Cocaine is a potent stimulant that is highly addictive. Most often used as a recreational drug, it is usually snorted through the nose or applied to the gums in white powder form. The intensity of the ‘high’ it creates is often short-lived and, if you begin misusing cocaine, a tolerance to the drug develops, leading to a need to take more in order to achieve the desired effects.
Cocaine is psychologically addictive because it can produce an intense feeling of pleasure and a powerful ‘high’; a rewarding stimulus in parts of the brain which addicted individuals are compelled to replicate.
It is also physically addictive and becoming dependent upon it can happen so quickly it often takes those who use it by surprise. Tolerance begins to build after using it just once and, because this tolerance builds rapidly, addicted users can soon find that they are taking it in increasingly large amounts to achieve the same effect as the earlier experiences. Long-term use can have a serious effect on someone’s ability to function in society and can also lead to other health problems in the heart, brain, kidneys and stomach. However, long-term users often feel the need to continue taking cocaine anyway to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which can include depression and suicidal thoughts.
There are no definite ‘rules’ when it comes to causes of cocaine addiction. One person may develop an addiction when another person does not despite being in similar circumstances and even though both are at high risk of developing an addiction. However, a number of factors that may make someone more vulnerable to developing a cocaine addiction have been identified, such as environment, psychology, genetics and brain chemistry.
Because the effects of cocaine addiction are so serious, it can often be spotted by other people. Nevertheless, those who are addicted often try to hide their condition due to the stigma associated with drug abuse and addiction.
There are a number of common physical and behavioural symptoms that may suggest a cocaine addiction.
Symptoms of addiction include an inability to stop using, despite understanding that the drug has harmful effects. The user has a strong desire to take the drug, regardless of the consequences; they may engage in reckless or risky behaviours or act impulsively or with increased energy. Withdrawal symptoms include depression and suicidal thoughts.
Cocaine abuse – and, indeed, drug abuse of any kind – is different to cocaine addiction.
Drug abuse is often the first step on the road to addiction, and cocaine abuse can make it difficult for people to handle their usual responsibilities at work and at home. It may also lead people to behave in a way they wouldn’t usually and develop physical side effects.
Addiction means the user has a strong urge to take a drug, regardless of the consequences. An addiction develops once someone becomes more tolerant of the drug – which can happen easily with cocaine – and needs to take more to achieve the same results and/or suffers from withdrawal symptoms without it.
Addiction also means that, despite understanding that a drug has harmful effects, the person continues to take it.