Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that comes from the leaves of the South American coca plant. It originally was used for religious ceremonies, but over the decades has become the second most illegally trafficked drug in the world.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s sober living was not a popularly used term as cocaine use skyrocketed to be the drug of choice among celebrities, businesspeople, and students. By the early 1990s, it became the most addicting and deadliest drug on the market.
To increase profits, drug dealers often mix cocaine with cornstarch, flour, or talcum powder. In some cases, it is mixed with a synthetic opioid like fentanyl, which is incredibly dangerous and increases the number of overdose deaths related to cocaine.
Historically, cocaine has come to know many different nicknames including snow, coke, blow, crack, and rock. Its methods of use either are snorting through the nose, rubbing it across the gums, smoked, or injected.
The addictive nature of cocaine and the quick response within the body keeps the body wanting more, while the brain seeks for the next high. Without medical intervention, it can become incredibly dangerous.
How Cocaine Immediately Affects The Body
Cocaine increases dopamine, which activates the feeling of reward and movement within the brain.
Short term effects include:
- Extreme energy
- Increased happiness
- Being mentally alert
- Hypersensitivity to senses
- Extreme distrust of others
The effects of cocaine are felt immediately and stay in the body’s system for a few minutes or up to an hour, depending on the method of use. Injecting cocaine has quicker and more intense effects, but will only last around 15 minutes. Snorting can last up to 30 minutes, while smoking may only have an effect on the body for 5 to 10 minutes.
For some, the high can increase mental alertness to finish tasks more quickly, but for others, it can create violent and unpredictable behavior.
How It Affects the Body
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Raised body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Muscle twitches
- Decreased appetite
- Movement disorders
Long Term Effects
Cocaine has long term effects that impact a person mentally and physically. Without cocaine addiction help, snorting cocaine can lead to loss of smell, problems swallowing, runny nose, and nosebleeds. Smoking it can lead to respiratory distress, asthma, and a higher risk of lung infections.
Needle injection is far more dangerous when it comes to long term effects. Injections can lead to hepatitis C, HIV, collapsed veins, skin or tissue infections, as well as other blood-borne diseases. Cocaine has been linked to a faster rate of HIV infection by promoting the production of HIV cells within the body. This leaves the body more susceptible to contracting other diseases with an impaired immune system.
Cocaine can cause malnourishment over time by suppressing the feeling of hunger or desire for food. Along with hunger, it can impact movement impairment leading to diseases like Parkinson’s that can develop after continual use.
Beyond the physical effects of cocaine, it also can lead to extreme paranoia and hallucinations. Particularly auditory hallucinations of hearing voices that are not really there, which disconnects a person from reality.
What Impacts How Long Cocaine Stays In Your System
Cocaine metabolizes faster in your system in comparison to other drugs, but it greatly depends on multiple factors for how long it stays in your system.
How Much You Use
The more cocaine you consume, the longer it will stay in your system. The detection for cocaine use increases with the amount or how many times you consume it within a period of time. For a high dose, cocaine can stay in your system for up to a month.
How Often You Use It
The more often you use it, the more it will be in your system. If you are frequently using cocaine, it will continually stay in your system and be detected by a potential drug test.
The Purity Level
With many dealers mixing cocaine with other additives, the purity level will impact the effects and how long it lingers within your body. The less purity in the mix, the lower the amount will be in your system.
Your Body Fat
Benzoylecgonine is one of the main metabolites of cocaine. It is often used as a detection method for drug screening, as it stores itself in fatty tissue. Simply put, the higher your BMI, the more pockets within your system that cocaine can accumulate.
Kidney and Liver Damage
Chronic cocaine users can damage their kidneys and liver over time. This leads to a lack of systems functioning at a normal level. With toxicity in the body’s system, it can affect how long cocaine lingers in your blood and urine.
Using cocaine in conjunction with alcohol can increase the amount of cocaine in your blood by 30%. The combination causes the production of a metabolite called cocaethylene, which increases the cardiotoxic effects of cocaine and alcohol. Cocaethylene is known to clear 20% slower than just consuming cocaine on its own.
Since cocaine lingers within the bloodstream and tissues, it causes an increased heart rate and impaired learning ability.
How Cocaine Is Detected In The Body
Cocaine is often detected through a blood or urine test. A blood test can detect use 12 hours after use. Blood tests also can detect benzoylecgonine within 48 hours of use, while a urine test can detect it for up to four days.
Urine toxicity tests are more commonly used for detection, as well as for legal situations. For heavy cocaine users, cocaine can be detected in urine for up to 14 days after a binge. For single-use, it can be detected within 2 to 4 days of use.
The metabolites connected to cocaine linger in the system far longer than the effects of the high. In some cases, it can be detected through a hair sample years after using the drug.
Due to the addictive nature of cocaine, it holds a high risk of potential overdose. An overdose can be intentional or unintentional by a person, depending on the severity and duration of the addiction.
Cocaine holds a higher risk for first-time users, which can lead to an immediate overdose and risk of death. When mixed with heroin or other drugs, it increases overdose risk.
The more detectable signs of an overdose include:
- Irregular heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart attack
- High body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Extreme agitation and anxiety
How An Overdose Is Treated
In an emergency case of an overdose, first responders would bring a person to the emergency room to restore blood flow, stop potential seizures, and increase oxygen to the blood supply. When the situation is stable, the person may be transferred to an intensive treatment center for further addiction help.
The rate of overdose deaths in the United States tripled between 2012 and 2018 and is still considered a leading rate among drug-related deaths today. Without early intervention or overdose treatment, it is hard for someone to break away from cocaine addiction on their own.
Finding Addiction Help
Many people are afraid of finding trusted cocaine addiction help. If you are uncertain about finding the right help, here are a few ways that cocaine addiction is treated in rehab.
Potential Withdrawal Symptoms
Sober living starts when you make the decision to find addiction help. Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable but with the help of medical supervision, it can ease symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Restless behavior
- Increased appetite
- Suicidal thoughts
The intensity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the frequency and amount of cocaine use. Quitting “cold turkey” is not advised due to the severity of side effects concerning depression and suicidal thoughts. With the help of a treatment center, you can find the help you need to safely overcome addiction.
Timeline of Withdrawal
Within the first couple of hours, the symptoms can be severe. You may feel irritable, anxious, and exhausted. Cocaine cravings often increase in the initial phase.
After one week, the intensity increases in the urge to use cocaine. In turn, it may be difficult to fall asleep. This can create depressive mood swings or vivid nightmares when you are able to sleep.
For the following two to four weeks, the urge to use cocaine continues, along with irritability and agitation.
Once you make it to the five-week mark, symptoms may be subsiding and your body begins healing. General anxiousness may continue, but the body is on the road to recovery. For some, it may take up to 10 weeks before initial withdrawal symptoms subside. Every person reacts differently based on their previous history, frequency of prior drug use, and trauma connected to addiction.
Medically Supervised Detox
Currently, there are no government-approved medications for alleviating the withdrawal process of cocaine use. However, medical supervisors are testing other methods that have proven to be effective for other addiction disorders.
Behavioral therapy can take on different forms when it comes to methods within a treatment center. Types of behavioral therapy include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, group therapy, individualized therapy, 12-step programs, and motivational incentives.
Life After Addiction
Finding sober help to initiate the steps to recovery is one part of the process. Find a treatment program that helps beyond just initial detoxification for cocaine use. Treatment plans help you create a life beyond addiction through group support, personalized therapy, and trauma recovery.
Find more resources here.