Popularly known as “blow”, “coke”, “crack”, “rock” and “snow”, cocaine is a synthetic stimulant compound obtained from the leaves of the coca plant, a native to South America. Though, law allows its use as an anesthetic agent for certain surgeries by certified health care providers, its use for recreational purposes is illegal.
Available as a fine white crystalline powder, it is adulterated with all-purpose flour, talcum powder, and cornstarch to increase revenue. Sometimes, street peddlers also mix it with amphetamine and synthetic opioids like fentanyl to increase its potency. Oftentimes, people are not aware of this adulteration and as a result, may overdose, which proves fatal.
Cocaine is usually snorted through the nose or rubbed into the gums. Some people dissolve it in a liquid and then inject it. A few people inject a mixture of cocaine and heroin, called “speedball.” Another widely used form of cocaine is crack cocaine. It is usually available as a crystal rock, which is prepared by heating it to produce vapors that are inhaled. It is called crack because of the crackling sound it produces upon heating. Some people sprinkle crack on tobacco or marijuana and use it as a cigarette.
Cocaine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with the reward system and movement in the brain. This usually recycles into the cells which release it, thereby, closing off the signal between nerve cells, which in turn stops its production. However, cocaine prevents this action because of which a large amount of dopamine is produced between two nerve cells and their normal communication is blocked. This excess dopamine reinforces the reward function because of which people take frequent and stronger doses of cocaine to feel the same effect.
Short-term effects of cocaine use include the following:
Consumption of large amounts of cocaine may lead to impulsive and violent behavior.
The long-term effects of cocaine depend on the method of use. Loss of smell, runny nose, and nose bleeds are some of the problems associated with snorting cocaine. Similarly smoking leads to asthma, cough, respiratory distress, and an increased risk of pneumonia. If used orally, cocaine consumption may lead to serious bowel decay because of the reduced blood supply.
Risk of HIV, hepatitis C, skin and soft tissue infections increase with needle use. Cocaine impairs judgment leading to risky sexual behavior exposing one to the use of HIV and other related disorders. Some other long-term effects of cocaine abuse include decrease in appetite leading to malnutrition. It also causes movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Cocaine binge might lead to restlessness, irritability, auditory hallucinations, and paranoia.
An overdose of cocaine can lead to arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm), high blood pressure, heart failure, confusion, psychosis, seizure or stroke.
Cocaine abuse can lead to severe physical and psychological symptoms in individuals. Some of these include:
Apart from these, if a parent or guardian notices their teen losing interest in personal hygiene, school/college, or things they once enjoyed doing, then they must look into the possibility of cocaine use. Other indications may include changed social circle, isolating behavior, severe mood swings, and constant irritability.
Cocaine addiction may be treated with behavioral strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, motivational incentives where patients are rewarded if they remain drug free. Additionally, therapeutic communities, where people in recovery help each other to bring and sustain changes in themselves, and community based approaches, like the 12-step programs, have also proved effective in the past in dealing with addiction to a substance. Till date there are no government approved treatments available, however, scientists are exploring the use of medicines, used for the treatment of other disorders, to help deal with cocaine addiction.
There is no shame in accepting that one is addicted to cocaine. Cocaine addiction in teens is a result of chemical changes in the brain rather than being a result of a personal weakness. One must remember that teens have special needs and therefore need personalized treatment plans that can address not only their addiction, but also the reasons that led to the addiction in the first place. With the right blend of medications, therapies, and alternate modalities, one can achieve long-lasting recovery from cocaine addiction.
To know more about how we can help your teen recover from their cocaine addiction, call our 24/7 cocaine addiction helpline (888) 997-3966. You can also chat online with a representative to understand how we customize our cocaine addiction treatment programs to help teens achieve lasting recovery.