If there’s one drug that’s constantly portrayed in media, it’s cocaine. From Scarface to The Wolf of Wall Street, there’s no shortage of movies that sensationalize cocaine. The drug is often shown in party scenes or used for comedic effect. In reality, cocaine is anything but funny.

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that can damage the brain. Without intervention or cocaine help, it can greatly affect the person’s job, relationships and overall wellness. Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of cocaine and how to help someone addicted to coke.

What Is Cocaine?

Before learning how cocaine addiction affects someone’s life, it’s important to understand what cocaine is in the first place. Put simply, cocaine is a powerful drug derived from coca leaves in South America. It falls under a class of drugs called “stimulants,” which boost central nervous system activity and cause euphoric effects.

Initially, cocaine was used by doctors to block pain and create healing tonics. It was even an ingredient in the original Coca-Cola recipe. Since then, researchers have discovered its dangerous, addictive properties. Cocaine is currently a Schedule II drug — it’s not permitted for recreational use but can be used by doctors as a local anesthetic.

Despite being an illegal substance, cocaine is still found across the United States. According to a 2021 study, nearly 5 million people over the age of 12 used cocaine throughout the year. Typically, cocaine is available in either freebase (rock) or powdered form. It’s then ingested through one of the following means:

  • Intranasally (snorting the drug through the nose)
  • Inhalation (breathing in the powdered drug through the nose)
  • Intravenously (injecting the drug into the bloodstream through the skin)
  • Orally (rubbing the drug onto the gums)

No matter what method is used, cocaine brings serious health consequences.

Why Are Cocaine Addictions Dangerous?

Cocaine interferes with a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine, which helps regulate mood, memory, concentration and pleasure. More specifically, it increases dopamine levels, producing quick, euphoric effects. Over time, the brain may start to develop a dependency on cocaine, which causes the user to crave its effects. This makes it increasingly difficult to stop cocaine use.

The effects of cocaine can be divided into two types: short-term and long-term. Short-term side effects include the following:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shakes and muscle twitches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety and paranoia

After prolonged use, cocaine may increase the risk of the following:

  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Abdominal pain
  • Coma

Cocaine can also be fatal. In 2020, nearly 20,000 people passed away from a cocaine overdose.

What Are the Signs of a Cocaine Addiction?

Anyone can fall victim to cocaine addiction. However, genetic and environmental factors may make someone more likely to develop a substance use disorder. These include things like a stressful work environment, past trauma or mental health disorder. Oftentimes, cocaine and drugs are used to cope with negative emotions.

The good news is that cocaine addictions can be overcome. Of course, before you can help someone beat their addiction, you have to recognize the signs. Here are some indications that someone is going through addiction:

  • Mood swings (including increased anxiety, depression and irritability)
  • Increased alertness
  • Self-isolation
  • Poor performance in work and school
  • Participating in risky behaviors
  • Financial problems
  • Physical signs (such as dilated pupils or a runny nose)

In addition to affecting personality, drug use can influence someone’s judgment. This may lead to unusual behaviors like ignoring friends and family, neglecting responsibilities and engaging in unsafe activities. Finally, drug addicts often need money to fuel their habit, which can cause financial troubles.

If you suspect a loved one is experiencing cocaine addiction, don’t ignore the problem. Left untreated, the addiction will strengthen over time, and cocaine addicts are at serious risk of health problems like heart attacks and strokes.

Cocaine Help: How to Deal With a Coke Addict

Helping someone overcome an addiction to cocaine isn’t always easy. It’s common for addicts to mask their behavior or lash out when confronted. No matter how they react, it’s essential to stay calm throughout your approach. Here are a few tips on how to help a cocaine addict:

  • Listen. One of the best things you can do to help a cocaine addict is listen to them. By giving them a chance to share their side of the story, you’re showing you trust them.
  • Show support. Even though you’re there to help, the addict may feel they’re being attacked. To avoid this, emphasize that you want to provide support. Remind the addict that you care about them, and ask how you can help.
  • Recruit loved ones. It may be helpful for a cocaine addict to hear from multiple people who care about them. Try recruiting friends and family members to demonstrate their support.
  • Encourage treatment. While providing love and support is beneficial, the addict will need professional cocaine help to overcome their addiction. The ultimate goal should be encouraging them to receive treatment.

Cocaine treatment typically involves rehab and counseling. During rehab, addicts go through detoxification, which involves refraining from drug use to fully expel the substance from the body. As the brain and body adjust to the lack of cocaine, the addict may experience withdrawal symptoms. Examples include depression, agitation, fatigue and discomfort.

Counseling, meanwhile, aims to address the cause of addiction in the first place. By speaking with a counselor, addicts can identify the factors that negatively affect their mental health (such as a stressful work environment or past trauma). Then, they can work with the counselor to find healthier coping mechanisms.

Along with professional assistance, many addicts rely on the ongoing support of loved ones. Together, these methods can help someone conquer addiction and regain control of their life.

The Road to Recovery

Watching a loved one go through a cocaine addiction is frightening. It can hurt to witness someone ignore responsibilities, withdraw from others and engage in life-risking behavior. However, with treatment, they can beat the addiction and improve their life.

At Sunlight Recovery, we recognize the difficulties associated with cocaine addiction and are dedicated to helping people achieve sobriety. We offer a team of licensed clinical and medical professionals, as well as therapy and detoxification programs. If you’d like to learn more about our treatments, contact us today. Seeking help is the first step to a long, healthy recovery.