Similar to most other drugs of addiction, cocaine use targets and overstimulates the brain’s reward system which gives short-term feelings of pleasure. However with time, cocaine changes the way the brain works, and teaches the user to repeat use in order to achieve those same feelings of euphoria. The speed in which this happens depends on each individual cocaine user and the way their brain reacts to the drug, as well as the way in which they use the drug. Those who smoke crack cocaine for instance, will typically become addicted to the drug much faster.
Powder Cocaine vs. Crack Cocaine
Most commonly, cocaine is found in powdered form. It is most often snorted, but it can also be mixed with water and injected straight into the veins. When snorted, the effects are often felt within 20 minutes and can last up to approximately 60 minutes. When injected, effects will be felt within the first minute and last usually up to 30 minutes.
Crack cocaine takes form when cocaine powder is mixed with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water. When this formula is left to dry it can be broken into rocks which can then be smoked. Smoking crack cocaine results in immediate effects and last usually up to 30 minutes. Crack cocaine is said to be more addictive, likely to its immediate effects and strength of high which it produces.
Both cocaine addiction and crack cocaine addiction will result in the same negative health effects and will require similar treatment, and thus will be referred to simply as ‘cocaine addiction’ for the rest of this page.
Health Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Those who suffer from cocaine addiction can experience many negative psychological and physical effects. Severe paranoia is quite common, where cocaine abusers lose touch with reality and hear sounds that are not real.
Serious health problems which can affect those suffering from cocaine addiction are as follows:
- Heart problems, including heart attacks
- Respiratory effects, including respiratory failure
- Nervous system problems, including strokes
- Injecting cocaine can cause further damage, especially if sharing needles, including contracting Hepatitis or HIV and infection of the injection site on the body.
Even first time or recreational users can experience heart attacks or strokes. Cocaine use combined with alcohol consumption increases these dangerous effects.