Substance abuse or dependence is the desire to use a substance regularly, to
the extent that it impacts the user's daily life. Cocaine addiction is one
type of substance abuse. Like any type of substance abuse or dependence, the
overuse and abuse of cocaine can have many physical and psychological effects
on the user.
Physically, the use of cocaine primarily affects the cardiovascular system. About
5,000 to 6,000 people in the United States die each year due to cocaine use.
These deaths are mostly due to cardiac arrest, seizure, or stroke.
Cocaine constricts blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to brain damage
and stroke. It also constricts blood vessels leading to the heart, which can
cause heart attacks. Cocaine use can result in tachycardia, which is an accelerated
heart rate; this can damage the heart muscle and lead to death by cardiac arrest.
Cocaine use has many psychological effects as well. It causes the user to feel
euphoric and energized, like a large dose of caffeine. If more is taken,
however, which inevitably happens as a habitual user develops a higher tolerance,
the user will experience paranoia, mood swings, panic attacks, and other
Once someone has cocaine addiction, they will go through withdrawal when
they stop using. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, pain, physical
weakness, and compulsive cravings for the drug. Many users also report a
crawling sensation on the skin, like they are covered in bugs.
Withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks or even months after use of the drug
is discontinued. It is not easy to simply stop using cocaine once you become
addicted to it. Even once the physical symptoms and immediate psychological
symptoms dissipate, the desire to use the drug will remain. Former cocaine
users often report a compulsion to take cocaine after years of sobriety,
especially during times of stress.
Not everyone who tries cocaine will become addicted to it, but the numbers
are not good. One study of over 1000 cocaine users found that approximately
15% of users became addicted to it within 10 years of their first use of
the drug. The younger the user was on their first use, the higher the chance
became that they would become addicted to it.
Treatment for cocaine addiction is a long-term process. Many people will
require in-patient rehabilitation in order to overcome their addiction.
Often, those trying to stop using cocaine will turn to other drugs or alcohol
as a substitute for the cocaine. Maintaining sobriety successfully requires
a long-term commitment from the user to attend therapy and support sessions
even years after their last use.
Cocaine use seems attractive to some people due to what many see as positive
effects such as increased energy and mood enhancement. However, there are
many negative effects that come along with it, and the possibility of addiction
after even a single use is quite high. Thousands die every year as a result
of cocaine use, and it is very difficult to stop once you have become addicted.