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In most cases, individuals who understand the true dangers of drug substances are able to make the wise decision to abstain from drug use. However, if individuals get the impression that drug substances that are safe or helpful in some way and not quite so dangerous, they may be tempted to experiment with these substances. One of the common myths about drugs is that those drug substances that are derived from natural sources, like cocaine, marijuana and heroin, are not as harmful to the human body as synthetic drug substances. An individual who believes this can quickly succumb to the trap of substance abuse and addiction, and require professional rehabilitation treatment in order to successfully recover.

The Origins of Cocaine

While cocaine became highly popular during the 1970s in America, it is actually one of the oldest, most potent and most dangerous stimulant drugs around. Cocaine comes from the South American coca plant, and Ancient Incas actually chewed coca leaves as long as five thousand years ago in an effort to stimulate their heart rate and respiration in the thin mountain air. The powdered drug cocaine was first extracted from coca leaves by a German chemist in 1859, and in the 1880s it became popular in the medical community.

Sigmund Freud, who both used the drug himself and recommended it to his patients, promoted the “magical” healing benefits of cocaine in an article called “About Coke” that was published in 1884. Freud stated that he believed the toxic dose of cocaine was very high and that there was no lethal dose of the drug. Unfortunately, he was proven wrong when one of his own patients overdosed and died from the high dose of cocaine which Freud himself had prescribed.

In 1886 cocaine gained even more popularity when John Pemberton added it to the formula of his new soft drink, Coca-Cola. The euphoric, stimulating and addictive properties of the drug helped Coca-Cola gain popularity among the American public, but as the dangerous effects of the drug became more widely known the public began to speak out against its use. Coca-Cola removed cocaine from its formula in 1903.

By the early 1900s American consumers had begun to snort cocaine in order to achieve faster, more euphoric highs, and by 1912 more than five thousand cocaine-related deaths in a single year had been reported to the United States government. By 1922 the drug had been officially banned in the United States, but this did little to thwart its rising popularity. In the 1970s cocaine made its biggest debut as a popular “new” drug for entertainers and businesspeople. Individuals praised the drug’s ability to provide constant stimulation and energy so that people could stay awake and busy for longer hours. Colombian drug traffickers took advantage of cocaine’s huge rise in popularity and by the end of the 1970s they had begun to set up an elaborate network in order to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

There was a time when cocaine was considered a rich man’s drug simply because it was expensive for an individual to maintain a cocaine habit. However, by the late 1980s cocaine had earned the reputation of America’s most addictive and dangerous drug, being used by individuals of all ages and social statuses. Individuals who are addicted to cocaine will often do anything in order to obtain more of this drug substance, which means that their financial stability is entirely irrelevant.

How Cocaine Use Escalates Into Addiction

Just as is the case with other drug use, cocaine use normally begins when the individual is seeking to change some undesirable condition in their life. Cocaine cannot solve the individual’s problems or make the individual more able to solve them for himself, but they create pleasure, which is what drives an individual to continue using it. Powdered cocaine, the most common form of cocaine, is normally snorted or injected into the bloodstream. Crack cocaine, a crystallized rock form made from powder cocaine, is normally smoked and can cause a faster, more intense, euphoric effect.

Once absorbed into the bloodstream cocaine quickly makes its way to the brain, where it stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is normally released in response to potential rewards, which gives the individual a feeling of pleasure. After producing its effect, dopamine is normally recycled back into the cell that released it, thereby controlling the stimulating of pleasure in the brain. Cocaine not only stimulates an unusually high production of dopamine, it also prevents dopamine from being recycled by the nerve cells in the brain, which results in an excessive build up of this neurotransmitter and an interruption of normal brain communication.

Snorting cocaine normally produces a euphoric high that lasts for fifteen to thirty minutes in length. While injecting or smoking cocaine can produce a faster and more intense high, these consumption methods also result in a shorter-lasting high, normally only five to ten minutes in length. Because the stimulating and euphoric effects of cocaine are so highly desirable, many individuals will continue using the drug repeatedly over a short period of time, taking higher and higher doses as their body’s tolerance of the drug causes them to experience less intense effects. This pattern of binging on cocaine use can quickly led to cocaine dependence and addiction, wherein the body depends upon the drug chemical in order to function in its new normal condition, and the individual compulsively participates in drug-seeking behavior despite the many damaging effects of cocaine use.

Effects of Cocaine Use

In addition to the desirable stimulating effects of cocaine use, most individuals also experience many undesirable side effects of cocaine use, including impaired judgement, loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, chronically runny nose, difficulty sleeping, nausea, hyperstimulation, strange and violent behavior, irritability, hoarseness, anxiety, depression, panic, convulsions, seizures, paranoia, hallucinations, constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased body temperature, elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, heart, kidney, brain and lung damage, decreased appetite, heart attack, stroke, arrested breathing, tooth decay, sexual problems, disorientation, mood disturbances, risky behavior and more. If the individual has grown to tolerate large doses of cocaine and is mixing cocaine with other substances in order to achieve better highs, their risk of overdose related complications, include coma and death, increase dramatically.

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine creates the second greatest psychological dependence problems after methamphetamine. This means that an individual may experience cocaine dependence and addiction problems after just one use of this drug substance. Many cocaine users may have difficulty seeing the full extent of damaging effects caused by their cocaine use, but there usually comes a point wherein the individual recognizes that cocaine is running and ruining their life and they desire to do something about it. Unfortunately, cocaine addiction is so complex and powerful that an individual cannot resolve it on their own, without professional rehabilitation treatment. Simply withdrawing from cocaine use can be incredibly difficult because the cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with this drug substance are so overwhelmingly powerful.

In order to effectively help an individual overcome a cocaine abuse or addiction problem, rehabilitation treatment must help them address and resolve all of the physical, mental and emotional causes and effects of cocaine use. This is not a quick or easy process, and is best undertaken in a residential rehabilitation treatment facility where the individual can receive around-the-clock care and support. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has indicated that rehabilitation treatment programs are most successful when they are at least ninety days in length, and this is especially true when one is working on recovering from cocaine abuse and addiction.

While there is no doubt that cocaine is a difficult drug to recover from, it can be and has been successfully done time and again. The time and effort it takes to regain control of one’s life is very well worth is when they are finally able to live a happy, healthy life without cocaine.