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Signs, Symptoms, and Complications of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a powerful, addictive stimulant made from the coca plant of South America. Powder cocaine is snorted, ingested, or injected. Cocaine powder that is mixed with ammonia or baking soda and water and boiled down to its base elements is called crack cocaine. Crack refers to the sound the substance makes when it is smoked and inhaled. Both crack cocaine and cocaine are dangerous, and if addiction to either substance is left untreated, abusers can suffer severe and long-term health consequences. Surveys show that over 1.5 million U.S. citizens ages 12 and over abuse cocaine or crack cocaine in a given month.

Cocaine Addiction Depicted by a Messy Line of White Powder on a Dark Surface

In the early part of the 20th century, cocaine was used as a numbing agent and local anesthetic. Cocaine is now labeled as a schedule II drug, indicating its high potential for abuse. Cocaine is rarely used for medicinal purposes.

Cocaine powder that is snorted will take longer to produce a high, but when the high starts, it will last longer than a crack cocaine high. Cocaine powder is a more expensive form of the drug, and many cocaine abusers will move on to crack cocaine after they’ve depleted their finances. Crack cocaine will give the user a fast, intense high that doesn’t last as long. Either form of cocaine has a short and intense high, and many users will exhibit binge patterns, where they will take the drug on a continual basis until supplies are depleted. Binge patterns are incredibly dangerous and destructive.

What are the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction?

Cocaine changes critical neurotransmitters in the brain. Users, when high, will appear excitable, energetic, euphoric, and grandiose. They will have a decreased need for sleep and food. Once the high wears off, cocaine abusers will experience fatigue and increased appetites, and low mood, known as a ‘crash.’ Common symptoms of cocaine abuse include the following:

  • White powder around the nose and mouth, or on the hands and under fingernails
  • Burn marks on hands and the lips
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excitability
  • Strange sleeping and eating patterns
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Lack of inhibitions
  • Lack of personal hygiene and self-care
  • Financial troubles
  • Problems with social functioning and isolation
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Nosebleeds, runny nose and nasal and sinus congestion
  • Drug paraphernalia

Long-term cocaine abuse can lead to devastating consequences for the abuser and those closest to them. Cocaine is a stimulant and can cause cardiovascular problems, and nutritional deficiencies. People who abuse cocaine can experience severe financial and legal issues.

How does cocaine abuse cause nasal passage collapse?

Cocaine is often snorted when it is in powder form. Also, a cocaine high doesn’t last very long, anywhere from 5 to 50 minutes in duration. People who are addicted to cocaine will often binge the drug, and snort copious amounts of it in a short period.

While powder cocaine is a purer form of the drug than crack cocaine, it is still cut with harsh chemicals, and the pure cocaine form itself is very irritating to the sensitive lining of the nasal passages. When cut, cocaine powder often includes substances like cornstarch, talcum powder, baking soda, or in some cases, heroin. Long-term cocaine abuse will inflame and eat away at the nasal passages, in particular, the septum. The septum is the thick piece of cartilage that separates the nose into two passages.

Cocaine also acts as a vasoconstrictor, and the tiny blood vessels in the nose will constrict. A lack of blood flow to this part of the body will kill off the lining of the septum and can lead to infection and perforation. When the septum’s structural integrity is compromised, or perforated from long-term cocaine abuse, it can collapse. Once the septum is perforated, it will not heal on its own. A perforated, collapsed septum requires surgical intervention.

Why does cocaine use suppress appetite?

Until recently, it was widely believed that cocaine merely suppresses the users’ appetite, but recent research suggests that cocaine changes the user’s metabolic composition at a fundamental level.

New research conducted out of Cambridge University found that cocaine use interferes with the body’s ability to produce and regulate the hunger hormone, leptin. In the study conducted on chronic cocaine abusers and people with no personal or family history of drug use, the cocaine abusers, while still in the midst of active addiction, consumed a diet high in fat and carbohydrates, yet did not gain any weight, and in fact, lost weight. Leptin levels in these survey participants were low. Once the participants stopped using cocaine, they kept the same diet high in fat and carbohydrates. Without cocaine in their system, the participants struggled with sudden, distressing weight gain.

The findings suggested that cocaine interferes with the body’s ability to store fat, despite diet. Once stopped, the body will put on weight. Sudden weight gain is distressing for people in recovery and often triggers people to relapse. Understanding how cocaine affects the metabolism may help doctors and therapists understand how to prevent their patients from gaining too much weight while in rehab for cocaine addiction.

Can cocaine use during pregnancy cause the same congenital disabilities seen with gestational crack abuse?

Both cocaine and crack cocaine use during pregnancy can lead to similar congenital disabilities in the developing fetus. Babies born to mothers who abuse cocaine or crack cocaine during pregnancy can have a smaller than average head, reduced growth potential, and can also have a brain, kidney, or genital defect.

While cocaine and crack cocaine abuse during pregnancy can lead to congenital disabilities, pregnant women who abuse these drugs are at high risk of experience a placental abruption, which if not treated quickly, can kill the mother and the baby.

Cocaine and crack cocaine abuse are severe addictions that require intervention for successful lifelong recovery. Do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified rehabilitation specialist today and get help for you or a loved one.

Early Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that destroys lives and families. Fortunately, for those who suspect a loved one may be addicted to cocaine, there are early signs and symptoms to look for and help is available. At Casa Capri Recovery, our dedicated all-female staff and personalized addiction treatment programs designed specifically for young women, deliver healing solutions and lasting results.

Common symptoms of cocaine addiction include:

  • Cocaine is expensive; it’s common for users to beg, borrow and steal to fund their addiction.
  • Changes in behavior —overly secretive about where she goes and what she is doing.
  • Mood swings; cycling from extremely high to extremely low.
  • Excessive exhilaration, grandiosity, abnormal confidence and risky behavior
  • Increased alertness to the point of insomnia.
  • Rapid or rambling speech
  • Dilated pupils
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Irritable and short tempered
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nasal congestion, nosebleeds, and damage to the mucous membrane of the nose (if snorting cocaine)

Complications and Side Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is dangerous. Because cocaine is illegal and often mixed with other hazardous drugs, there is no way for users to know the quality or dose they are taking which can prove fatal. Cocaine also increases the likelihood for users to partake in other risky behaviors. For young women, this can be especially unsafe as they put their lives in real danger in an effort to obtain their fix.

Long-term effects for cocaine users vary from a loss of sense of smell and permanent damage to nasal sinuses when snorting cocaine, to increased risk for HIV and hepatitis when injecting cocaine. Malnourishment is also common and cocaine use has been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

At Casa Capri’s accredited drug rehab center, we can help stop the cycle and restore even the heaviest users back to health and happiness. At our medically supervised cocaine detox, you or your loved one will be safe and supported as she transitions off of cocaine. Our women’s only inpatient rehab has successfully helped hundreds of women struggling with this devastating addiction heal wholeheartedly and build beautiful, vibrant lives free from drugs and alcohol. Now it’s your turn. Please give us a call now at 855-816-8826. We are here for you every step of the way.

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