Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. Users take it for its mood-enhancing and euphoric effects. A person can become addicted to cocaine after only one use because it is so addictive. Signs of cocaine addiction include cravings, weight loss, paranoia, lying or stealing money to get more cocaine, and failing to uphold responsibilities.
Cocaine affects dopamine, a natural chemical your brain makes, and essentially hijacks your body’s reward center. A person with a substance use disorder sees cocaine as a reward, which makes the brain want more.
It has become more common for dealers and manufacturers to “cut” the drug with chemical agents due to a number of reasons. For one, cocaine is a very expensive drug and by adding in another substance, they can make it look like the user is getting more than they really are. Another reason they do this can be to intensify the high so the user will become hooked more quickly, driving them to purchase more in a shorter time-frame.
Where Cocaine Comes From
Cocaine is made from leaves harvested from the coca plant, which is indigenous to South America. It has a number of alkaloid compounds and has been a staple of Andean life for thousands of years. Miners and others who work in the Andes chew on the leaves to help them cope with the altitude.
One of the alkaloids found in the coca leaf is cocaine, which is a stimulant. Cocaine is extracted and sold in many forms. The most common forms are a white powder as well as a crystalline form that is referred to as “crack” cocaine. Users of these substances consume them by snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug into their bodies.
The Effects of Cocaine Consumption
Cocaine creates a feeling of euphoria in users and also energizes them. In the Andes, a typical user of coca leaves might consume about 4 mgs of alkaloids during a week. However, a typical user of cocaine can consume up to 50 mgs in a session, and those using crack can consume even more. This can lead to blood concentrations that are 50 times greater for users of powder forms of cocaine versus for those who chew the leaves.
People using cocaine or crack will experience a brief period of euphoria. During this “high,” they will feel exhilarated and energized. They may be more talkative and mentally alert. They might discover it’s easier for them to perform both mental and physical tasks, and they may find that cocaine use decreases their need for food and sleep. Some users also report feeling more sensitive to sensory inputs such as light or sound.
Unfortunately, this “high” seldom lasts for more than an hour, and when it’s over, users experience a deep “low.” Users find themselves craving the “high” again and will often seek more cocaine. For this reason, cocaine is extremely addictive and is classified as a Schedule II narcotic by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
In addition to the perceived effects of the drug on users, there are also physiological effects such as dilated pupils and increased blood pressure. As users seek ever larger doses of the drug, they may start to exhibit erratic and even violent behavior. Many users of cocaine report feeling paranoid, restless, irritable, or anxious. There may also be physical ramifications such as vertigo and tremors.
Tampering With or “Cutting” Cocaine
Dealers often “cut” cocaine and crack with other substances, adding to the potential for adverse side effects . These impurities can often create health hazards separate from any that are intrinsic to cocaine itself.
Because cocaine and crack are illicit drugs, there is no government oversight ensuring the purity of the product. Consumers take a risk every time they buy these drugs for recreational use. They can only hope that the vendor is selling them a pure product as advertised.
One obvious reason for cutting cocaine is that by substituting some volume of the drug with cheaper substances, dealers can increase their profits. Therefore, those who sell drugs have a vested interest in tampering with the product.
Another reason to cut cocaine seems counterintuitive. Some dealers will add substances that actually increase the high that the user will experience. However, they will typically only do this for new customers to get them more firmly hooked on the product.
Another less egregious motivation for cutting cocaine is to actually make the powder flow better, making it easier to use. Some cutting agents will change the texture of the drug, for example, which will make it easier to inhale. Since cocaine will often pass through many hands before getting to the end-user, many types of substances may be added to the product that is ultimately consumed.
When cocaine is synthesized from coca leaves, it coalesces in the form of a salt. A solvent is added to neutralize it, which turns it into the white powder that people are familiar with from popular culture references such as movies.
When additives are introduced, they change the qualities of the powder. While some may seem convenient to the user by making it flow better, for example, other additives have toxic effects. Many will change the color of the powder so that it takes on a pale hue. These additives are often the culprit in cocaine deaths.
