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Cocaine is a drug that has risen and fallen through the years in terms of its popularity, yet today remains one of the top illicit drugs abused in the United States. Cocaine use and dependency became extremely prevalent in the 1980s, and although not as popular now as during that time, an estimated 2.1 million Americans still abuse cocaine on a regular basis. This is according to cocaine information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Facts About Cocaine

Cocaine is considered one of the most addictive stimulant street drugs. It is one of the few drugs which, when consumed even just a few times, can rapidly form an addiction. Cocaine can be smoked, snorted or injected and comes in a few different physical forms:

Cocaine Powder (Freebase)

In its freebase form, cocaine looks like a white crystalline powder and is commonly mixed with other powders like cornstarch, flour or even sugar. This form of cocaine is usually snorted or injected.

Crack Cocaine (Rock)

When in its rock crystal form, crack cocaine appears like a small chunk of off-white or pink rock. Crack cocaine is created by mixing powdered cocaine with other chemicals and boiling them together. The end result is dried rocks which are most often smoked through a pipe. Smoking crack cocaine offers a much shorter but more intense high than powdered cocaine and is considered by many to be more addictive.

Cocaine (also called snow, coke, crack or nose candy) is derived as a paste from the South American coca plant and affects the body powerfully by stimulating the central nervous system. A person high on cocaine usually experiences high energy, euphoria, extreme alertness and feelings of invincibility or being carefree. These feelings are very brief, usually lasting no more than 15 minutes to an hour, and are followed by a highly uncomfortable “come-down” which may include:

  • Deep depression
  • Extreme paranoia; anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability

These severe negative feelings are a key part of why cocaine itself forms an addiction in its abusers so rapidly.

The Damaging Effects of Cocaine

Whether someone takes cocaine once or over a long period of time, the risks of cocaine are imminent. Cardiac arrest, seizures and respiratory failure have all been reported amongst cocaine abusers. Further risks and potential hazards include:

  • Extreme weight loss; no appetite
  • Vision problems
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Extreme depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Mental instability; hallucinations and/or mood swings
  • Chest pains
  • Violence or outbursts
  • Sweating
  • Twitches
  • Sexual malfunction
  • Nose bleeds and nasal infections


Cocaine use has also been associated with heart disease, strokes and other gastrointestinal issues.

When someone takes cocaine, the brain releases a large amount of a chemical called dopamine. This release produces the feelings of exhilaration, high-energy and euphoria. It is not uncommon to see long-term damages to the brain’s dopamine receptors in cases of cocaine abuse, triggering a decline in mental function and motor skills. 

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is a unique issue that can establish itself rapidly, and it should be treated on an individualized basis. Because cocaine abusers commonly report strong “cravings” for the drug, a biophysical detox and complete nutritional analysis is recommended for successful recovery.

Residential facilities (live-in treatment programs) exist at varying lengths, but programs in the 3-5 month range are appropriate for this type of addiction. A drug as powerfully addictive as cocaine requires extensive treatment in the areas of:

  • Underlying issues and causes
  • Nutritional problems; physical addiction
  • Life skills, communication and relationships
  • Dealing with personal emotions and anger issues
  • Amends to family and loved ones
  • Life planning and goal setting; strategies for success
  • Rebuilding a positive support structure

Cocaine addiction can be a severe and complex problem but is something that can be fully resolved with the right type treatment. Contact us today for more information.