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About 1.5 million Americans use cocaine at least once a month. While the use of many drugs is increasing, the number of people using cocaine has remained steady since 2009, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The number of people using the drug has not gone up, but it remains a health concern and a real problem.

This information is being provided for information purposes. If you or a loved one is using this drug, and you are concerned, we hope this information will prove helpful. Please contact the River Source for a confidential assessment of your situation.

What is cocaine and where does it come from?

Cocaine comes from the coca plant, which grows in the mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Columbia. It is a very strong stimulant type drug. For centuries, workers at high altitudes would chew on the plant, and it give them energy. Today farmers grow the crops of coca, and they sell them to places where cocaine is processed. These are usually in the jungles of Colombia.

How is it used?

Cocaine is a white powder that is taken by snorting, or inhaling it through the nose. It is also dissolved and injected at times. It can also come in the form of small rocks and these are smoked in pipes. The drug has often been called “a wealthy man’s drug” because it is expensive. Often people who use cocaine are involved in flashy, high spending and fast paced lives. Alcohol consumption and prostitution are also often involved.

The effects of cocaine are strong, but it does not last long. When it wears off quickly, the one taking it wants to feel that high again, so they keep using the drug. Often it is used as a binge drug and people will spend thousands of dollars in a short period of time, taking the drug continually.

What are the short term effects?

The effect cocaine has on the person comes quickly, almost immediately, but it also goes away quickly, lasting less than an hour. As a stimulant, it makes the person feel that they have more energy, they may even feel euphoric. The person may be more talkative and mentally alert. Light may bother the cocaine user more, and they may be more sensitive to touch and sound. While taking the drug, the person will need less sleep and feel less like eating.

Other effects of cocaine can be increased body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils.

What are the long-term effects?

The human brain begins to adapt to the drug with repeated use. When the drug is not available, the user may feel irritable, be moody and more sensitive than usual. These are classic signs of withdrawal. At this point the person starts to obsess over the drug, instead of seeking things like food, relationships or other things that would bring pleasure.

The drug itself is highly addictive. It also leads to problems like constantly bloody noses, decreased smell, panic attacks, problems swallowing, restlessness and paranoia. The heart and vascular system are strained by the use of the drug, especially when it is regular use. This can lead to seizures and even death.

What makes cocaine so dangerous?

There are several reasons why cocaine is dangerous and why it can be fatal. Each year half a million people have to go to the emergency room because of problems associated with the drug. There was a 42 percent increase in the number of deaths caused by cocaine between 2001 and 2014.

Often people go on cocaine binges, and this means they continually take higher doses and use more of the drug. This can lead to panic attacks, hallucinations and overdose.

Cocaine is often cut with other substances, to make it go further. Users do not know what other substances they may be taking. There could be a severe, or even deadly, drug interaction, or even a bad reaction to the other substances. People who inject cocaine are in danger of getting diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV.

How cocaine abuse is treated?

Six percent of all drug users are admitted to treatment programs for cocaine use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Most of those also use other drugs in addition to cocaine. That makes the treatment more complicated, but intervention can still be successful.

Addiction is very complex, and is a brain disorder. There are many components to addiction in addition to the changes that happen in the brain due to the drug.  A holistic approach is best for most patients, meaning involving the entire person. The River Source, with this in mind, treats the mind, body and spirit as it delivers all its therapies.