stay in your body very long?
A. No. Both cocaine and crack are powerfully addictive. The length of time it stays in your body doesn’t change that.

Q. Don’t some people use cocaine to feel good?
A. Any positive feelings are fleeting and are usually followed by some very bad feelings, like paranoia and intense cravings. Cocaine may give users a temporary illusion of power and energy, but it often leaves them unable to function emotionally, physically, and sexually.

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug. The powdered hydrochloride salt form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is cocaine base that has not been neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochloride salt. This form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that is heated to produce vapors, which are smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound produced by the rock as it is heated.

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Other Information Sources

For additional information on cocaine, please refer to the following sources on NIDA’s Web site, www.drugabuse.gov:

Research Report: Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
NIDA Notes: Articles on Cocaine
For a list of street terms used to refer to cocaine and other drugs, visit www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/streetterms/default.asp.

1 Harris DS, et al. The pharmacology of cocaethylene in humans following cocaine and ethanol administration. Drug Alcohol Depend 72(2):169–182, 2003.

* These data are from the 2006 Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, and conducted annually by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. The survey has tracked 12th-graders’ illicit drug use and related attitudes since 1975; in 1991, 8th- and 10th-graders were added to the study. The latest data are online at www.drugabuse.gov.

** “Lifetime” refers to use at least once during a respondent’s lifetime. “Past year” refers to use at least once during the year preceding an individual’s response to the survey. “Past month” refers to use at least once during the 30 days preceding an individual’s response to the survey.

*** NSDUH (formerly known as the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse) is an annual survey of Americans aged 12 and older conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This survey is available online at www.samhsa.gov and from NIDA at 877-643-2644.

Other References:

1. Samhsa.gov – Cocaine

2. National Institute on Drug Abuse

3. 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1998

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