Cocaine has damaging effects on the brain, the heart and the mucous membrane of the nose. Significant symptoms of cocaine abuse are therefore paranoia, heart attacks and perforation of the nasal septum. The physical and mental effects of cocaine use are equally severe. The body and mind of a cocaine addict are both at risk.
Cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction cannot easily be distinguished because there may be no withdrawal symptoms. Similarly, users of crack cannot easily be distinguished from crack addicts. The boundary between drug use and drug abuse is not clear-cut and there may be no precise addiction symptoms.
The medical features and physical withdrawal characteristics of cocaine addiction are not as precise as they are in alcoholism or in addiction to some other drugs, such as heroin. Therefore the medical treatment of cocaine and crack abuse differs from that of other drugs.
Blood tests or urine tests would not distinguish between cocaine and crack but can show what other drugs have been used.
Medication may not be necessary to cover withdrawal symptoms, other than to alleviate a cocaine psychosis and provide care for mental health and physical comfort.
Apart from the risk of death from overdose or heart attacks, the most damaging effects of cocaine or crack addiction are psychological and social and, of course, financial.
Addictive disease is a common condition, affecting probably 15% of the population. The tendency towards addiction may be genetically inherited. Therefore the patient and his or her family need to be assessed for problems with alcohol, nicotine, eating disorders or other forms of compulsive behaviour, as well as signs of addiction to recreational drugs or pharmaceutical drugs, such as antidepressants, tranquillisers, painkillers and sleeping tablets.
Cocaine acts on the dopamine reward pathways in the central nervous system. The medicinal use of cocaine is to relieve pain in cancer treatment and in a number of other acute or chronic diseases. It is also used as a dental anaesthetic.
It can be rubbed into the gums, smoked and inhaled into the lungs, snorted up the nose or, sometimes together with other drugs, used by injection into a vein.
As a result of smoking, snorting, injecting or otherwise using this highly addictive substance, a cocaine user may suffer from raised blood pressure, an irregular heart rate, vascular complications, breathing difficulties, headaches, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, sleep disturbance and sexual dysfunction – as well as anxiety, depression, hallucinations, paranoia and other forms of psychosis resembling schizophrenia.
To snort, inhale or inject cocaine may be an initially pleasurable emotional experience but the euphoria rapidly wears off. The initial stimulant effect soon leads to fatigue, depression and general malaise. Inevitably that leads to a craving for more cocaine.
Cocaine rehab addiction treatment is the same as the treatment for alcoholism or any other form of compulsive behaviour. Individual and confidential treatment with an addiction specialist with experience of drug rehabilitation enables an accurate diagnosis to be made, further danger to be averted, and lifelong recovery to begin. Maintenance of recovery, so that the individual does not use cocaine or become addicted to it again, is best achieved through working the Twelve Step programme of Cocaine Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.