Native to South America, the coca plant, is a dangerous and addictive stimulant when transformed into the powder drug cocaine. When ingested it produces short term energy, increased socialization (talking), and a limited period of euphoria. The drug’s use has been dated back to before Christ in the Andes Mountains. B.C. Peruvian tribes used the plant to deter the effects of living and traveling at such high altitudes in the mountains. The plant chewed or sucked on, reduced hunger, increased energy, and increased heart rate. It has even been discovered that it was given to children, in order for them to be able to make the journey to the summit. It was not until the twentieth century that the powdered form of cocaine became popular. Cocaine is the mixture of substances like corn starch, talcum powder, sugar, and the refined coca leaf.

During the 70’s it was a very popular party drug. Then in the 80’s it became the rich man’s drug, due to its high cost. It was later mixed with baking soda, among other chemicals, to create Crack cocaine. The United States, along with a few other countries, in an attempt to combat its effect on society started the war on drugs campaign. With the help of native coca producing countries, the US is in an attempt to eradicate the coca production and distribution in an attempt to minimize its damage. This is difficult because of the cocaine cartels ingenuity in transportation, production, and organization which is rooted in deception. The overall destruction of the cocaine industry is difficult because of demand combined with those small communities that use the plant for other, economically, socially, and physical sources of living (non-cocaine producing). The task the War on Drugs set out to accomplish is far from complete. Most individuals would agree that the War on Drugs was a complete failure and waste of American tax payer’s money. This became even more prevalent when it was discovered that the government was funding and profiting from drug sales during the Iran-Contra era.

Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine comes in two different forms; powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. Powdered cocaine, also known as coke or blow, is dissolvable in water. This style of cocaine is normally snorted or can be injected when it is dissolved in water. Crack cocaine, also known as crack or rock, is made by a chemical process that leaves it in its freebase form, which is smoked. Whether it is snorted, injected or smoked the drug rushes through the bloodstream to the brain quickly.

Cocaine is an incredibly powerful drug, which affects the central nervous system. It is a strong stimulant that attacks the dopamine levels in the brain. It increases the dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain, which control pleasure and movement. Normal dopamine function happens when you experience something good; the cell sends a signal to the neurotransmitter which releases dopamine in the brain. Then, it sends a return signal back to the cell that originally sent signal, thus terminating signal between neurons.

Cocaine reacts in the body by sending signals to release dopamine, but without shutting off that signals; leading to an overflow of dopamine. This process is what gives cocaine its’ unmistakable high. Long term use can cause significant effects on the brains reward system. The artificial injection of dopamine, from taking the drug, reduces the dopamine producing abilities of the brain; as well as the dopamine receptors. Over time this can drastically reduce an individual’s ability to feel euphoria from natural dopamine production.

Cocaine causes increased heart rate, dilated pupils, increases blood pressure, and constricts blood vessels, but it can have much more severe effects. Most serious are heart attacks or strokes, which can easily lead to death. HIV contraction is an effect because of the poor judgment in sexual activity when using cocaine. Consistent snorting of cocaine can lead to runny nose, nose bleeds, hoarseness, loss of sense of smell, problems swallowing, severe bowel gangrene, and complete destruction of nasal cavity.

Cocaine abuse will affect the brain and in conjunction mood, temperament. Abuse will lead to irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and even severe paranoia. Mixing with other drugs can also lead to more problems, like alcohol. A common mixture of cocaine and heroin called “speed ball”, often results in overdose. Smoking crack has dangerous effects on the lungs, which can be permanent. The oxygen starvation that cocaine causes by blood vessel constriction can cause ulcers, or even perforation of the stomach and intestines. Cocaine can also cause sudden, overwhelming kidney failure.

Cocaine Abuse

There is an estimated 7.5 million young people, 15-34, who have consumed cocaine in their in their lifetime, 3.5 million in the past year, 1.5 million in the past month; this according to the European Monitoring Centre on drugs and drug addiction. In 2008, the National Survey on Drug use and health estimated there were 1.9 million current cocaine users in the U.S. Of those 1.9 million there are 359,000 were crack cocaine users.

The 2009 monitoring the future survey collected information estimating a significant decline in cocaine powder use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders; which produces its information by surveying teen’s attitudes and drug use. Nearly 1.4 million Americans met the criteria for dependence or abuse of cocaine, by the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. As of 2012 there were a reported 1.1 million people who were cocaine abusers or dependents.

Cocaine has been known as the crème of the crop street drug. It is the drug that the rich and famous abuse regularly. Popular culture has even gone as far as to glamorize its use. Movies like “Blow” and books like Killing Pablo have created Hollywood style popularity for the drug.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is a complex addiction, like other addictions, therefore requires a complex treatment program. The drug causes biological changes in the brain and changes in the entirety of the abusers life. The treatment program needs to be a very detailed and target every aspect of the drug addict’s life in order to increase likely-hood of successful rehabilitation. The treatment will target physical health and mental health, utilizing an extensive collection of therapies to reduce relapse. Cocaine withdrawal rarely needs medical attention. It can cause suicidal thoughts. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms normally resolve within one to two weeks, although, intense cravings for the drug can return even years after the last use.

The abundance of cocaine use nationwide has created a need for more powerful treatment programs, which are directed toward cocaine abuse. These programs are created to counter drug abuse physically, socially, and mentally. Treatments for cocaine abuse include, but are not limited to: inpatient, outpatient, Detox, intervention, rehab, and aftercare. Treatment programs are very diverse, each one specific to a group of drug abuse, therefore when choosing a program it is important to find the one that is right for you.