According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term use of cocaine can instigate physical changes in the human brain. When an individual ingests cocaine, the drugs act on the neurons of the brain in a very specific way — by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The body releases dopamine naturally, and to prevent an overload of dopamine in the system, the brain reabsorbs the excess chemical. Cocaine blocks this removal process, which results in an excess of dopamine that makes the user feel good.
Dopamine receptors in the brain become damaged. This means that, even with the use of cocaine, the brain doesn’t acknowledge the dopamine and the pleasurable effects of the drug are no longer present. Because of this effect, most cocaine users will use cocaine in binges or heavy, and increasingly larger, doses. One of the symptoms of a physical addiction to cocaine, therefore, is the need to use more drugs to obtain the same results. This is known as tolerance.
Tolerance is not the only symptom of a physical addiction to cocaine, however. Some of the symptoms will depend upon how an individual ingests cocaine. For instance, a person who snorts powdered cocaine will have different physical symptoms than someone who injects the drug or smokes rock cocaine, known as “crack.”
When an individual uses cocaine, they may be more extroverted than they should be in any given situation. They may become overly excited or talkative. They may have increased sensitivity to light or sound. The immediate effects of cocaine last for only a short time after ingestion, sometimes only a few minutes, so cocaine users may binge on cocaine for several days. When this happens, you may notice that the drug user requires very little sleep or food.
On a physical level, cocaine can increase body temperature, making the individual sweat, and it can increase the heart rate and blood pressure. When this happens, particularly with large amounts of cocaine consumed in a single binge episode, the user is at risk for heart attack or stroke. In some case, episodes of sudden death can occur. In fact, death can occur from a single use of cocaine at any time.
An article published by Psychology Today states that the regular snorting of cocaine can affect the sense of smell as well as cause frequent nosebleeds. An individual may ultimately have a runny nose that never goes back to normal. If an individual has become addicted to cocaine through routine injections of the drug, they may have scars on their arms or other parts of their body known as “tracks,” as well.
What Is Physical Addiction?
Addiction is a disease, first and foremost. This disease can make an individual change in ways they never would have thought possible. Looking for the sign of the disease of addiction can indicate that someone has a physical or psychological addiction to one or more substances. Professionals in the addiction field use a specific guideline to determine whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse, dependence or addiction. If you see the following issues manifesting in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to seek professional help for addiction:
- Disregard for work, school or other responsibilities
- Being in dangerous situations to obtain cocaine
- Use of the drug despite legal problems having to do with using, possessing or gaining access to cocaine
- Consistent decline in personal relationships due to fighting over drug use
- An inability to stop using cocaine in one sitting until all of the drugs are gone, despite “planning” to only use a little
While treatable, addiction is a disease that an individual will have to manage for the rest of their life. For family members of individuals who suffer from addiction, the concept may be difficult to understand. However, understanding and compassion are tools that can help you to assist a loved one in recovery, to a point where they can manage their disease effectively.
Cocaine Addiction Help
When looking for an effective treatment for physical addiction to cocaine, it is important to consider several aspects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has indicated several aspects to look for in an effective treatment program, including the availability of the treatment program when the individual needs the help the most, the ability of the facility to create a personalized, flexible and unique treatment plan for each individual, and the ability of the treatment program to address any co-occurring mental or physical conditions that may be present.
At Axis, we have the experience, training and understanding to help those suffering from physical addiction to cocaine to break free of their illness and manage their lives for a healthier, more productive future.