Is Cocaine Physically Addictive? Is It Mentally Addictive? Or Both?
Those looking for a quick and intense high often end up abusing cocaine. This white, powdery substance is either snorted, injected, or smoked as crack cocaine, and it delivers a euphoric high in only a few seconds to a few minutes. As an extract from the leaves of a coca plant, it is the strongest natural stimulant known to man. However, when it is sold on the streets, it is by no means a pure substance; often laced with other anesthetics, laxatives, sugar, creatine, and caffeine, the dealers can make more money off unsuspecting buyers. Cocaine is a dangerous drug to start using due to its highly addictive qualities.
Is Cocaine Physically Addictive?
Unlike heroin or other narcotic drugs, cocaine does not have any outward physical withdrawal symptoms. Some addicts undergoing withdrawal have reported sleep disturbances and fatigue, but overall, cocaine addictive qualities do not take place in the body.
While cocaine does not have any proven physically addictive qualities, it can still affect the body in other ways. Long term use or overdose can lead to heart attack, stroke, brain hemorrhage, and respiratory failure. Even sporadic use can lead to health complications such as high blood pressure, hardened arteries, bowel gangrene, and loss of gray matter in the brain due to the expansion of the reward center of the brain. Because cocaine eliminates appetite, many of those who abuse cocaine are also malnourished.
Is Cocaine Mentally Addictive?
This is where cocaine hooks you; it all takes place in the mind. Every time you abuse cocaine, the drug interacts with the dopamine receptors in your brain, raising levels of dopamine and stimulating the central nervous system. Because the high only lasts for a short period of time, anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, cocaine is a drug that often leads to overdosing and high levels of abuse due to users taking more and more to get the desired high. This repeated use causes normal dopamine communication in the brain to malfunction.
Ultimately, it changes the brain’s reward processing, not allowing the user to appreciate the things in life that used to make them happy: good food, being around friends, their favorite book or movie. Things they previously enjoyed lose meaning and their whole focus are on getting more cocaine and getting high in order to feel good. Thus, many of those who are in between highs or trying to quit using cocaine can develop severe depression, causing them to think suicidal thoughts and potentially hurt themselves. Those going through withdrawal often experience a mixture of anxiety, agitation, aggression, irritability, paranoia, and mood swings.
Because cocaine is often referred to as the “rich man’s drug”, people are not only affected mentally but financially as well. Some go bankrupt due to the high cost, others borrow from friends and family and cannot pay them back. There have also been some reported cases of mothers attempting to barter their children for the drug, lending itself to actually how addictive it really is.
Treatment For Cocaine Addiction
Because cocaine is mentally addictive, most rehabs focus on therapies that help patients learn coping mechanisms and life skills to help with cravings and moments of temptation in order to avoid relapse. Such therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy sessions to give social support, and individual counseling to help the patient with their possible mood swings or depression, giving them the tools to ward off negative thoughts and the urge to use again.