Cocaine is classified as a “stimulant” because it excites the central nervous system and the brain’s neurotransmitters. The brain uses various chemicals to reward itself, dopamine is chief among them. This neurotransmitter is what makes mountain climbers feel a rush when they reach a peak and what cocaine addicts feel when they do this drug. That euphoric feeling is highly addictive. The addict is aware that he or she enjoys this feeling and the brain subconsciously also “enjoys” it and will gravitate to more and more of its use. While cocaine is not known to have the more dangerous chemical dependency of alcohol or heroin, the psychological dependency about this drug has been proven in animals and humans to be difficult to break.
Cocaine comes in many forms, most typically powder where it is snorted or injected, but it is also used in rock form by smoking it. The drug’s brief and intense high usually leads to what is known as “binge use” and is responsible for large amounts of money being lost to maintain this feeling. The reasons for doing any drug vary, but what we hear most often from our patients is that cocaine made him or her feel more social, sexier, and more attractive to others. It begins as a party drug for people, and at least in the beginning some addicts will grow a social lifestyle that promotes use. Addicts will find social situations where the drug can be used without him or her feeling like they are addicted if they use the drug. It is no different than alcohol in this regard. Also, like alcohol the time will come when the addict can no longer find a social situation or justification and begins to use the drug in secret.
Addiction is progressive. You will hear this over and over again in the rehabilitation community. Someone may start with snorting cocaine at parties and end up smoking crack cocaine or shooting the drug up intravenously. This is a very dangerous drug because of its effects upon the central nervous system. People have overdosed and died from this drug, most particularly when participating in shooting the drug up or “speed balling” it with drugs like heroin. Like most drugs, tolerance develops quickly. Individuals abusing cocaine will quickly develop a roller-coaster lifestyle of brief euphoria and prolonged depression, and therefore attempt more frequent use to avoid the irritability and collapsed emotions that occur when they are not doing the drug.
Depending upon where someone is in this cycle and which version of the drug he or she has used, the method of detoxification and treatment will differ. Many individuals who check in for cocaine abuse will also have issues with a depressant of some kind, usually alcohol, but sometimes sleep aids or painkillers. Intake specialists work with all patients to identify these issues prior to check in so that most effective treatment method is utilized.
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