Cardiac problems, neglect of family responsibilities, ignoring job demands, social isolation, neglect of body needs and hygiene, disintegration of the mucous membrane, collapse of the nasal septum, selling of personal property, mood swings, weight loss, change in friends, change in daily schedule, always having a stuffy, runny nose and constant loss of appetite.
Why would anyone become addicted to cocaine?
The effects of cocaine are immediate, extremely pleasurable, and brief. Cocaine produces intense but short-lived euphoria and can make users feel more energetic. Like caffeine, cocaine produces wakefulness and reduces hunger.
Psychological effects include feelings of well-being and a grandiose sense of power and ability mixed with anxiety and restlessness. As the drug wears off, these temporary sensations of mastery are replaced by an intense depression. The drug abuser will then “crash”, becoming lethargic and typically sleeping for several days.
How does cocaine produce its effects?
A great amount of research has been devoted to understanding the way cocaine produces its pleasurable effects, and the reasons it is so addictive. One mechanism is through its effects on structures deep in the brain. Scientists have discovered regions within the brain that, when stimulated, produce feelings of pleasure. One neural system that appears to be most affected by cocaine originates in a region, located deep within the brain, called the ventral tegmental area (VTA).
Nerve cells originating in the VTA extend to the region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, one of the brain’s key pleasure centres. In studies using animals, all types of pleasurable stimuli, such as food, water, sex, and many drugs of abuse, cause increased activity in the nucleus accumbens. Cocaine in the brain – In the normal communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse, where it can bind with dopamine receptors on neighbouring neurons.
Normally dopamine is then recycled back into the transmitting neuron by a specialised protein called the dopamine transporter. If cocaine is present, it attaches to the dopamine transporter and blocks the normal recycling process, resulting in a build-up of dopamine in the synapse which contributes to the pleasurable effects of cocaine.
Researchers have discovered that, when a pleasurable event is occurring, it is accompanied by a large increase in the amounts of dopamine released in the nucleus accumbens by neurons originating in the VTA. In the normal communication process, dopamine is released by a neuron into the synapse (the small gap between two neurons), where it binds with specialised proteins (called dopamine receptors) on the neighbouring neuron, thereby sending a signal to that neuron.
Drugs of abuse are able to interfere with this normal communication process. For example, scientists have discovered that cocaine blocks the removal of dopamine from the synapse, resulting in an accumulation of dopamine. This build up of dopamine causes continuous stimulation of receiving neurons, probably resulting in the euphoria commonly reported by cocaine abusers.
As cocaine abuse continues, tolerance often develops. This means that higher doses and more frequent use of cocaine are required for the brain to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use. Recent studies have shown that during periods of abstinence from cocaine use, the memory of the euphoria associated with cocaine use or mere exposure to cues associated with drug use, can trigger tremendous craving and relapse to drug use even after long periods of abstinence.
What are the physical effects of cocaine addiction?
With the accumulating medical evidence of cocaine’s deleterious effects and the introduction and widespread use of cocaine, the public and government have become alarmed again about its growing use. To many, especially health care and social workers who deal with cocaine users and have witnessed the personal and societal devastation it produces, cocaine addiction is by far the most serious drug problem.
Cocaine use increases the risk of sudden heart attack and may also trigger stroke, even in users who otherwise are not at high risk for these sometimes fatal cardiovascular events. The risk is related to narrowing of blood vessels and increases in blood pressure and heart rate. Recently, NIDA-supported researchers at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Centre at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, have identified changes in blood components that may also play a role in cocaine-related heart attack and stroke.
Changes in blood pressure, heart rates, and breathing rates, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, convulsions, insomnia, loss of appetite leading to malnutrition and weight loss, cold sweats, swelling and bleeding of mucous membranes, restlessness and anxiety, damage to nasal cavities, damage to lungs, possible heart attacks, strokes, or convulsions.
What effect does cocaine have on health?
Even though the public is often regaled with highly publicized accounts of deaths from cocaine, many still mistakenly believe the drug to be non-addictive and not as harmful as other illicit drugs. Cocaine’s immediate physical effects include raised breathing rate, raised blood pressure and body temperature, and dilated pupils.
By causing the coronary arteries to constrict, blood pressure rises and the blood supply to the heart diminishes. This can cause heart attacks or convulsions within an hour after use. Chronic users and those with hypertension, epilepsy, and cardiovascular disease are at particular risk. Studies show that even those with no previous heart problems, risk cardiac complications from cocaine.
