What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a highly addictive anesthetic extracted from the leaves of the South American plant, the coca scrub (Erythroxylon coca). Also, it is the most potent of stimulants of natural origin. Cocaine can also be synthetically prepared.
What is Crack?
Some cocaine users may choose to ‘’freebase’’ cocaine – the process where cocaine is chemically processed to remove the hydrochloride, making the cocaine more potent. The final product of this is ‘’crack’’ cocaine, in its solid form when it’s heated it will make “crack” and “snaps” sounds. You’ve probably heard these sounds from what we’ve seen in movies and TV shows.
How are Cocaine and Crack Used?
There are several different ways to use cocaine as mentioned in the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which includes:
- Snorting cocaine – causes absorption of cocaine into the bloodstream through nasal tissue.
- Rubbing cocaine on the gums.
- Smoking cocaine – inhaling the smoke into the lungs, absorbing it into the bloodstream.
- Injecting cocaine – dissolving cocaine in water and injecting it – this heightens the intensity of cocaine’s effects.
- The way some people use crack is by placing the substance in a glass pipe with a mesh screen underneath, heating it and then inhaling the vapor.
What Do Cocaine and Crack Do in the Body?
Cocaine stimulates the nervous system by raising dopamine levels in the brain. It usually lasts for about 15 to 30 minutes (5 minutes with crack). Cocaine stops the dopamine from getting back to the neuron linked to pleasure and the brain’s reward circuit and accumulates, which allows it to continue sending pleasurable messaging to the brain.
This surplus of dopamine gives a cocaine user a feeling of euphoria, enhances motor activity and alertness, as well as energy (all of these being cocaine and crack addiction signs and symptoms).
Cocaine also has a link to abnormal brain structure in the frontal lobe. Researchers at the University of Cambridge found a loss of gray matter in cocaine users. One of the parts of the brain housing the reward system, the basal ganglia, is much larger among cocaine users.
Cocaine and Crack Addiction Signs and Symptoms: Appearance
It isn’t always easy to spot an addiction just by looking at someone’s appearance. Here are a few signs to look out for:
- The dead-giveaway – dilated pupils
- Track marks on the body from injecting
- A runny nose from snorting
- Sporadic nose bleeding from snorting
- Burned fingers or lips from smoking
Cocaine and Crack Addiction Signs and Symptoms: Heart problems
This one you can’t spot with the eye, but the following heart problems have a link to cocaine abuse:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Fast heart rate
- Heart attacks
- Enlarged heart
- Cardiac arrest
Cocaine and Crack Addiction Signs and Symptoms: Mental State
The mental state of someone abusing cocaine will change. Look out for the following cocaine and crack addiction signs and symptoms:
- Unfamiliar excitement
- Poor judgement
- Unusual boldness
Signs and Symptoms After a Cocaine Binge
After an addict went on a binge, or have been using for a long time, they will usually show signs of extreme depression and appear agitated. They may seem exhausted and apathetic. This is because of the intense cravings and need for higher doses of cocaine.
Signs and Symptoms After a Crack Binge
A crack user will show signs of delusion, disorientation, aggressive behavior, be unusually antisocial and probably paranoid after a crack binge.
Long-Term Signs and Symptoms
Cocaine and crack addiction signs and symptoms, in the long run, may include:
- Inability to sleep or long periods of sleep
- Distressed about their lives
- Nosebleeds, problems swallowing, hoarseness, nose persistently running due to regular snorting
- Malnourished due to a decreased appetite
- Heart disease
What can Happen after the Signs and Symptoms?
Besides the many side effects, as well as the cocaine and crack addiction signs and symptoms mentioned above, there are other, more dire consequences when addiction sets in.
Injecting can cause severe allergic reaction. An abuser’s risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis are higher when injecting, as there comes the point where sharing a needle seems to be okay, despite the dangers.
If you suspect that a loved one may have an addiction to coke, blow, crack, rock, or snow, you might feel the need to step in and get them some help.
Narconon.org adds that the person will no longer be at risk of an accident, arrest or overdose.
The typical approaches in dealing with cocaine and crack addiction, are pharmacological and behavioral.
The Pharmacological Approach
Disulfiram is used to treat alcoholism and has shown the most promising results in treating cocaine addiction. Early tests have been conducted on a cocaine vaccine. The vaccine is supposed to reduce a cocaine user’s risk of relapse. Medical interventions are being developed that will address the critical emergencies resulting from overdose.
Behavioral treatment can be effective in both in- and outpatient scenarios. Contingency management (motivational incentives) uses a prize-based system, rewarding people who abstain from crack or cocaine by urine tests that come back drug-free. These incentives can include anything from movie tickets to the gym membership.
Another effective behavioral approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps people develop the skills that will support them in the long run. This includes teaching them how to recognize risky situations, how to avoid those situations, as well as coping with the other problems as mentioned in cocaine and crack addiction signs and symptoms.
Whichever path your cocaine or crack addicted loved one chooses, be sure to let them know that you will be there to support them. Also remember to get help for yourself, as watching cocaine and crack addiction signs, and symptoms play out right in front of you, can be painful and harmful to watch.