Cocaine is a highly addictive drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. When abused, cocaine can have serious adverse effects on your health and overall quality of life. Cocaine is a stimulant that alters the brain chemistry in users by increasing the natural chemical levels of dopamine in the brain. Recovering addicts in treatment say the drug gave them a brief but intense high, described as a rush, followed by a crash and depression.
Cocaine could remain in the body for up to three days, or even longer in cases of chronic abuse of the drug. Chronic cocaine abuse could cause traces of cocaine to accumulate in a user’s body tissue. This accumulation means that the drug could be detected in the body for extended periods of time. The amount of cocaine consumed in a given time period, the height and weight of the user, and the purity of the drug all contribute to the length of time cocaine remains in the body. After a heavy binge of repeated use, cocaine can remain in your system for up to two weeks.
The metabolite chemicals in cocaine are easily identifiable after one hit of cocaine. There are various methods that test individuals for drug use. Different methods take different times to identify the presence of cocaine in the body. For example, urine tests can detect cocaine in the urine two to four days after using it; blood and saliva tests detect it twelve to forty-eight hours afterward. Meanwhile, cocaine can be found in sweat several weeks after people use it; while cocaine use can also be determined by testing a person’s hair months or even a year afterward. For people who have used cocaine for a long time, the drug may linger in their bodies for longer than these times.
HOW LONG DO YOU FEEL THE EFFECTS OF COCAINE?
Cocaine is both a local anesthetic and a stimulant – the only drug known to possess both of these properties. The high from a hit of cocaine is almost instantaneous. The intensity and duration of the drug’s effects depend on how cocaine is consumed by the user: The faster the absorption of cocaine into the body, the sooner the user feels the effects, and yet conversely, the shorter the effects will last for the user. The feelings experienced during the onset of consuming the drug include a generalized state of euphoria with increased energy, confidence, mental alertness, and sexual arousal.
Cocaine can be snorted up the nose, smoked, taken orally by rubbing the drug on the gums, or injected intravenously using a hyperdermic needle. A dose of cocaine injected intravenously reaches peak levels only after five minutes of consumption. Taken orally, cocaine reaches peak levels within an hour. When cocaine is smoked, the user reaches the peak level forty-five minutes after consumption. And when cocaine is snorted through the nose, which is the most common way of ingesting the drug, the peak level is reached thirty minutes after consumption.
After the high from cocaine use wanes, an unpleasant crash and depression follows. In order to prolong the pleasurable effects, users often binge on cocaine, resulting in an increased tolerance that can eventually lead to addiction.
HEALTH CONCERNS CAUSED BY COCAINE ABUSE
Chronic cocaine use can lead to acute health problems for addicts. Addicts can develop severe heart complications, including disturbances in heart rhythm and heart attacks. Addicts may also experience neurological effects, including headaches, seizures, strokes, and comas.
In rare cases, sudden death can occur the first time someone uses cocaine, often as a result of seizures or cardiac arrest. Psychologically, the effects of cocaine abuse are the opposite of the drug’s initial effects. The generalized sense of euphoria, increased energy, confidence, and mental alertness after first using cocaine can lead to impaired judgement and narcissistic feelings of superiority.
Chronic users of cocaine risk severely damaging their bodies. Though they might experience initial feelings of pleasure, with increased energy and decreased appetites, users might find it difficult to avoid the damaging short-term and long-term effects cocaine use has on their bodies.
SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF COCAINE
People feel the effects of cocaine immediately after one dose. The effects generally subside within a few minutes to an hour. Former addicts believed that cocaine helped them to be more efficient in completing physical and intellectual tasks. The drug can also temporary decrease the need for food and sleep, which could create malnourishment and insomnia in users.
The short-term effects of cocaine use are noticeable to users but are often ignored. Cocaine addicts can develop constricted blood vessels and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Consuming large amounts of cocaine in one setting (binge using) may significantly enhance the user’s high, but can produce side effects such as erratic or even violent behavior. While in treatment, recovering addicts describe feelings of restlessness coupled with uncontrollable muscle spasms, irritability, nervousness, and paranoia.
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF COCAINE
Long-term cocaine abuse can contribute to the short-term effects mentioned above and produce an increased risk of acquiring a host of more serious health problems. Depending on how cocaine is consumed, addicts may experience health problems related to long-term use. For example, people who snort cocaine through the nose risk developing deviated septums in their noses that may require surgery, or they might lose their sense of smell. Cocaine addicts may struggle with chronic nosebleeds, swallowing difficulties, chronic hoarseness, or ongoing runny noses.
Chronic cocaine users who smoke the drug are susceptible to respiratory disorders, severe bowel tissue decay. and reduced blood flow. Chronic cocaine users who inject the drug are at risk of developing blood infections or transmissible diseases such as hepatitis C or HIV.
TREATMENT FOR COCAINE ABUSE
For chronic abusers of cocaine there are options for treatment and recovery. In the U.S alone, there are more than 14,500 treatment and recovery centers for drug addiction. Many treatment and recovery centers feature programs that combine different therapies for patients at different stages in their recovery. The first stage of treatment is often detox, a process that conditions the body to function normally without drugs.
Another stage in treatment often is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where recovering addicts learn coping skills to address the negative thoughts and behaviors that might have led them to addiction. Many recovery and treatment centers include group and individual therapy to address the psychological and emotional problems that usually accompany drug abuse. Every treatment center should also offer recovering addicts relapse prevention training and aftercare planning.
At this time, there are no pharmacology medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as treatment options for cocaine addiction. However, researchers conducting clinical trials have found that medications marketed for the treatment of other diseases have shown promise in reducing cocaine use.
Disulfiram, which is a drug treatment option for alcoholism, has reduced cocaine use in recovering addicts, but the treatment does not work for everyone. Researchers have also created and tested a cocaine vaccine. Researchers hope that the vaccine could help reduce the odds of relapse in former addicts by binding to cocaine and generating antibodies. Such a cocaine vaccine would be a post-treatment option.
Regardless of the specific type of treatment for cocaine addiction, it is important that patients receive services that match their treatment needs. Drug addiction treatment reduces drug use and its associated health and social costs.
If you or someone you love abuses cocaine, treatment is available. Call to speak with a treatment admissions counselor to discuss treatment options and find the best possible program for you.