How Cocaine Addiction Works

BlogArticlesHow Cocaine Addiction Works

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What is Cocaine
Cocaine is a stimulant, a psychoactive drug that temporarily increases mental and/or physical functioning. Unlike other stimulants, cocaine is not used as a prescription medicine, but is an illicit drug carefully controlled throughout the world. Cocaine is used primarily recreationally and is a widely abused drug.

Cocaine is highly addictive.

Cocaine was very popular throughout most of the 1980s and 90s, and recent studies suggest that its popularity continues strong. Cocaine, also known as “coke”, “c”, “snow”, “flake” and “blow” among other nicknames, is commonly sold on the streets as a fine white powder.

Crack”, on the other hand, is freebase cocaine—a water-insoluble cocaine base. Crack is processed to be smokeable. It is the crackling noises of smoking the drug that has given it its name.

In 2007, there were approximately 2.1 million cocaine users in the US alone, 610,000 of who were current crack users. Eighteen to 25 year olds represent the highest number of current users.

Cocaine Addiction & Other Dangers
Repeated cocaine use can result in addiction. New research into cocaine addiction in the brain is uncovering why. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2007 close to 1.6 million Americans could be classified as addicted to or abusing cocaine, according to the general diagnostic guidelines.

Cocaine is a very dangerous drug, especially when over- or misused. A 2005 study reported that almost 450,000 of the 1,450,000 visits to emergency rooms across the US were due to cocaine use/misuse. This boils down to almost 1 in 3 ER visits involving cocaine.

There is no safe form of cocaine. Nor is there a safe way to use cocaine. Whether by snorting, injecting or smoking cocaine, you are still at risk of imbibing toxic amounts of the drug. Too much cocaine can result in acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, seizures, and sudden death.

How Cocaine Works in the Brain
Cocaine causes pleasurable effects by stimulating the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased levels of dopamine in the reward center. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and movement. Normally, certain brain cells, called neurons, use dopamine to communicate amongst each other. In this process, dopamine is released in the brain in response to a pleasure signal. The dopamine-releasing cell recycles the neurotransmitter, shutting off the communication between the neurons.

However, cocaine prevents the dopamine recycling process, resulting in a build up of dopamine in the brain. This causes a never-ending chatter between the neurons—the euphoric high.

Repeated long-term cocaine use causes changes to the brain’s functioning leading to addiction.

How Cocaine Addiction Works
The risks for cocaine addictionare high. New research suggests that prolonged use of cocaine changes a genetic expression, or the behaviour of the gene, in the brain resulting in the prevention of specific enzymes from shutting genes off in the pleasure circuits of the brain. This causes heightened cravings for the drug, and thus drug-seeking behaviours.

As well, with continued use, the brain builds a tolerance for the drug. Continued and prolonged exposure to the drug causes the brain to adapt so that the reward pathways become less sensitive to both natural reinforcements as well as cocaine itself. This decreased sensitivity is a result of decreased amounts of dopamine receptors in the brain, and is also the root of the drug addiction.

Furthermore, the risks of relapse are high with cocaine, as the drug will have a strong hold on the addicted brain even after long periods of sobriety. Research has shown that physical cues, or triggers, cause visceral memories of the using experience that result in intense cravings and even relapse.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment
A Cocaine Addiction Treatment Program is vitally important to a successful recovery from addiction. Rarely does going it alone or going cold turkey work. Addiction is a complicated process with deep roots. Addiction recovery requires support, therapy, and a retraining of the brain.

We believe in an all-encompassing approach to cocaine and all drug addiction treatments. Our Cocaine Addiction Treatment Program treats more than the physical addiction, healing the underlying issues at play. We work together with each of our clients to design an addiction treatment program that works for each individual.

With our different therapies, clients learn to take personal responsibility for their decisions, good and bad, to recognize addiction triggers, and to cope with life’s stresses in a healthy and productive fashion.

Heritage Home also has several non-traditional therapies available, from native healing circles, to laughter therapy, and creative art therapies. Through these classes, clients learn about themselves in new situations, how to interact with others sober, and how to have fun without cocaine.

For more information on cocaine and cocaine addiction:
Heritage Home Drug Rehab Center
Cocaine Addiction Vaccine Research
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Cocaine Research Report
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Cocaine InfoFacts
Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) Cocaine Information

How Cocaine Addiction Works