Cocaine Addiction Treatment in New Hampshire
When talking about struggles with addiction or substance use disorders, cocaine is a drug that comes up time and time again as a topic of conversation. It’s nearly impossible to avoid references to cocaine in popular media and news because they come up on a regular basis.
Cocaine has invaded American culture in a unique and unhealthy way. When we think about the impact of cocaine on our culture, it’s no surprise the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported that over 15% of American adults have tried cocaine at least once.
While it’s important to keep in mind that a majority of these people will not develop a cocaine addiction, it helps to paint a clearer picture of the widespread availability of this powerful drug in the United States. While cocaine is often thought of as a “rich person’s drug,” it’s actually found frequently in poorer, rural areas as well.
The New Hampshire Department of Justice has reported that in 2020, 58 people in our state lost their lives to a cocaine overdose. While this number may not seem shocking, it’s important to keep in mind that losing even one life of a community member to avoidable drug overdose is too many.
An important step in understanding the issue of cocaine addiction is understanding what cocaine is, how it affects the brain, and how addiction occurs.
What Is Cocaine?
A Brief History
Cocaine is a stimulant drug with a high potential for addiction. It’s made from the coca plant, which is native to South America. Its history of consumption traces back over thousands of years, and the leaves of the coca plant are commonly chewed for their mild stimulant effects.
In the late 19th century, chemists began to process the coca plant into cocaine hydrochloride, the chemical form that we’re familiar with today. This formulation of cocaine was at first used medically and advertised as a “cure-all” for everything from tooth pain to headaches.
Before the development of better synthetic medicines, doctors would also administer cocaine as an anesthetic or pain blocker because of its numbing effect. It wasn’t long before the highly addictive and dangerous nature of cocaine became widely known.
Cocaine as a Street Drug
Cocaine in the modern age is called by many names, often known as street names. Some of these street names include:
Cocaine comes in many different forms as well. The most commonly found and portrayed form of cocaine in American pop culture is a fine, white powder. However, through a simple chemical process, powder cocaine can be converted to solid rock crystals.
This type of processed cocaine is known as crack cocaine, rock, or simply crack. The name “crack” refers to the crackling sound the substance makes as it’s heated up and smoked.
Cocaine in powder form is most commonly snorted. When snorted, the drug enters the bloodstream through the sensitive blood vessels of the inner nose. Powder cocaine can also be rubbed into the gums to achieve the same, although less intense, effect.
On the street, cocaine is often mixed with other drugs in an action known as “cutting.” Cutting increases the amount of the drug they can sell, while reducing their overall cost. Sometimes cocaine is cut with relatively harmless products such as talcum powder. Other times, it’s cut with fentanyl, which has led to an increased risk of overdose from cocaine use since users don’t know fentanly is in there and end up taking too much.
The most dangerous forum of cocain use is intravenous (IV) injenction because this pushes the largest amount of cocaine directly into the bloodstream, and then the brain, in the fastest method possible. Users engaging in IV cocaine use are the most susceptible to some of the dangers listed below.
How Does Cocaine Work?
Like any other drug that creates feelings of a “high,” cocaine works by causing significant changes to brain chemistry. As humans, all of our emotions and actions are influenced by chemical and electrical reactions in the brain.
This means there are certain chemicals that are directly tied to certain thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. These chemicals are called “neurotransmitters” and act as messengers in the brain that tell you to feel certain emotions, think certain things, and behave certain ways.
The neurotransmitter that is most directly affected by cocaine is dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for thoughts and feelings related to pleasure, motivation, and happiness. This can be thought of as the brain’s “reward system.”
When you do something that inspires happiness or pleasure, the brain’s reward system releases dopamine, which makes you feel good. Cocaine hijacks this reward system and forces it to produce the chemical at an unnatural rate. An excess of dopamine in the brain can cause intense feelings of alertness and high energy.
The effects of the drug can also temporarily override the need for food and sleep, leading to long-term complications. Many people report the drug helps them perform simple intellectual and physical tasks more quickly, while others report feeling the opposite effect.
Over time, the brain and body begin to adjust to this newfound source of dopamine and stop producing the chemical on their own. Once this happens, the person will find it very difficult to feel pleasure or happiness without having cocaine in their system. This is the basis for cocaine addiction and physical dependence.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine
How long the effects of the drug will last is directly related to the method of consumption. The quicker the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, the more intense the resulting high. This also shortens the duration of the drug’s effects.
Snorting cocaine leads to a relatively slow onset of its effects, but they can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes from a single dose. In contrast, when cocaine is smoked, the effects are felt almost immediately but only for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Cocaine has some intense short-term effects on the body and brain. When under the influence of cocaine, people will experience constricted blood vessels, increased body temperature and sweating, dilated pupils, elevated heart rate, and increased blood pressure.
