acquiesce - November 11th, 2020

The Harsh Reality of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is often glamourised by celebrities and Hollywood films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, so it is easy to understand why so many people are tempted to try it, and eventually become addicted. When individuals first start using cocaine, it is typically considered to be a series of ‘one-offs’ that are reserved for going on nights out and parties with friends, though it can soon become an addiction and begin to affect everyday life. 

The problem with cocaine is that no high is ever as good as the first due to the way in which it causes long-term changes to the brain’s reward circuit, causing it to adapt to the extra dopamine and become less sensitive to it. As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses to and feel the same high they did initially. 

Unfortunately, whilst the high may make the user feel euphoric, it is short-lived and the comedown hits hard and fast, leaving the individual feeling tired, restless, irritable and sometimes depressed, especially if they have a history of poor mental health. In order to get rid of these negative comedown effects and feel better again, they may take even more cocaine.

This is where the vicious cycle of addiction begins. Although addiction means different things to different people, we break it down into four stages: trigger, avoidance, substitution and repetition. 

The Addiction Cycle

The trigger is either an external action or internal thought that evokes strong negative feelings. Some triggers include stress from work, a traumatic experience or existing mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and bipolar disorder. The negative effects of a comedown could also be the trigger.

Avoidance is when the individual pushes these negative feelings aside instead of seeking help.

Substitution is when the individual uses substances such as cocaine to replace the negative emotions they feel. This is a quick fix and doesn’t solve the problem long term but rather takes away the focus for a short while.

Repetition is when these actions are repeated regularly in order to keep putting off the problem. When the individual becomes dependent on the substance just to get through the day, an addiction has begun.

The Harsh Reality

The Physical Effects

The way in which cocaine addictions are portrayed in films and on social media isn’t always accurate. In the Wolf of Wall Street, the main character, Jordan’s, addiction is portrayed as glamorous and funny, depicting an overdose and seizure in a comedic way. 

The reality is, overdoses and seizures are terrifying to experience and can be fatal. In the short term, symptoms of a cocaine overdose include anxiety, depression, aggression, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting, high temperature, chest and abdominal pain, dizziness, fainting and tremors. A cocaine overdose can have much longer lasting effects on the body and mental health too, including problems with the heart, lungs, brain, intestines and eyes.

Cocaine causes constriction of blood vessels, starving the heart of blood and oxygen which can sometimes lead to a heart attack, heart failure or a stroke. An overdose can lead to acute bronchospasm and other more serious lung problems such as collapsing of the lungs (pneumothorax). It can also cause perforated ulcers, insufficient blood supply and metabolic acidosis in the intestines and kidneys, as well as affecting the way in which our pupils dilate, resulting in changes to the visual acuity, retinal vessel spasm and microvascular infarcts that could lead to vision loss.

The brain is sensitive to toxic levels of cocaine and it is common for an individual to experience seizures, comas, and headaches during overdoses. There could also be intracranial bleeding in the brain and potentially even a stroke. The central nervous system responds to an overdose with miscommunication from the nerve cells, causing uncontrollable shaking, jaw grinding and elevated blood temperature. Depending on the severity of the overdose, the muscles may seize up to the point where the individual is unable to call for help.

Experiencing these extreme changes without the ability to stop them can leave them feeling helpless and is often described as horrifying by overdose survivors. 

The Effect Addiction Has on Relationships

Not only does a cocaine addiction take a physical toll on the body but it also negatively impacts the individual’s relationships. Addiction takes over an individual’s life. Their every move revolves around when they’re getting their next hit, which means they sometimes have little time for friends and family. Nobody wants to feel as if they’re less important than drugs, which is why so any relationships suffer.

Many people keep their addiction secret from their loved ones, and the secretive behaviour that follows can cause trust issues in relationships. In addition, sometimes people can no longer afford to fund their drug habit, so will resort to stealing money from family and friends. This causes further damage and trust issues within the relationship and for some people, is unforgivable.

Getting Help

If you think you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to cocaine, it is important that you seek help. Please don’t hesitate to book a free and confidential callback with one of our helpful members of staff who will be happy to discuss our rehabilitation programmes with you. Get in touch today!.

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