Cocaine is a substance that has been used for various reasons and in an array of settings throughout history. It is a drug that is derived from a naturally occurring substance, the poppy plant. Over the past many centuries, various forms of cocaine have been used for religious purposes, medical purposes, and was even used as an ingredient in the first Coca-Cola recipe. The famous psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, was even known to promote the benefits of cocaine. Is it possible that this substance which was once used very widely, is actually addictive? The growing understanding of addiction and addictive substances has given us the knowledge today that cocaine is indeed a highly addictive substance in multiple ways.
Is Cocaine Physically Addictive?
Yes, cocaine has been shown to be addictive on a physical and physiological level. When someone stops using cocaine, they can experience a sort of cocaine hangover or even withdrawal symptoms. This may include reduced cognition and energy as well as severe cravings. Cravings may not seem like a physical sign of addiction, but the cravings are actually caused by physiological changes in the brain and not necessarily due to emotional or social causes. In fact, changes in dopamine levels play a large role in the addictive nature of cocaine.
Cocaine is considered a stimulant, a type of drug that produces effects such as feeling energized and more alert. In fact, other stimulants include ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin. The effects that a user feels when they use cocaine is caused by the substance triggering the release of high levels of dopamine. High levels of dopamine can increase heart rate and breathing, effects that are associated with intense physical activity or anxiety. Dopamine is also associated with producing a sense of pleasure. Therefore, it is a physiological response that creates a desirable experience. Eventually, the brain’s physiology may actually change to adapt to the increased amount of dopamine being produced, reducing the effects of cocaine. Users may find themselves chasing this pleasurable high by using more and more cocaine at an increasing frequency. Ultimately, cocaine dependence develops. This is why cocaine is a highly physically addictive substance.
Is Cocaine Psychologically Addictive?
Although there is a physiological aspect that affects the brain and therefore causes a psychological cocaine addiction, there are also social and emotional aspects that can also contribute. In this way, cocaine is not just physically addictive, but also psychologically addictive.
Think about a person who is energetic, happy, and focused. This is the type of person that gets things done, someone that is the life of the party, someone that people want to be around. Well, at least at first. Cocaine is often abused in social settings and business settings. This is because a bump of cocaine can help keep their energy up during a party and the person with the most energy is “the life of the party”. Additionally, cocaine can help a businessman stay up late to finish a presentation or come into a pitch with a rush of energy that really sells their idea. For a certain amount of time, the effects of cocaine may actually appear to improve a user’s life. The seemingly positive effects on one’s social and career life can contribute to developing an addiction. Unfortunately, it is usually only a matter of time before the negative consequences begin to appear.
Is Cocaine Addiction Treatment Effective?
Addiction treatment for cocaine use is effective for many people. For people who struggle with cocaine, getting past the cravings may be easier with the help of a structured rehab program. Additionally, long term outpatient care may provide social and emotional support for working through social and career-related triggers in a way that does not involve substance abuse. The sooner you or your loved one gets treatment, the fewer consequences they may face.