Cocaine is one of the most addicting and widely used illegal drugs. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), around fifteen percent of people in the United States have used cocaine one or more times in their lifetime. It is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 people will become new users of cocaine each year.
What Causes the Addiction?
Cocaine stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain, flooding it with the chemical dopamine, which creates a feeling of euphoria in the user. Dopamine is an enabler in a variety of addictions.
The high quantity of dopamine released into the brain by cocaine in particular causes long-term changes in the brain’s reward system and related functions. As a result, addiction to cocaine can happen more quickly than addiction to a number of other substances.
Crack cocaine is considered to have the highest likelihood of developing addiction in a first time user because it is smoked rather than snorted.
Development of the Addiction
The short-lived nature of the high achieved through cocaine use encourages repeated use over a short period of time with user having to increase the dosage over time to achieve the same high.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Some of the short-term effects of cocaine use are general intense happiness and energy and mental alertness. But along with these effects come a hypersensitivity to stimulus, paranoia and general irritability. These effects only last a few minutes to an hour and the intensity varies from person to person, with some people experiencing the opposite effects.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
The health problems that can occur from long-term cocaine use differ according to the preferred method of delivery. A person whose preferred method is snorting will eventually experience nosebleeds, lose of sense of smell and difficulties with swallowing. Someone accustomed to needle usage has an increased risk of contracting bloodborne diseases from the needle such as HIV and hepatitis. Smoking or rubbing on the inside of the mouth can cause an assortment of oral health problems and intestinal issues from decreased blood flow.
Consequences of Cocaine Addiction
As with most serious drug addiction, long-term cocaine use can result in an unsustainable lifestyle. A person constantly seeking that next fix can have a tendency to neglect important aspects of life such as family and personal finances. There are many sources of help for those with an addiction to cocaine to kick the habit and improve their quality of life.