Basics Facts About Cocaine
Cocaine is a plant-based stimulant drug that comes in both powdered form and a more heavily processed form commonly known as “crack.” While powdered cocaine and crack differ in their chemical features, both forms of the drug make similar changes in the brain when used on a recurring basis. These changes alter the brain’s chemical mixture and leave affected individuals open to cocaine addiction. The American Psychiatric Association designates an addiction to cocaine as one specific form of an officially defined condition called stimulant use disorder.
Cocaine manufacturers create the drug by processing material obtained from a closely related group of plants, collectively known as coca plants, which grow in certain parts of South America. The main product of this processing is a substance called cocaine hydrochloride (i.e., powdered cocaine). Additional chemical processing strips away some of the molecules in this form of the drug and leaves behind the rock-like nuggets characteristic of crack cocaine.
Users of powdered cocaine introduce the drug into their bodies by inhaling or “snorting” it, or by injecting a cocaine solution directly into their veins. Users of crack cocaine introduce the drug into their bodies by burning it with a heat source and inhaling the resulting fumes or vapors. Both powdered cocaine and crack cocaine increase the accumulation of pleasure-producing chemicals inside the brain and speed up the brain’s baseline rate of activity. These effects take hold most rapidly in people who smoke crack or inject powdered cocaine. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.
The Onset of Cocaine Addiction
Some cocaine users repeatedly use powdered cocaine or crack in an attempt to re-experience the initial euphoria. Initially, the brain treats the presence of cocaine as an unusual situation; however, with recurring exposure, the brain starts to adapt the way it functions in order to account for the drug’s effects and eventually comes to treat cocaine’s presence as a new normal. This shift in brain function marks the development of cocaine dependence.
A person develops cocaine addiction (stimulant use disorder) when he or she starts to experience such things as cravings to use more cocaine, loss of the ability to control cocaine intake, an increasing tolerance to the drug that prompts increasing intake, withdrawal symptoms when the brain’s requirements for the drug go unmet, and devotion of significant time and energy to acquiring and using cocaine.
Diagnosing Cocaine Addiction
The American Psychiatric Association issues detailed guidelines for the diagnosis of cocaine addiction and all other forms of stimulant use disorder. An individual affected by a relatively mild case of this disorder has at least two to three symptoms of either physical dependence/addiction or a damaging pattern of cocaine intake not associated with a physical dependence on the drug. Moderately affected individuals have four or five specific symptoms of either cocaine addiction or cocaine abuse. Severely affected individuals can have as many as 11 symptoms of the disorder. Stimulant use disorder includes both addiction and drug abuse because symptoms of both of these problems often appear together. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.