Cocaine is a powerful stimulatory narcotic which originates from the leaves of the coca plant. Identified as a white crystalline powder, cocaine creates unparalleled feelings of euphoria and can be ingested through the eyes, nose or throat. Cocaine is most commonly snorted into the nose. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that affects your central nervous system. It was first extracted from the leaves of the coca plant in the mid-19th century and quickly gained popularity due to its stimulant effects. Today, cocaine is illegal in most countries and is classified as a Schedule II drug in the United States, which means it has a high potential for abuse and limited medical use.

When consumed, cocaine increases the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, in your brain. This results in intense feelings of euphoria, increased energy levels and heightened alertness. However, the effects of cocaine are short-lived, lasting only for a short period of time, which often leads to repeated use and, ultimately, addiction.

Cocaine addiction can have devastating consequences for your health and well-being. Regular use of cocaine can lead to a wide range of physical and psychological problems, including heart issues, respiratory complications, anxiety, paranoia and mood disorders. It can also have detrimental effects on your personal and professional relationships.

Perhaps What You Didn’t Know About Cocaine

Crack cocaine emerged as a response to the soaring popularity of cocaine among celebrities and socialites in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to the creation of a more affordable and addictive variant. Cocaine’s allure stems from its ability to flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure, resulting in a euphoric high akin to the feeling of being in love, which contributes to its high addiction potential. Despite common misconceptions, cocaine addiction can affect anyone regardless of socioeconomic status with a notable percentage of Americans having used cocaine at some point.

Cocaine usage carries significant health risks, including potential damage to the nasal passages requiring surgery, loss of smell, heightened risk of heart attack shortly after use and even sudden death in those with underlying heart conditions. Advancements in medical research are promising for addiction treatment with drugs like exendin-4 showing potential in easing withdrawal symptoms and reducing relapse rates.

Historically, South American indigenous peoples utilised coca leaves for their stimulant and anesthetic properties, integral to various aspects of their culture. By the late 19th century, cocaine was incorporated into consumer products and medicines, including children’s toothache remedies. Despite its dangers, the United States remains a major consumer of cocaine with a significant portion of the college-age population using it for social and stress-relief purposes. Global cocaine supply is dominated by Colombia, Peru and Bolivia with each country facing unique challenges in combating the drug trade.

Cocaine addiction is particularly hazardous due to the rapid onset of addiction, the risk of harmful additives and the potential for overdose. Long-term abuse can lead to severe mental and physical health issues, including panic attacks, paranoia, infectious diseases, cardiovascular problems and even movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Even occasional cocaine use significantly increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, reinforceing the absence of a safe level of cocaine consumption.

Effects of Cocain on the Brain

Both freebase cocaine (crack) and powdered cocaine can have detrimental effects on an individual’s mental health over the long term, manifesting as mood or emotional disturbances. This is largely due to the drug’s interference with the brain’s ability to reabsorb dopamine, leading to depression during the comedown phase. Chronic cocaine abuse may result in permanent mood changes, including depression, requiring ongoing mental health treatment. Other serious mental health issues linked to long-term cocaine use include auditory hallucinations, restlessness, paranoia and psychosis. Individuals predisposed to psychosis or schizophrenia may find these conditions exacerbated by cocaine use.

Cocaine also elevates stress hormones like cortisol, which can permanently increase blood pressure and harm the cardiovascular system. This can lead to anxiety, panic disorders, aggression or violent behaviour even without the development of psychosis or paranoia.

Long-term cocaine abuse not only affects mental health but also causes physical changes in the brain, damaging the cardiovascular system and potentially leading to chronic headaches, blood clots, strokes, seizures or seizure disorders due to restricted blood flow or damaged blood vessels. Cocaine users may also experience reduced glucose metabolism in the brain, indicating underperformance or death of neurons.

Furthermore, cocaine abuse accelerates brain aging, doubling the rate of gray matter loss compared to those with no history of substance abuse. This can lead to memory problems, cognitive decline and even dementia in the long term. This finding highlights the profound impact of cocaine on both the physical structure and functional capacity of the brain.

Recognising the harmful effects of cocaine, many individuals struggling with addiction turn to cocaine rehabs and addiction treatment centers for help. These facilities offer a supportive environment where you can receive specialised care and guidance throughout your recovery process. In rehab, you may undergo detoxification, where the body clears itself of cocaine and other substances, as well as therapy and counselling sessions to address the underlying causes of your addiction.

The addiction recovery community uses specific terminology to describe different aspects of cocaine addiction. For instance, “crack” is a term used to describe cocaine that has been processed into a crystal form, typically smoked. “Cokehead” or “coke fiend” are colloquial terms referring to individuals who are heavily dependent on cocaine. “Cocaine psychosis” describes the state of psychosis that can occur as a result of chronic cocaine use.

It is key to remember that overcoming a cocaine addiction can be a challenging and ongoing process.

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    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.

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    Rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


    If you're committed to your sobriety but cannot take a break from your daily duties for an inpatient program. Outpatient rehab treatment might suit you well if you are looking for a less restricted format for addiction treatment or simply need help with mental health.


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    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

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