Cocaine Addiction. Just the mere mention of the word elicits thoughts of struggle, homelessness, and broken hearts. While drug addiction is one the rise, cocaine is sometimes glamorized in movies, songs, and television shows. Even though there is a heavy association with Hollywood and fame, cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can tear people apart. Here is a brief discussion of what exactly makes this drug so addicting.
What is it?While most people have an idea of what cocaine is based on what they have seen or heard on tv or in the news, it is useful to understand exactly what it does to people before thinking about what makes it so addictive. There are many types of stimulants out there, caffeine being one, but not all of them have origins in nature. While methamphetamines are man-made, cocaine is derived from the leaves of the Erythroxylon coca, which comes from plants that are indigenous to South America. This makes it the most powerful stimulant that is formed from something natural.
What Makes Cocaine Addictive?The drug itself has been in use for hundreds of years as an anesthetic in many different settings. Doctors would use it to numb patients, farmers would chew on the leaves for extra energy throughout the day, and Coca Cola even had traces of the drug in its product early on. It eventually came into mainstream use in the United States, and it wasn’t until then that scientists started to study the addictive properties of the drug. Many people thought that it was a sort of miracle party drug that didn’t have any negative side effects. Even though it is a highly addictive drug, there are some users out there who never experience symptoms of addiction. Others use the drug and immediately fall in love with it, developing a psychological dependence over time. When users are high on the drug, they experience a rise in their dopamine levels, the chemical released in the brain that causes euphoria. This rise in dopamine is what leads many users coming back for more, creating a loop where they continuously seek this rush of pleasure. Scientists believe that some people are predisposed to dependence based on pre-existing abnormalities in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, but nobody can successfully predict who will or will not become an addict. This psychological dependence slowly becomes a physical dependence over time, and as scientists study abuse more, they are finding that a physical dependence on the drug eventually leads to physical changes in the brain. This means that if someone abuses this drug too much for too long, their brain actually begins to change shape and will never be the same again.
Treatment for DependenceAlthough this drug can lead to a nasty dependence, there is a lot of hope for people who struggle with the drug. While there are no substitute drugs like there is for people who are dependent on heroin, many users find that counseling and residential treatment programs help them with their disease. In fact, The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse found that over 70 percent of people who go into treatment are able to successfully manage their dependence on the powder form of the drug. Users of different forms of the drug are in a whole separate category.Although the drug has been glamorized for years by artists, actors, and musicians, the threat of dependence is real, and it is not to be taken lightly. Dependence alters lives and relationships, often permanently, so it’s important to get help as soon as possible.
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