Consuming large amounts of cocaine will lead to some very significant behavioral side effects. Someone under the influence of a very high dose may exhibit violent, unpredictable, or bizarre behaviors. Others report feelings of anxiety, panic, paranoia (fear), irritability, restlessness, and insomnia (inability to sleep). Other effects may also include tremors, vertigo (dizziness), and uncontrollable muscle twitches or tics.
Short-Term Health Dangers of Cocaine
Cocaine has many problems that can be the result of even short-term use. It can cause cardiovascular, neurological, and gastrointenstinal issues. While these problems are uncommon with short-term use, they have a higher problem of occurring in individuals that have pre-existing conditions in those areas.
On extremely rare occasions, indidividuals have died after a single, large dose of cocaine.
The risk for overdose or complications is increased if more than one substance is being used. It’s not uncommon for users to mix cocaine and alcohol or cocaine and heroin, for example. Since the paired drugs have opposing effects, users often use both to balance these effects off of each other. This increases the likelihood of overdose from one or a combination of the drugs.
Cocaine and alcohol in particular form a compound in the liver called cocaethyline, which builds up over time and affects the cardiovascular system, the heart in particular.
When cocaine is combined with heroin, it’s often referred to as a “speedball.” The added danger here is that the cocaine counteracts the sedative effects of heroin, so users may take more heroin to maintain the high. If the cocaine wears off before the heroin does, then users get hit with massive sedative effects that can learn to an individual’s respiratory system shutting down.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Like other drugs, the brain adapts to cocaine use over time. Cocaine replaces the need for the brain to produce its own neurochemicals, mainly dopamine. This is because the brain knows the amount of neurochemicals it wants active at any given time, so if an ingested drug is producing those chemicals, the brain will stop producing them. Like any habit or physiological change, the brain needs time to realize an external source is no longer needed and to start producing the chemicals on its own again.
Because the brain isn’t producing its own feel-good chemicals, long time users of cocaine will constantly feel down or depressed when not using. This withdrawal or depression causes other problems like not being motivated to work, spend time with family, or engage in activites they once enjoyed. It also encourages the use of more cocaine just to feel somewhat normal, not even to get high.
Users also develop a tolerance, like any other drug. This is the same process of the brain trying to regulate itself by mitigating the effects of ingested chemicals. Users need more and more cocaine to obtain the desired effects, which further exacerbates this entire process.
With increased tolerance comes increased sensitization. The brain will react more readily to cocaine coming into the system, thereby increasing the risk of depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.
There are also the well-known problems of bloody noses as the lining in the nose is destroyed through regular snorting. Body parts like the heart and the liver can also become inflammed with extended cocaine use.
Additionally, increased stroke risk is not uncommon. This stroke risk comes from a restriction of arteries and veins due to frequent use.
At Addiction Recovery Services, Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) Can Help You Take Control of Your Recovery From Cocaine Addiction
Whether you’re beginning or continuing your recovery, the intensive outpatient program (IOP) here at Addiction Recovery Services (ARS) can help guide you. Trying to understand all of the definitions for which program does what can be a difficult task. Recovery is already complex and scary, so getting started with it shouldn’t be.
We know changing your entire life, way of thinking and feeling, and relationship structure is not exactly a small task. It takes some time. Here at ARS, we’re never going to use shame as a tool in your recovery. We won’t turn our backs on you.
One of our core treatment approaches is called harm reduction. Harm reduction promotes small, positive steps toward a life free of harmful substances rather than demanding complete abstinence right away. If you do relapse, you’ll just be encouraged to come right back for the next scheduled session and go over what happened. We want you to get back to recovery — we do not want to punish you.
If you continue struggling with relapse, then we can start looking for other ways to support you and reach your specific recovery goals. Like we said, the road to recovery is not always smooth, and it’s not always as short as we’d like. We’re here to help you no matter what that road looks like.
Reclaim Your Health at Addiction Recovery Services
If you or someone you know is ready to begin recovery, let us know. Addiction Recovery Services has many pathways to recovery, each defined by, and chosen based on, what the person in recovery needs. Give us a call at (978) 228-5853 and let’s see about starting you on the way to recovery.
How can someone stop cocaine addiction?
People who consume cocaine on a regular basis will start to form a powerful physical and psychological addiction. Because of this, it can be a very difficult habit to overcome on your own. It is highly recommended that anyone who is trying to overcome an addiction to cocaine do so under the supervision of a licensed addiction treatment facility.
How do I help someone with a cocaine addiction?
A cocaine habit can damage chemical pathways in the brain, and that damage can make mental clarity and decision-making difficult. People with a cocaine addiction may not even be aware they have a problem. Families can bring issues to the person’s attention through interventions, and when treatment begins, they can provide love and support to ensure the person stays in treatment.
What does cocaine addiction look like?
It isn’t always easy to determine whether a loved one is struggling with a cocaine addiction, but there are some signs to look out for. Some of these signs include extreme mood swings, financial problems, problems with the law, changes in physical appearance such as extreme weight loss, paranoia, and anxiety.
Where to find help - Local Resources
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