Cocaine Overview

Cocaine is one of the most well-known and widely used stimulant drugs. While also being one of the most problematic street drugs in the United States, cocaine is derived from the leaves of the coca plant, which is notably native to South America. In fact, a number of indigenous South American tribes would chew on coca leaves for a boost in energy, but the leaves could also be used as an anesthetic for trepanning; as a side note, trepanation is/was the drilling of a hole in the skull in an attempt to relieve pressure and discomfort or to provide malevolent spirits a means of escaping the body.

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What Exactly is Cocaine?

Many scientists and researchers attempted to isolate and extracting the stimulant properties of coca leaf, but it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century when a German chemist was finally successful. Specifically, it was 1855 the very first time that the cocaine alkaloid was isolated from the coca plant. One of the substance’s most notable properties the intense numbness it induced; upon applying it to their tongues, researchers’ mouths went numb, resulting in their use of cocaine as a powerful local anesthetic. In fact, many notable researchers experimented with what cocaine could do in very small doses and, at turns, attributed a number of different benefits, including the whitening of the teeth and improved concentration. The substance began appearing in a number of mainstream products such as the original recipe for Coca-Cola, which is how the popular beverage got its name.

Leading into the twentieth century, cocaine could be found in a number of different forms. Those who were inclined could even purchase a liquid solution containing cocaine, which was packaged with a syringe so that buyers could inject cocaine directly into their bloodstreams; believe it or not, this intravenous cocaine product could allegedly be used either as a weight loss solution, to alleviate pain, to be more articulate, or to gain courage. However, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 put a stop the the use of a number of questionable substances in consumer products with cocaine being one such substance. As substance abuse and addiction came into greater focus over the remainder of the twentieth century, cocaine would gain a reputation as being an incredibly dangerous and addictive street drug with virtually zero medicinal value.

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Effects of Cocaine

While substances like prescription painkillers and heroin are depressants, cocaine is a potent stimulant drug, which means that it stimulates the body’s central nervous system. Upon imbibing cocaine, users feel a surge of energy, coinciding with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and perspiration. Due to this increase in energy, people who are using cocaine often speak rapidly and excessively, and exhibit impulsive or even bizarre behavior.

But there are many other effects, too, both short-term and long-term. Since cocaine is almost exclusively a recreational street drug today, most users take cocaine in large amounts while seeking intense euphoria and intoxication. This diminishes and prevent their appetite, often resulting in dramatic weight loss for regular cocaine users. Additionally, cocaine causes increased respiration, constricted blood vessels, and dilated pupils. There’s oftentimes a sense of hyperstimulation, insomnia and poor sleep patterns, anxiety, and possibly even paranoid. Some of the long-term effects include having difficulty sleeping, depression, and high blood pressure disorders. The effects of cocaine on appetite make malnutrition a possibility among long-term users, too. As well, cocaine has been known to cause tooth decay by stripping a user’s teeth of their enamel. When not actively under the influence of cocaine, users become extremely volatile with frequent unpredictable mood swings. It’s possible for long-term heavy cocaine use to lead to things like heart attacks and seizures.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

We’re all aware of how addiction works: A person continues to use a mind-altering substance until he or she becomes both physically and psychologically dependent on that substance. However, many individuals aren’t fully aware of why addiction happens. When a person imbibes cocaine, the drug offers pleasure due to the effects that the substance has on the brain’s neurochemical levels. In particular, cocaine affects neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which helps to regulate the brain’s pleasure and reward centers, constricts blood vessels to increase blood pressure, and helps to elevate mood, respectively. Of course, cocaine provides a synthetic boost for these neurotransmitters. As the brain becomes accustomed to these new chemical levels, it begins to compensate by reducing its own production and activation of these chemicals and, instead, comes to rely on the cocaine. However, anytime an individual is without cocaine, he or she experiences unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms known as withdrawal.

There are a number of symptoms that are particularly common when an individual is suffering from cocaine withdrawal. Perhaps the most common symptoms of all include agitation and intense mood swings, restlessness, fatigue, lack of energy and motivation, feelings of general discomfort, extremely vivid dreams and nightmares, sluggish or lethargic activity, and a partial return of appetite. While only some of these symptoms sound unpleasant, it’s the experience of having to deal with many of these symptoms at the same time that can quickly make cocaine withdrawal overwhelming.

Overcoming Cocaine Addiction

Fortunately, individuals who have become addicted to cocaine will find that there are treatment options available. Cocaine addiction treatment programs have a few important goals, including helping individuals to end their physiological dependence on cocaine, teaching them a variety of skills that will aid them in staying sober after rehab, and helping them to better understand why they turned to substance abuse in the first place.

More often than not, the focal point of any cocaine addiction recovery program is counseling. The vast majority of recovering addicts will send much time in individual and group counseling sessions, learning about how their past experiences have informed their recent behaviors while re-learning how to socialize with other sober individuals. As well, addiction treatment programs are designed to meet various other needs that individuals addicted to cocaine may have, including finding and maintaining careers, becoming financially independent, and on. However, by the end of the cocaine addiction treatment program, individuals will have acquired all the skills they need to achieve long-lasting sobriety.