Although cocaine’s heyday may have been seen between the 1980s and 1990s, the powerful stimulant drug remains one of America’s most commonly abused substances.
The short-lived but intense joy, bliss and happiness caused by the drug’s high is what drives many to the point of cocaine addiction. Symptoms and causes of this kind of substance abuse are understood by experts now more than ever, yet millions of Americans still struggle with cocaine dependency.
What Causes Cocaine Addiction?
Individuals who try drugs for the first time rarely intend to get hooked on the substances they consume. Addiction develops as a result of bad choices and in conjunction with the establishment of a physical dependency, which drives the nervous system to actively seek more drugs in order to feel “normal.”
What causes individuals to try drugs in the first place? Drugs have long since been used as a means of escape, and this philosophy is what many experts believe lies at the heart of drug use, dependency and, eventually, addiction.
Unwanted feelings – whether depression, boredom, anxiety, a desire to fit in, etc. – are temporarily diminished with the use of drugs like cocaine. The high, though lasting only a short time, is powerful enough that one develops a mental dependency on the cocaine or other drugs just to function normally in life. Unfortunately, as with all illicit substances, it’s nearly impossible to “maintain” a drug habit without gradually increasing one’s dose. Physical tolerance causes the nervous system cells to degrade and require more of the drug to feel its effects.
Cocaine: Powerful Highs and Dreadful Lows
The joy of using cocaine and the anxiety from drug withdrawals are two of the key factors which make this one of the more addictive substances in the field of illicit drug treatment. Once high, a user feels extreme euphoria, heightened sensory perception and intense happiness. These strong feelings result from cocaine’s tendency to spike dopamine production in the brain. Once the high wears off, an addict is left at the extreme opposite end of the experience, feeling helpless and alone.
The initial feeling of euphoria generally lasts for up to 20 or 30 minutes in some users, but once an addiction has formed, the addict will start to feel a less intense high with each hit. Sometimes the initial feeling of happiness will last only minutes, compelling the user to take another hit to prolong the high. This is considered a primary warning sign for physical cocaine tolerance and dependency, as well as a high risk factor for overdose.
Cocaine Abuse Signs and Symptoms
The physical effects and symptoms of cocaine abuse can vary from individual to individual. However, some of the more common drug reactions to cocaine include:
- Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
- Heightened body temperature
- Severe headaches
- Dilated pupils
- Intense depression or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Mental instability
- Rapid weight loss
In more serious cases, cocaine abuse can result in seizure or stroke, heart attack and death.
Cocaine addiction is marked by continued use of the drug despite negative consequences or serious health risks. A “need” for cocaine overpower an individual’s ability to think clearly and logically, making it somewhat difficult to resolve this level of addiction without the help of trained professionals.
Cocaine is abused by an estimated 37 million Americans, making it the second most popular illegal drug in the US.