Cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction are serious problems throughout the UK. According to a Government report powder cocaine is the most commonly used stimulant in the UK and the second most prevalent drug overall (after cannabis). The UK also has the highest levels of crack cocaine use in Europe. This is still lower than cocaine users who use the powdered form but represents a very high risk for users. Crack is frequently linked with chaotic lifestyles and crime and crack cocaine and heroin are often used concurrently.
What is cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant primarily derived from the leaves of two species of coca plants that are native to South America. The most common form is a white powder that is usually snorted or rubbed into the gums. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it is often cut with substances including corn starch, talcum powder and flour to increase dealers’ profits. It may also be cut with other drugs such as amphetamine, which can influence its effect on the user.
Crack cocaine is a freebase form of the drug that can be smoked and looks more like small crystal lumps or rocks. It is made by combining powder cocaine with water and another substance – usually bicarbonate of soda or baking soda. Cocaine in any form is highly addictive and people with a dependency may require specialist cocaine rehab to break free.
The short-term effects of cocaine
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant and in the short term can produce feelings of euphoria, confidence and energy. It can also improve sex drive in the short term, although it tends to reduce it over a longer time period. Its effects are largely due to an increased release of dopamine, a ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward. The speed of the effects can vary depending on the way it is taken.
Many users choose to snort cocaine for example. Injected cocaine can produce a swift and intense ‘rush’ but is even more dangerous. NHS Scotland says that injecting cocaine can lead to needle-related injuries, infections and, in extreme cases, amputation of limbs.
As well as the desired effects mentioned above, even short-term use can have negative impacts and health risks.
- Increase heart rate
- Increase temperature
- Make you feel nauseous
- Make you anxious
- Cause paranoia
- Cause extreme sensitivity to touch, sound and sight
- Reduce your appetite (some people seek out this effect)
Using cocaine can have different effects on behaviour depending on the individual but some common behaviours include:
- Becoming more chatty
- Increased confidence
- Becoming more animated
Some people can also become overconfident, arrogant and irritable. They may make poor decisions and these behaviours could also have a negative impact on relationships of all kinds. If you are having an issue with tour cocaine use, it might be time to start looking for drug addiction treatment.
The long-term effects of cocaine
Prolonged use of cocaine can have a bigger impact on both your physical and mental health. Cocaine is linked to a wide range of physical health problems including:
- Insomnia and chronic fatigue
- Headaches and abdominal pains
- Unhealthy weight loss
- Heart problems
- Breathing problems
Regularly snorting cocaine can damage the cartilage between your nostrils, eventually causing it to collapse. Injecting needles can damage your veins and expose you to infections such as hepatitis and HIV.
Long-term cocaine use can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and paranoia. Drug use may be a primary causal factor in mental health conditions, but it can also exacerbate existing issues.
Using cocaine can also lead to addiction, which may require cocaine addiction treatment. Prolonged or chronic use can lead to you building up a tolerance, meaning you will need more and more of the drug for the same effect, with all the additional costs and health risks that entails. You will experience cravings and may suffer withdrawal symptoms when you do not use the drug or undergo cocaine detox. You will have a compulsion to continue using the drug, even when there are negative consequences.
The side effects of cocaine
Cocaine is particularly dangerous for anyone with a heart condition or high blood pressure – and sometimes these may be diagnosed. Cocaine use can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke for anyone though, even if you are fit, young and otherwise healthy. Using cocaine when you are pregnant can harm the baby, potentially causing miscarriage, premature labour and low birth weight.
Some other less serious side effects of cocaine use could include:
- Muscle tremors
- Tics and twitches
- Dilated pupils
- Erratic behaviour
There may be other side effects and withdrawal symptoms when you undergo drug detox, which is why this should always be undertaken in a controlled clinical environment.
Signs of a cocaine overdose
Cocaine was linked to 840 deaths in the UK in 2021. According to NIDA some of the most serious and prominent symptoms of a cocaine overdose include irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, seizures and strokes. Other signs could include difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, high body temperature, hallucinations, and extreme agitation or anxiety. Death from cocaine use can occur the first time it is used or at any point thereafter and you should seek treatment as soon as possible if you feel you have a problem.
Get help for cocaine addiction
At Action Rehab, we help people who suffer from addictions find the right place for drug rehabilitation. Residential drug rehab will help you to overcome your addiction by helping you through a medically assisted and supervised detox and addressing the root causes of your substance misuse through a programme of therapies and other treatments. Having experienced and professional support is crucial so contact us today if you think you have a problem with the drug.