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Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Cocaine and Crack Abuse

Cocaine is illegally trafficked globally and ranks second place on illegal drugs in America today. International seizures of cocaine continue to increase each year, totaling 42,000 metric tons. The most significant quantities of cocaine happen in South America, with North America coming after.


According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health Reports, 6.9% of Americans aged 12 and above have used cocaine and crack at one time in their life. Most teenagers report that cocaine is easy to buy and has contributed to drug use. The following are some peculiar statistics surrounding cocaine and crack abuse in the U.S.

Cocaine and Crack Statistics

The below are Monitoring the Future Study in 2020 and 2021 reports:


  • In 2020, 14% of high school students reported using cocaine once, with 17% saying that cocaine is easy to get.

  • Deaths involving cocaine overdose are more common in men than in women.

  • 9.4 Million Americans used crack in their life (2021).

  • 54% of cocaine users contribute to drug-related cases in prisons and federal jails.

  • 0.5% of 8th graders report using cocaine, while 0.2% use crack.

  • 2.9% of 12th graders report using cocaine, while 1.2% use crack.

  • In 2021, almost 1.3 million people struggled with cocaine use disorders.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an illegal drug native to South America since it is manufactured from the coca plant in that region of the world. Health care providers can use cocaine for valid medical interventions such as local anesthetic for various surgeries. However, many people use the drug for recreational purposes and have found that it is addictive from its stimulating effects and is illegal in most countries.


Cocaine increases its dangerous effects once added with other drugs like synthetic opioids, stimulant amphetamine, cornstarch, etc. For instance, people using cocaine mixed with synthetic opioids or alcohol become quickly addicted because of increased additives. Tolerance to the drug is quick; they have more significant side effects and experience severe withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit.


They are also in danger of facing side effects from opioids and cocaine. The speed at which you feel defects of cocaine is highly dependent on how you choose to use the drug. Some people may snort it through their noses, rub it into their gums, or dissolve and inject it into their bloodstream. How intense cocaine is or how long its effects last depends on the method used. For instance, smoking or injecting cocaine produces a much more robust and quicker high than snorting the drug. However, smoking and injecting have a shorter-lasting high than snorting cocaine.


Others may heat cocaine already processed into a rock crystal and inhale the vapors from the substance. This form of cocaine is called crack, where other people sprinkle it on marijuana or tobacco before smoking its vapor like a cigarette.


Most people who use cocaine take the drug by increasing higher doses quickly to maintain the "high" feeling.  

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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Cocaine and crack abuse
Stats Cocaine and crack
What is cocaine?

Cocaine and Your Brain

Cocaine and your brain

Your brain has a natural substance called dopamine. Dopamine is in charge of controlling your reward system and movements. Your reward system gives you a satisfying feeling when you do a rewarding activity like winning a job proposal, the feeling you get after a morning exercise, etc.


Cocaine increases the level of dopamine and tops the rewarding feeling such that nothing you do ever matches the sense of using cocaine.


Under normal circumstances, dopamine recycles back to the cell that produced it and shuts off the signal connecting nerve cells. In contrast, cocaine prevents this process, causing large amounts of dopamine between nerve cells and avoiding communication between the two nerve cells.


These large amounts of dopamine highly reinforce behaviors associated with drug-taking, such as cocaine. When you continue using cocaine, your brain adapts and becomes tolerant to the drug. As a result, you continue using higher and stronger doses to achieve the previous "high" feeling.

Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Effects of cocaine abuse

Some people report that cocaine helps them perform simple mental and physical tasks more quickly; others report experiencing the opposite side effects. Large quantities of cocaine may lead to unpredictable, bizarre, and violent behaviors. It is risky to abuse cocaine since its effects happen almost immediately and disappears between a few minutes and one hour.


Short-Term Effects

Some short-term effects of abusing cocaine include:

  • High blood pressure.

  • Nausea.

  • Irregular or fast heartbeats.

  • Raised body temperature.

  • Constricted blood vessels.

  • Muscle cramps and tremors.

  • Hypersensitivity to touch, sound, and sight.

  • Mental alertness.

  • Paranoia, unreasonable and extreme distrust.

  • Irritability.

  • Extreme energy and happiness.

  • Dilated pupils.


Long-Term Health Effects


Long-term health effects of using cocaine before depends on the 

methods of using the drug;


General long-term effects of cocaine include:


  • Collapsed veins.

  • Scarring.

  • Movement disorders like Parkinson's disease.

  • Malnutrition due to decreased appetite.

  • Cocaine binges cause extreme restlessness and irritability.

  • Severe paranoia leading to auditory hallucinations.


Snorting cocaine leads to:


  • Nose bleeds.

  • Loss of smell.

  • Problems with swallowing.

  • A frequent running nose.


Smoking cocaine may cause:


  • Coughs.

  • Asthma.

  • Higher risk of developing infections like pneumonia.

  • Distress.


Putting cocaine into your gums may:


  • Cause severe bowel decay.

  • Reduce blood flow.


Injecting cocaine into your bloodstream:


  • Poses a high risk of developing blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis C.

  • Causes soft tissues or skin infections.

  • Increases the chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.


More About Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Cocaine Addiction and Overdose

Overdoses and cocaine

As soon as cocaine changes your brain into tolerance to the drug, you are on your way to addiction. As the reward circuit adapts to cocaine, it becomes tolerant and demands higher and stronger doses; this is addiction. Skipping or quitting cocaine leads to withdrawal symptoms because your brain has reached a point where it can't properly function without the drug.


Withdrawal symptoms may include:


  • Slowed thinking

  • Depression

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia or unpleasant dreams

  • Decreased appetite


When you overdose on cocaine, you have used enough of the drug to cause life-threatening symptoms, adverse effects, or even death. Remember that can occur either unintentionally without knowing or as you continue to consume a higher dosage. An overdose of cocaine may end as soon as you take the first dose or unexpectedly a while later.


Using cocaine while drinking alcohol or mixing it with other drugs like heroin is risky because it forms a quicker pathway to overdose. The most severe and common health effects of cocaine overdose may include:


  • Strokes

  • Irregular heart rhythm

  • Heart attacks

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • High blood pressure

  • Extreme anxiety or agitation

  • High body temperature

  • Seizures

  • Hallucinations

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Crack vs. cocaine

Crack vs. Cocaine

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant and is found in rock and powder forms. The powdered form of cocaine is called cook or cocaine; its rock form makes up crack or crack cocaine. While cocaine may be injected, snorted, or placed into the gums, crack is mainly smoked.


Smoking crack cocaine produces high quantities of the drug into the lungs; hence has intense and immediate euphoric effects.

Risks Involved with Abusing Crack

Risks involved with abusing cocaine

Do not be disillusioned; cocaine in any form is just as lethal. However, studies show that smoking crack leads to a quicker addiction and extreme withdrawal symptoms. In addition to the typical side effects of using cocaine, crack users may experience:


  • Lung bleeding

  • Lung trauma

  • Acute respiratory problems

  • Coughing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Paranoid behavior

  • Aggression

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While it is hard to quit cocaine and achieve sobriety, it is not entirely impossible. If you notice you have started taking more doses than before, seeking medical assistance is essential. Though the journey to recovery might be challenging, it never does hurt anyone to try. You can do it!

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