Dr. Aaron's Blog

Cocaine Addiction: Meaning, Prevalence, Symptoms, Effects And Treatment

April 10, 2017 Addiction, Addiction Recovery, Mental Health, Naturopathic Medicine, Nutrition by Aaron Van Gaver

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a popular drug made from the leaves of the coca plant found in South America.  It is sometimes used for legal medical reasons, but more commonly it is used as an illegal recreational drug.  Street cocaine is a white powder that users can snort or inject into the body.  It can also be in a solid crystal form known as ‘crack’ that users can smoke.

What is Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine is nicknamed as the feel good drug.  It increases the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.  This neurotransmitter is responsible for feelings of euphoria and satisfaction; it also contributes to addictive behaviour and dependence.  As a result, a person can quickly develop a tolerance to cocaine, so that they have to take more each time to achieve the same high.  At the end of the day, they become addicted and can barely function without the drug.

What are Some Symptoms of Cocaine Addictions?

  • Anxiety
  • Constant mood swings
  • Increased energy
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Sudden violent behaviour
  • Loss of smell due to excessive snorting.
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Increased craving for sex
  • Inability to swallow

Adverse Effects of Cocaine Addiction

One major effect of cocaine addiction is damage to the heart.  Cocaine destroys the heart cells leading to the death of heart muscles, inflammation, rupture of the main arteries, and eventually heart failure.

The brain is also another organ significantly affected by cocaine.  Even in recreational use cocaine alters the neurochemistry of the brain, which can cause erratic behavior, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), decreased cognition, and psychosis.  The simple fact is that brain function never remains the same after the use of cocaine.  Cocaine addiction also affects the kidney by destroying the microstructures of the organ leading to decreased function and eventually renal failure.

Other effects of cocaine addiction include:

  • High risk of infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C from non-sterile use of needles
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Damage to sexual organs in both men and women
  • Severe depression
  • Death

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Fortunately, there are several treatments that can help an individual overcome cocaine addiction.  One effective form of treatment is behavioural therapy either personally or in a group.  These therapy sessions help a person discover the root of their addiction, how to overcome their cravings, and offers support from people with the same struggle.  Another treatment option is a pharmacological approach.  Although there are no approved drugs for treating cocaine addiction some drugs have been found to the reduce cravings.