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Adult Cocaine Abuse

The use of cocaine, including crack, is highest among young adults aged 18-25. Data from a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health places 18 to 20-year-old people as the age group in which cocaine use and abuse is most prevalent.

Many adult users believe cocaine is a harmless party drug. It gives them an initial feeling of euphoria, energy and sociability. The user becomes hyper-sensitive to sights, sounds and touch.

These adults believe they can successfully manage work with fun, but cocaine is a deadly and addictive drug. The use of cocaine includes the inevitable low, with fatigue and irritability that follows a brief high.

Cocaine use carries significant risks of addiction and health problems.  

Using cocaine can result in ingesting dangerous levels of toxins that can lead to sudden death through seizures or heart attacks and ultimately respiratory arrest. In a 2012 study reported by the American Heart Association, the Sydney Medical School in Australia found that the regular “social” use of cocaine by otherwise healthy, young, professional adults increased their risk of a heart attack. The cocaine users had higher blood pressure, more constricted blood vessels and stiffer arteries than young adults in a peer group who did not regularly use cocaine. Other results of continued cocaine use may include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Bizarre behavioral changes and other psychological problems
  • Drying out and ulceration of the nasal passages
  • Bowel gangrene because of reduced blood flow
  • Weight loss and malnutrition

Mixing drugs
Adults also mix cocaine with other drugs, such as heroin, to make a “speedball.” They drink alcohol when coming down from cocaine, sometimes believing that this enhances sexual drive. Mixing alcohol with cocaine is the most common cause of drug-related death.

Cocaine abuse during pregnancy
Although the exact effects of cocaine on a fetus are not known, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there may be significant learning, processing and focusing deficits in some children whose mother used while they were in utero.

Why is cocaine so addictive?
Cocaine is an addictive drug whether it is taken orally, intravenously or by smoking or snorting. Long-term effects or large doses can result in paranoia and depression if the drug use is stopped. Cocaine addiction can cause cravings long after its last use. The effects on the brain are insidious because cocaine compromises the brain’s dopamine reward system. It no longer responds to natural rewards, but rather creates even more cravings for the drug. Since tolerance is developed with repeated use, higher or more frequent doses are needed in order to derive pleasure.

Cocaine addiction, like other substance abuse, is a complex neurobiological disease. Recovery from cocaine addiction is a sustained process that includes detox and stability, as well as holistic rehab that addresses all aspects of one’s health: psychological, mental, emotional, spiritual and physical.

Many cocaine addicts in early recovery need the therapeutic support of continued treatment. Transitional sober living may be recommended, and participation in 12-Step groups such as Cocaine Anonymous offers support.