Throughout Colorado including in Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs, there has been a lot of focus on the opioid epidemic, particularly since the state and the region have been so hard hit, but there are other drugs that are problematic in Colorado and nationally as well.
One such drug is cocaine. The following outlines what cocaine is, and explores whether or not it is physically and chemically addictive.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is different from opioids because it isn’t a depressant. Rather it acts as a stimulant. It has been used for thousands of years, at least in the form of coca leaves which are native to South America, because of the stimulant effects. At the start of the 1900s purified cocaine started to be used in a variety of tonics and elixirs and its use was relatively mainstream. As you may have heard, it was even used in the original formulations for Coca-Cola, and it was administered as a pain reliever during surgery.
Despite the fact that at one point it was seen as having a variety of uses, over the years researchers started to see just how addictive and potentially dangerous its use could be.
Currently, cocaine is classified as a Schedule II substance in the U.S., which means there is a high potential for abuse. When it’s sold on the streets, cocaine usually comes as a fine white powder, and it has a number of slang names including coke, snow, powder, and blow.
When it’s sold on the streets there’s the problem not just of addiction and the potential health problems of the cocaine itself, but dealers will often cut it with other substances to make it more profitable. This can make it more dangerous, depending on what the substances are.
Cocaine can be taken in different ways depending on the form it comes in. Generally, there is a hydrochloride salt, which is the powder version of cocaine we often think of, and there can also be a free base version of cocaine that can be smoked. This version of cocaine is usually called crack.
When someone uses cocaine, it stimulates a certain area of the brain which is the reward center. When you use cocaine for the first time, you will likely feel an intense sense of pleasure, well-being or euphoria, which is the high the drug is known for creating. People who use cocaine may also become more talkative, lose their appetite, be more alert and be unable to sleep. Cocaine can also lead to heightened feelings of sexual arousal.
In large doses, cocaine can create different feelings however including anxiety, violent behavior, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and a sense of paranoia. Using cocaine can also raise your risk of having a heart attack.
Some of the factors that determine how you’ll feel or the side effects of using cocaine include the amount you use, the purity of the cocaine, how you use it, your tolerance and whether or not you’re simultaneously using any other substances.
There are many different reasons people might say they use cocaine including the desire to simply feel high, to improve their performance in some area of life, to enjoy the social experience that comes with it, or to self-medicate mental health issues such as depression or social anxiety.
Is Cocaine Addictive?
To answer this question in short, yes cocaine is addictive, although whether or not someone becomes addicted really depends on them as an individual. Some people may recreationally use cocaine many times and never become addicted, while for other people they may become addicted after using it only once.
When people do become addicted to cocaine, it can lead to negative consequences throughout every aspect of their life including in their relationships, their jobs, and they will often experience financial and legal troubles.
People who are addicted to cocaine may also experience certain physical side effects including mood changes and irritability, changes in mental health, psychotic side effects, a loss of the sense of smell, sexual dysfunction, weight loss and more.
Is Cocaine Physically Addictive?
Before exploring whether or not cocaine is physically addictive, it’s important to have an understanding of what physical addiction is. Physical addiction means your body is physically dependent on the presence of cocaine. This is not the same as a psychological addiction which is defined by cravings and a loss of control over the use of the drug.
When someone is physically dependent on a drug, this means that their body has come to see the presence of that drug as somewhat normal and if they stop taking it they may go through withdrawal symptoms.
Cocaine may be somewhat physically addictive because you can develop a tolerance to it, but it doesn’t have the same type of withdrawal symptoms of other drugs such as opioids or alcohol. The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are often more mental and emotional than physical and can include anxiety, or angry outbursts.
In some sense, cocaine can be physically addictive because your brain does start to see the altered dopamine levels it creates as normal, and if you take this away, it can lead to some physical side effects.
Is Cocaine Chemically Addictive?
Most experts would say that cocaine is chemically addictive because of the way it impacts your brain and in particular your reward center.
The drug very quickly increases the supply of dopamine to your brain, and that affects your entire limbic system. When this happens, you experience pleasure, and your brain wants to create a feedback loop of reward. This reinforces the cravings to continue using cocaine.
Signs of a chemical addiction to cocaine include continuing to use it in spite of negative consequences, or out-of-control cravings to keep using the drug. People who are addicted to cocaine will often find that their use of the drug is compulsive and even if they try to stop they can’t.
With cocaine, it’s a complicated issue because a lot of people with cocaine abuse problems also have other substance abuse problems that occur simultaneously and need to be treated.
Whether you’re in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder or anywhere in Colorado it’s important to realize there are treatment options available locally in places like Palmer Lake and throughout the state and country that can help you eliminate the use of cocaine from your life.