Increased use may sensitize the brain to the drug’s effects so that less of the substance is needed to induce a seizure. Those who inject the drug are at high risk for AIDS and hepatitis when they share needles. Allergic reactions to cocaine or other substances mixed in with the drug may also occur.
What are the short-term effects of cocaine?
Cocaine’s effects appear almost immediately after a single dose, and disappear within a few minutes or hours. Taken in small amounts, cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. Some users find that the drug helps them to perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, while others can experience the opposite effect.
Increased energy, decreased appetite, mental alertness, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, constricted blood vessels, increased temperature, dilated pupils, a feeling of euphoria, excitement, a feeling of strength and power.
The duration of cocaine’s immediate euphoric effects depends upon the route of administration. The faster the absorption, the more intense the high. Also, the faster the absorption, the shorter the duration of action. The high from snorting is relatively slow in onset, and may last 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. The short-term physiological effects of cocaine include constricted blood vessels; dilated pupils; and increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Large amounts (several hundred milligrams or more) intensify the user’s high, but may also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behaviour. These users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, paranoia, or, with repeated doses, a toxic reaction closely resembling amphetamine poisoning. Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety.
In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.
Various doses of cocaine can also produce other neurological and behavioural effects such as:
Dizziness, Headache, Movement problems, Anxiety, Insomnia, Depression, Hallucinations.
What are the long-term effects of cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Once having tried cocaine, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug. Cocaine’s stimulant and addictive effects are thought to be primarily a result of its ability to inhibit the re-absorption of dopamine by nerve cells. Dopamine is released as part of the brain’s reward system, and is either directly or indirectly involved in the addictive properties of every major drug of abuse.
Irritability, Mood disturbances, Restlessness, Paranoia, Auditory hallucinations, Addiction.
An appreciable tolerance to cocaine’s high may develop, with many addicts reporting that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first experience. Some users will frequently increase their doses to intensify and prolong the euphoric effects. While tolerance to the high can occur, users can also become more sensitive (sensitization) to cocaine’s anaesthetic and convulsant effects, without increasing the dose taken. This increased sensitivity may explain some deaths occurring after apparently low doses of cocaine.
Use of cocaine in a binge, during which the drug is taken repeatedly and at increasingly high doses, leads to a state of increasing irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. This may result in a full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations.
What are the medical complications of cocaine use?
There are enormous medical complications associated with cocaine use.
Cardiovascular effects : Disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks.
Respiratory effects : Chest pain and Respiratory failure.
Neurological effects : Strokes, seizures and headaches.
Gastrointestinal effects : Abdominal pain and nausea.
Cocaine use has been linked to many types of heart disease. Cocaine has been found to trigger chaotic heart rhythms, called ventricular fibrillation; accelerate heartbeat and breathing; and increase blood pressure and body temperature. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, nausea, blurred vision, fever, muscle spasms, convulsions and coma.
Different routes of cocaine administration can produce different adverse effects. Regularly snorting cocaine, for example, can lead to; loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and an overall irritation of the nasal septum. This can lead to a chronically inflamed, runny nose. Ingested cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene, due to reduced blood flow.
Persons who inject cocaine have puncture marks and “tracks,” most commonly in their forearms. Intravenous cocaine users may also experience an allergic reaction, either to the drug or to some additive in street cocaine, which in some cases can result in death. Because cocaine has a tendency to decrease food intake, many chronic cocaine users lose their appetites and can experience significant weight loss and malnourishment.
Research has revealed a potentially dangerous interaction between cocaine and alcohol. Taken in combination, the two drugs are converted by the body to cocaethylene. Cocaethylene has a longer duration of action in the brain and is more toxic than either drug alone. While more research needs to be done, it is noteworthy that the mixture of cocaine and alcohol is the most common two-drug combination that results in drug-related death.
What are the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal?
Regular use of cocaine can lead to strong psychological dependence (addiction). Those who abruptly stop their cocaine use can experience cocaine addiction withdrawal symptoms as they readjust to functioning without the drug. The length of cocaine addiction withdrawal varies from person to person and also depends on the amount and frequency of use. Agitation, depression, intense craving for the drug, extreme fatigue, anxiety, angry outbursts, lack of motivation, nausea/vomiting, shaking, irritability, muscle pain and disturbed sleep.