Few illicit drugs have captured America’s attention and imagination as much as cocaine. While the use of cocaine has dropped in the past generation1, it remains one of the most used illegal drugs in America.
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics2, about 2% of the American population has used cocaine in the past month, which roughly equates to 10% of all illicit drug use. Additionally, 874,000 Americans try cocaine each year. While its use statistics may seem low on the surface, especially when compared to the much larger opioid and meth problems, roughly 1 in 5 overdose deaths are linked to cocaine use, making it a comparatively dangerous drug.
Most of us already understand that cocaine can be extremely habit-forming. Understanding why and how this happens can be a good way to contextualize what people with cocaine use disorder experience.
Below are are some important things you should know about how cocaine can affect regular users. If you feel that you or someone close to you has a problem with the drug, you can get in touch with our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers.
It is now understood that cocaine’s effects are related to how it raises the level of dopamine in your brain3. Dopamine is a chemical responsible for feelings of pleasure, reward, and movement.
In a normally functioning brain, dopamine is reabsorbed quickly into the brain cells that release it. When someone takes cocaine, it interferes with this absorption process, which causes more dopamine to build up than would normally. This interferes with how different neurons interact, causing the typical effects of cocaine.
Importantly, this cocaine-induced flood of dopamine also interferes with the normal reward mechanisms in your brain, causing immense pleasure. This tends to cause you to want more cocaine.
However, the reward mechanism tends to become less sensitive to cocaine over time. This can cause you to take more frequent or higher doses of the drug to recapture the initial feeling of pleasure.
Over time, your brain may adapt in such a way that it is no longer able to feel pleasure without cocaine, causing withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms may be uncomfortable enough to further reinforce additional cocaine use, just do that you could feel normal.
Cocaine is associated with a number of short and long-term effects.
Short-term effects of cocaine can include the following4:
Habitual cocaine use can result in a number of long-term health effects5:
You absolutely can. While habitual cocaine can cause long-term health risks, even first-time users can have a fatal overdose6.
As mentioned earlier, cocaine is responsible for a disproportionate number of overdose deaths in the US. Too high of a dose of cocaine can lead to a heart attack or cause delicate blood vessels in the brain to burst.
Too much cocaine can also cause the brain to send abnormal signals to the heart or lungs7 that cause them to stop working. Using cocaine with alcohol or other drugs can also cause unpredictable interactions. Ultimately, this means even casual use by someone who does not have a cocaine use disorder can be fatal.
Behavioral therapy has proven to be an effective way to treat cocaine use disorder, in both residential and outpatient settings. To date, the US Food and Drug Administration have not approved any medications for cocaine use disorder. However, there are a few promising medications currently being researched that may eventually combined with behavioral therapy to greatly improve the odds of recovery8.
If you think that you or someone close to you has a problem with cocaine or other substances, help is just a phone call away. Dallas Drug Treatment Centers can help you find programs in North Texas that meet your special recovery needs. Get in touch with our team to find programs specific to cocaine use disorders that are matched to your age, income, and overall health situation.