The powerfully addictive stimulant called cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant, native to Peru and Bolivia. It is not a new drug and has been used by humans in one form or another for thousands of years; originally, by chewing the leaves of the plant and then later in a purified form. The purified version of cocaine is known as cocaine hydrochloride and it has been made and abused for over a century. In the early part of the 20th century, cocaine was the active ingredient in many tonics and other medications that were developed to treat various illnesses.
Cocaine became popular again in the 1980s and 1990s, and Colombia would become the world’s main supplier. It is a Schedule II drug, meaning that its potential for abuse is high but that it also has legitimate therapeutic uses. For example, cocaine can be used as a local anesthetic.
Cocaine is abused in two forms: a hydrochloride salt and a cocaine base that is also called freebase. The salt is the powdered form of cocaine and can be snorted or injected while the base is smoked. The base is commonly known as crack cocaine.
About Cocaine Abuse in the United States
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there were 1.9 million active users of cocaine in the United States in 2008, with roughly 360,000 of them using it in its crack form. The NSDUH also states that the age group with the highest rate of cocaine use was the 18-25 age group, with men having higher rates of cocaine use than women.
The Effects of Cocaine on the Brain and Body
Cocaine acts as a stimulant in the nervous system by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates pleasure and movement. Under normal circumstances, dopamine is released in brain circuits as a response to potential rewards such as the aroma of good food. After being released, it gets recycled back into the cell that produced it. Recycling the dopamine shuts off the signal between the neurons. Cocaine’s effect is to prevent the dopamine from being recycled. The result is that a large amount of dopamine accumulates in the brain. This buildup is what causes the cocaine user to feel high.
In the short term, cocaine constricts the user’s blood vessels and causes their pupils to dilate. It will also cause both their body temperature and blood pressure to go up. Long-term users may suffer from malnutrition due to the drug’s appetite-suppressing effects. Cocaine can cause heart attacks and strokes, which are often fatal.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Cocaine Addiction
CBT has been recognized as a useful tool for the treatment of cocaine addiction both on its own and in combination with other treatments. The central idea behind CBT is that learning processes play a significant role in substance abuse and that a patient’s self control can be enhanced with the development of coping strategies. For example, patients may explore the benefits and drawbacks of continued drug use as a part of their therapy. They may also be taught to develop techniques for coping with cravings and for avoiding situations where they may be tempted to abuse cocaine.
Many individuals who have struggled with an addiction to cocaine have managed to find help via rehabilitation facilities and cognitive behavioral therapy. Inpatient treatment is especially helpful since it provides care 24 hours per day and allows addicts to focus their time and energy on getting well. These facilities can cater to their addiction as well as to their overall mental health and any underlying issues they may have.