Facts About Cocaine and Cocaine Addiction

Types of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine comes in two basic forms:

  • Hydrochloride salt – a powder that dissolves in water and is taken by injection or snorted
  • Freebase – a compound that has been processed into a form that can be smoked

The freebase form of cocaine is known by the street name “Crack.” Because crack is smoked, the user experiences a high in less than 10 seconds. The quick high – and low cost – are two reasons crack became tremendously popular in the mid 1980s.

Also known as "coke," "snow," "flake" or "blow," cocaine is typically sold on the street as a fine, white powder . Rarely sold in pure form, cocaine is usually diluted with cornstarch, talcum powder or sugar, or with other drugs such as anesthetics or amphetamines.

The Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Individuals are drawn to cocaine because of its euphoric effects. Users report feeling energetic, talkative and alert, with reduced need for sleep or food.

Regardless of whether a user snorts, injects or smokes the drug, cocaine abuse is extremely dangerous and can lead to a variety of health problems, addiction and even death. Some of the effects of cocaine abuse include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart attacks
  • Respiratory failure
  • Strokes
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and abdominal pain


Pregnant women who abuse cocaine put their unborn children at increased risk of premature delivery, low birth weight and smaller head circumference. These abnormalities can result in costly long-term health requirements, learning disabilities and other problems.

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When Abuse Leads to Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is highly addictive. One of the most obvious signs of cocaine addiction is developing a tolerance to the drug , with many addicts reporting that they are always unsuccessfully chasing the high they experienced from their first use. Some users will increase their doses to intensify and prolong the high, which often leads to cocaine addiction.

Different methods of cocaine abuse can produce different adverse effects :

  • Snorting cocaine can lead to loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing and irritation of the nasal septum, which can lead to chronic runny nose.
  • Ingesting cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene due to reduced blood flow.
  • Injecting cocaine leaves users with puncture marks and "tracks," typically in their forearms. Serious allergic reactions and infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, are additional concerns for intravenous cocaine abusers. Studies have shown that drug use can interfere with judgment about risky behavior, putting cocaine users at increased risk of unprotected sex, sharing needles and trading sex for drugs.

Mixing cocaine and alcohol is especially dangerous. When combined, the two drugs are converted into cocaethylene, which lasts longer and is more toxic – and potentially deadly -- than either drug alone.

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction plagued the masses during the 1980s and 1990s. The number of people in treatment for cocaine addiction skyrocketed, mostly those needing treatment for crack and those abusing cocaine as well as other drugs.

In certain circles, cocaine has made a resurgence, particularly among young women drawn to the supposed glamour and weight loss associated with cocaine abuse. While still incredibly dangerous and potentially fatal, the good news is a number of cocaine rehabs and addiction treatment programs developed expertise in treating cocaine addiction.

Treating cocaine addiction is complex and requires the addict to work through both the biological changes in the brain as well as a myriad of social, cultural and familial issues. For this reason, the best cocaine addiction treatment programs are holistic in nature, treating every aspect of the addict’s life.

Therapy and drug counseling are some of the best ways to treat cocaine addiction. There are both outpatient (live at home and make regular visits to a cocaine rehab center) and residential (live on-site at a cocaine addiction treatment program) options, depending on the addict’s history of drug use, personality, living situation and other factors.

While outpatient treatment is effective for some, many addicts will require the 24-hour support of a residential cocaine rehab center. Inpatient programs offer more than simple cocaine detox or 12-Step meetings, including career counseling, academic programs, extended care options, relapse prevention planning and assistance with transitioning back into society.

How do you know if you need help for coke addiction, or what type of cocaine rehab program is right for you? Talk to a counselor. By calling 866-323-5612, you can speak with an caring and experienced counselor  -- confidentially and free of charge – who will help you assess you or your loved one’s drug problem and get started toward a clean, sober and tremendously rewarding life.

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