Cocaine Addiction Remains a Crisis – What You Need to Know
With much attention on the opioid abuse crisis, it’s easy to overlook how catastrophically cocaine addiction continues to affect our communities.
According to the World Drug Report 2017, North America is the world’s largest cocaine market. Despite a decline in its use between 2006 and 2012, it has been on the rise since then.
This trend might be attributed to the widespread availability of cocaine due to increased manufacturing of the drug in Columbia, South America since 2012.
From 2010 to 2015, there was a 1.6-fold increase in the number of deaths due to cocaine abuse. In 2015, nearly 7,000 people died due to overdosing on cocaine.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that an estimated 600,00 Americans regularly abuse cocaine.
Your Body and Brain on Cocaine – Health Effects
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from the coca plant, which is indigenous to South America. Possession and use of cocaine is illegal.
The only exception is in health care applications where it might be used as an anesthetic. Given that there are plenty of other non-addictive, safer anesthetic drugs available (procaine and lidocaine, for example), physicians rarely use cocaine for medical purposes.
When smoked, snorted or injected, the substance temporarily raises dopamine (a neurotransmitter) levels in the brain and creates a “high” characterized by a burst of energy, euphoric feeling, and increased self-confidence.
Abusers get addicted quickly and develop a tolerance to the drug, requiring them to progressively increase their doses to obtain a comparable high. Is this similar to Marijuana the Gateway Drug?
The high comes at the cost of major health issues, including those of the cardiovascular system, central nervous system, nose and mouth, pulmonary system, kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal organs.
Potential Health Problems from Cocaine Abuse
● Cardiovascular conditions
Cocaine use increases heart rate, raises blood pressure, and constricts the blood vessels in the body. Over time, these concerns can take their toll, leading to blood clots, heart attack, permanent damage to heart muscle, irregular or high heart rate, and other issues.
● Nose and mouth problems
Snorting cocaine damages the mucous membranes of the nose and can eventually kill septal cartilage and tissue in the palate of the mouth.
● Breathing difficulty and lung damage – Smoking crack cocaine causes the blood vessels in the lungs to constrict. As it does, alveolar walls become destroyed, which prevent oxygen from entering the bloodstream.
This can also destroy the capillaries that carry oxygen throughout the body. Abusers may suffer from an increased risk of lung infections, chronic cough, asthma, pulmonary edema, and “crack lung.”
● Brain damage – Blood vessels constrict during cocaine use, decreasing the flow of oxygen to the brain and putting the user at increased risk of aneurysms, mini-strokes, seizures, inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain and spinal column, shrinking of the brain, mood disorders, tremors, dementia, and other serious problems.
● Kidney problems – Kidneys filter blood, pulling toxins out of it to create urine, which is then moved to the bladder and expelled from the body. Cocaine abuse can subject the kidneys to high levels of toxicity and impair the kidney’s ability to function properly.
● Liver damage – Cocaine use can result in liver injury by placing increased detoxifying demands on the organ. The liver performs the function of ridding the body from harmful toxins, filtering blood from the digestive tract before it gets distributed to the rest of the body, detoxifying chemicals, and metabolizing drugs.
● Gastrointestinal problems – Using cocaine can cause abdominal pain and decay of bowel tissue.
● Increased risk of HIV and hepatitis – Cocaine addiction often causes lack of judgment and risky behaviors that raise the risk of users contracting AIDS and hepatitis C.
What Else Is at Stake?
Cocaine abuse affects relationships with family and friends as the user’s behaviors and attitudes change. Satisfying the craving for cocaine can become an obsession and drive the addict to put all responsibilities and relationships on hold.
The user’s addiction can also turn a previously stellar employee into one exhibiting poor work performance and lackluster attendance.
Cocaine destroys lives personally and professionally.
The Best Medicines are Prevention and Early Detection
There are no FDA-approved treatments for cocaine addiction, and several of the withdrawal symptoms abusers might experience include:
• Unsettling dreams
• Increased appetite
Behavioral therapies are used to help users overcome their abuse problems. Detecting a cocaine problem must come before treatment, though.
Drug testing can help identify if someone is using cocaine and in need of help. Whether you’re a family member concerned about a loved one or an employer who is screening a new job candidate, a drug test kit that detects cocaine is a must.
Fortunately, uVera Diagnostics has a wide range of FDA-approved, CLIA waived drug test products that you can conveniently order online.
Contact us for more information about how our drug testing kits can make your home or business a safer place.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Foundation for a Drug-Free World
The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases