Diving into Narcotics: A Deeper Look at Cocaine Addiction and Treatment Options for Women
As the second most trafficked drug globally, cocaine, otherwise known as coke, has made a major mark in America.
In 2014 alone, approximately 1.5 million Americans aged 12 and up were users. Adults between the ages of 18 to 25 were more likely to use and abuse this narcotic than any other age group. Frequent cocaine abuse leads to addiction and other adverse and complicated health consequences. In 2011, 505,224 of 1.3 million emergency room visits for drug misuse or abuse was due to coke.
Although both men and women are just as likely to try and use the drug, research shows that women are more susceptible to cocaine addiction. Spikes in estrogen levels intensify the drug’s pleasurable properties. Research on cocaine dependence also shows that it affects key-regions of a woman’s brain differently than in a man’s brain.
The History of Cocaine
Cocaine use dates back thousands of years. Indigenous tribes in the Andes Mountains of South America used to chew on the leaves of coca plants.
The cocaine leaves would offer a mild, stimulating effect; this is coke in its most natural form. Thanks to these effects, the leaves held a huge cultural significance to the tribes back then. They still do today. The leaves were and still are used for ritual, social and physiological purposes. They have medicinal properties that can treat various ailments.
Word of the magical effects of these leaves traveled all over the world. Amazed by its properties, scientists began to study the coca plant. In the 1850s, scientists finally isolated the compound responsible for the magical effects, and named it cocaine.
For a long time, cocaine was hailed as a “wonder drug”. It was effective in treating many ailments, conditions and diseases. It was popular among various other industries. The movie industry popularized the drug for commercial use. People of all social classes would enjoy its miraculous effects. The side effects became more obvious as the drug use increased.
By 1912, the harmful effects of the drug became more apparent. It was the cause of many emergency room visits. Soon, the dangers became clear. By 1922, cocaine was officially banned by the American government.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is the concentrated miracle compound found in the coca leaves. It comes as a fine, white powder, and is often either snorted or injected intravenously. The high from this snorting this narcotic lasts for anywhere between 15 to 35 minutes. This recreational drug has a stimulating effect on the body. As coke is quite pure, it is also one of the more expensive street drugs around
Crack is a more potent form of cocaine. To make crack, drug dealers cook powder cocaine with water and baking soda. This transforms cocaine from a powder to a solid rock. The added cutting agents make crack much cheaper than cocaine. Cocaine users often switch to crack to support their drug habit after the run out of money.
Instead of sniffing or snorting the drug, users smoke or inject crack intravenously with a needle. This results in a quicker and more intense high that lasts anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Due to these reasons, crack is more psychologically addictive. The craving are also much more intense, and it is harder for crack cocaine addicts to become sober.
As one of the most common narcotics found on the streets of America, cocaine has many popular and endearing nicknames. Some common street names include:
If other cutting agents are added, it can also be referred to as speedballs, woo-woo, cocopuffs, snow seals and flamethrowers.
Like cocaine, crack cocaine has many street names. Crack is also called:
- Hard rock
- Jelly beans
Neurological Effects of Coke in Women
The addictive effects of coke is attributed to its effects on the central nervous system (CNS). This is otherwise known as the brain. The compound interferes with the uptake and metabolism of various neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are molecules responsible for stimulating a sense of pleasure. The neurotransmitters affected by cocaine include dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and acetylcholine.
When cocaine is in the body, it prevents the nerves from reabsorbing these molecules. This results in an abundance of them accumulating at the post-synaptic receptors sites. These sites stimulate certain senses. By staying in the receptor sites, these neurotransmitters continue to stimulate the nerves to create a sense of euphoria.
Both men and women respond differently to drugs. Women are much more susceptible to cocaine dependence and addiction than men. This is largely due to the fact that cocaine affects key-regions of the brain in a different in women than in men. These regions play a critical role in addiction and dependence. The respective roles of the key-regions in the brain affected include:
- The right nucleus accumbens: Increased activity enhances the pleasurable effects of the drug, as well as the intensity of the cravings.
- The amygdala: Decreased activity reduces the ability to form associations between experiences and emotional consequences.
- The dorsal anterior cingulate cortex: Increased activity inhibits cognitive control over drug-seeking behavior.
- The ventral anterior cingulate cortex: Increased activity regulates an emotional response to using the drug and intensifies cravings.
- The frontal cortex: Increased activity enhances emotional response to the drug.
The activity in these key-regions of a woman’s brain differ from the activities in a man’s brain. These distinct neurological effects in women lead to an increased risk of addiction. Women tend to experience more intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These effects are also thought to encourage relapses more often in women than in men. Women who are overcoming a coke addiction should seek professional help. Rehab treatment programs will reduce and better manage the withdrawal symptoms.
