Legacy Healing Center Blog
Cocaine is an illicit drug, derived from the leaves of the South American coca plant leaves. Drug dealers often cut the drug, for more profit, with talc powders, cornstarch, and even other drugs such as opiates and other stimulants. This combination of unknown mixtures is often dangerously addictive. More than any other drug, cocaine has a direct and immediate effect on dopamine and the brain’s pleasure center. This disruption wreaks havoc on the delicate chemistry that regulates mood, pleasure, and survival instincts. Cocaine-induced shifts in brain chemistry result in changes in thinking, behaviors, and thought patterns – ultimately leading to full-blown addiction.
Prior to the epidemic, in the late ’70s and ’80s, cocaine was believed to be safe and non-addicting. The intrusion of cocaine in the ’80s cultivated the widespread explosion of stimulants and has continued to plague millions of Americans and their families. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) over 14% of Americans, ages 12 and older, are reported to have used cocaine in their lifetime. Cocaine is the second most abused illicit drug in the country with an estimated 1.9 million people using monthly. Cocaine addiction does not discriminate and continues to be increasingly detrimental for millions of Americans today.
Spotting cocaine addiction is not always an obvious and easy task, especially in regards to a loved one. Naturally, confronting cocaine addiction in someone you care about is problematic for many reasons. More often than not, you are viewing the situation from a biased perspective and your loved one is likely to deny any accusations of substance abuse. It is important that you are able to recognize the signs of cocaine abuse in order to help open the door to vital solutions in dealing with that person’s addiction.
What to Look For
Cocaine has an immediate effect on the brain but has a very short half-life. This means the euphoric effect of the drug is short-lived and typically lasts anywhere from 5-30 min. The half-life is dependent on how the drug enters the bloodstream. It has been reported that smoking, the drug, is the fastest way for it to enter the bloodstream with injection coming in a close second. According to NIDA, 75% of cocaine abuse admissions into treatment centers involves crack cocaine abuse.
Cocaine produces its “euphoric high” by blocking dopamine from being recycled and creates an influx of this “feel good” neurotransmitter. Cocaine abusers may be talkative, excitable, impulsive, seemingly invincible, low appetite, and sleep-deprived. Contrarily, during the comedown from cocaine users may sleep more and binge eat, making up for the meals and sleep they may have missed. Here are some other signs of cocaine abuse:
- White powder around the nose/mouth – Nosebleeds
- Issues in interpersonal relationships – Injection sites (track marks)
- Blisters/Burn marks on hands/lips – Changes in appearance
- Drug paraphernalia (syringes, pipes, razor blades, spoons, – Glossy eyes baggies, white residue covering personal items..etc) – Dark circles under eyes
- Change in sleeping/eating patterns – Financial Troubles
- Weight loss – Isolation
- Mood swings – Lack of concentration
- Increased impulsivity – Clenched jaw
- Sexual promiscuity – Fidgety
- Dilated pupils – Loss of motivation
- Runny/Stuffy Nose – Tremors
- Increased heart rate – Paranoia
- Depression – Frivolous spending
- Increased need for privacy – Boost in confidence
Cocaine and Weight Loss
Cocaine is a known stimulant and natural appetite suppressor. The combination of these two side effects means that the cocaine abuser will undoubtedly lose weight. When severely and consistently using cocaine, the user can lose 50 pounds in as short as a few months. On top of the appetite suppression, the user is also deprived of good quality sleep. This type of dramatic and instant weight loss will give an unhealthy experience and ultimately leads to malnutrition and many other complications.
Inconsistent Sleeping Patterns
More often than not, the cocaine addict will be up and out for all odd hours of the night. The user will most likely not be coming home when expected and will conjure up elaborate excuses and lies as to where they have been. The cocaine addict can usually maintain consecutive days without sleep but this will ultimately result in a crash-period. During this time, the addict may sleep for long hours and even days at a time. If you suspect your loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction, look out for inconsistent and odd patterns of sleep.
Keep in mind that someone struggling with any addiction, especially cocaine, is attempting to finance an expensive habit. Cocaine is not cheap, and the high is short-lived. As the individual builds a higher tolerance, their need for more cocaine will continue to increase. Often times, the addict is low on cash and will frequently ask for money. You may even notice valuables and other personal items missing from your home, as the addict may even being stealing to support their habit. If you notice your loved one consistently asking for money and never having cash for necessities, he/she may be struggling with cocaine addiction.
Erratic Behavior Changes
For the individual struggling with cocaine abuse, he/she may appear to be irritable, restless, discontent, paranoid, anxious, and all around a completely different person. Cocaine is an exhausting drug and can completely take control of an individual. Lack of nutrition, sleep deprivation, and addiction, in general, can lead to extremely paranoid psychosis. The individual may even completely lose their sense of reality and may appear to be disoriented and dissociated. Cocaine abuse can also provoke aggressive and violent behaviors, seemingly unprovoked. The varying mood swings are a tell-tale sign of cocaine abuse. The addict may go from extreme highs to extreme depressive lows. The extreme ups and downs in mood and erratic behaviors is a major red flag indicating your loved one may be struggling with cocaine abuse.
If you suspect your loved one is suffering from cocaine addiction, do not hesitate to seek help. Legacy Healing Center is a comprehensive addiction treatment and behavioral health provider based on an individualized client-centered approach, designed to build hope, create a stable support network to achieve long-term health and healing. Contact Legacy Healing Center today and help your loved one start their journey to a happier, healthier life.