Side Effects of Cocaine Abuse
When addicted to cocaine, side effects ensue upon quitting. Those abusing cocaine will experience both short-term and long-term side effects. The intensity of these effects will depend on various factors, such as length of drug use.
For minimal recreational use, withdrawal symptoms may be minimal. Among long-term users, effects can be rather severe. Getting sober can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts. To prevent and avoid serious complications, seek help from a rehab program. Cocaine rehab reduces the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. This, in return, increases the odds of getting sober.
The type of short-term effects experienced from woman to woman will vary. It will also be dependent on the amount of drugs taken, the length of drug use and the purity of the drugs. The most common short-term effects experienced by women when using cocaine include:
- Dilated pupils
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Erratic behavior
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
- Increased rate of breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Tactile hallucination, which is the illusion of bugs burrowing under one’s skin
Abuse can be dangerous as high dosages can lead to death. The physical and mental side effects experienced can also become permanent with time. Long-term drug use can also lead to the development of even more severe long-term effects.
Regular users are much more likely to permanently damage various areas of their body. Regular coke use can lead to long-term effects like:
- Auditory and tactile hallucinations
- Delirium or psychosis
- High blood pressure
- Infertility and other sexual problems caused by damage to the reproductive system
- Malnutrition and weight loss
- Mood disturbances
- Permanent damage to the cardiovascular system, liver, kidney and lungs
- Severe tooth decay
- Severe depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts and — ultimately — suicide
Over time, users who snort the coke may experience a loss of sense of smell and frequent sinus infections. Long-term smoking of the drug can lead to permanent respiratory damage. This causes breathing problems, frequent fevers, frequent respiratory infections and chest pains.
Dangers Involved with Mixing Cocaine with Other Drugs
As a popular party drug, cocaine is often used in conjunction with other drugs and with alcohol.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Compared to many other narcotics, withdrawing from cocaine is not as intense.
However, this does not mean that it does not come with its own set of challenges. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Chills and tremors
- Desensitization to pleasure, or anhedonia
- Difficulties concentrating
- Difficulties maintaining or experiencing sexual arousal
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Increased appetite
- Rapid weight gain
- Slower cognitive function
- Vivid nightmares
Additional withdrawal symptoms may be experienced if users mixed cocaine with other types of narcotics or with alcohol.
Timeline for Withdrawing from Cocaine
Withdrawal symptoms may appear as early as 90 minutes after the last dose, and can last anywhere from 7 to 10 days. The timeline for detox varies depending on length and size of drug use. The purity of the drug, as well as the user’s mental health, may also play a role. Another important factor is whether other drugs were used at the same time. The withdrawal timeline for various substances will vary.
Treatment Options for a Cocaine Addiction
Coke addiction can seek help from either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Inpatient programs tend to be more suitable for women who haven’t tried any other type of program. Women with a strong foundation of recovery may benefit more from an outpatient program. An outpatient program offers more flexibility and freedom.
Rehab for cocaine usually involves several approaches. Behavioral therapy and counseling tackles underlying psychological issues. The therapy also identifies triggers and helps build different responses to cravings. Learning how to cope will prevent relapses from occurring.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse and the FDA have yet to approve a specific medication for cocaine addiction treatment. As a result, each rehab program implements various strategies. Some programs wean patients off of coke using prescription medications with similar properties. Others treat the withdrawal symptoms using drugs recommended for treating other types of drug abuse. Novel pharmacotherapeutic treatments and medications currently studied and used include:
- Dopamine agonists
- Serotonergic agents
- GABA-ergic medications
Speak with a representative at the rehab center to determine the type of approaches most often used. Each patient generally has a tailored treatment plan. To design the plan, a medical professional will first need to conduct a thorough assessment of each patient. The assessment takes into account length and type of drug use. All factors will have a part in a patient’s journey to sobriety.
Importance of Gender-Specific Rehab for Cocaine
Women struggling with an addiction should seek gender-specific rehab treatment programs. These programs offer specialized addiction treatment plans that cater to their concerns and needs. They also better address female-specific risk factors.
Gender-specific treatment options tend to be more effective in preventing relapses. They also have a more long-lasting positive effect on the patient. Studies have found that women enrolled in gender-specific rehab options are more likely to be employed 12 months after admission. The treatment programs really turn their lives around for the better.
Detox from Cocaine and Become Sober
As one of the most popular drugs, cocaine is a hit at parties and even used in day-to-day life. Many women use this drug to not only party, but also to keep up with fast-paced lifestyles. Coke can make long hours at work a lot more bearable and doable. Continued cocaine use comes with a lot of negative side effects and dangers. It’s best to quit when ahead and to seek professional help.