Common Additives Used to Cut Cocaine
Some of the common substances that are added to cocaine to “stretch” its volume include:
- Laundry detergent
- Baking soda
- Meat tenderizer
- Boric acid
- Levamisole (a cattle dewormer)
- Talcum powder
Some additives that are added when the dealer wants to increase the intensity of the “high” experienced by the user include:
- Benzocaine and Lidocaine (pain relief medications)
- Procaine (a local anesthetic)
The addition of numbing agents to cocaine help numb the nasal passages for users, thus giving them a feeling of less irritation.
One alarming trend has been the addition of fentanyl to lace cocaine as well as other drugs. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine; however, it is up to 100 times more potent. Normally used to help patients manage severe pain after surgery, dealers add it to cocaine either purposefully to create a “speedball” or accidentally. According to the DEA, the mixture of cocaine and fentanyl has led to a series of deaths over the last few years.
Levamisole is another dangerous substance added to cocaine. It is normally used to deworm cattle. While doctors formerly used it to treat people for parasites, it was discontinued as it severely depletes white blood cells. By 2011, it was discovered that almost three-quarters of all cocaine tested by the DEA contained levamisole.
Because of this, frequent cocaine users might find themselves increasingly susceptible to infections. Even a small scratch may prove fatal for some victims.
Even with additives that don’t seem dangerous on the surface, the fact is that many of them are. For example, laundry detergent, which is one of the more commonly used additives, contains many chemicals that can be toxic if ingested.
Even relatively benign additives such as caffeine can cause problems if they are inhaled, as they might burn the tender lining of the nasal passages. Additionally, the effects that pain killers, for example, have on the body when taken in this manner might be quite different than the effects when consumed orally as intended. Another factor to be aware of is that even substances that are not dangerous in small quantities may build up over time and create problems for the user’s heart, brain, or liver.
Other Forms of Cocaine
Dealers not only cut cocaine to better “hook” customers or to make more money from a certain volume of product, but they also alter its form in other ways. For example, some dealers may sell “freebase cocaine.” Freebasing increases the potency of cocaine by altering its structure. Users cannot heat or smoke cocaine in its normal form. However, once it is freebased, users can smoke it, which allows for a more potent delivery system.
Originally, ether was used in the process. This allowed users to heat the freebase and inhale the vapors. However, because ether is a highly flammable liquid, this often resulted in accidents. Additionally, the ether could often cause burns in peoples’ nasal passages.
Crack cocaine, which is another common form of the drug, uses baking soda instead of ether to produce crystalline rocks that can be heated. In making crack, dealers might cut it with additives such as powdered sugar to make it cheaper to produce.
Even in its purest form, cocaine can be dangerous. Given that most of the drug that is obtained by users has been laced with additives, the potential dangers are magnified.
Cocaine addiction is a serious issue. According to a national survey on drug use conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 670,000 people over the age of 12 used cocaine for the first time in 2019. This is a serious finding as cocaine is extremely addictive.
Treatment Options for Cocaine
Fortunately, there are treatment options for those struggling with cocaine addiction. At Granite Recovery Centers, our New Hampshire-based addiction treatment center offers the latest in both holistic and allopathic treatment options. Evidence-based clinical disciplines are combined with a comprehensive curriculum based on the 12-step model, a system that has proven effective.
The treatment program includes options for medical detox, medication-assisted therapies, primary residential treatment, and intensive outpatient counseling, as well as extended care and sober-living assistance. There is a growing community of former addicts who believe that these treatment centers have helped them get their lives back.
For those who need help, the first step may be to acknowledge that addiction is not simply a matter of substance use, but that addiction has emotional, mental, social, and spiritual components as well. The causes of addiction are multi-faceted. Perhaps the user is struggling to cope with chronic physical or emotional pain. There may also be a childhood trauma that is the root cause of the addiction or ongoing issues with anxiety. Often, a job loss, divorce, or a personal health crisis can be the trigger that leads to addiction.
In many cases, addicts genuinely feel that their drug of choice is helping them fix the problem. They need to understand that this is not true and that drug addiction actually makes problems worse.
Once the addict comes to this realization, then true healing can commence. By working with the trained and compassionate professionals at Granite Recovery Centers, patients will have the support system they need to conquer their addiction. Seeking professional help increases the likelihood of success when it comes to dealing with addictions, particularly to a drug as addictive as cocaine.
More Options for Treatment
One important facet of treatment is the ability to have a medically supervised detox program. Clients often face serious withdrawal symptoms. To help facilitate a safe detox, Granite Recovery Centers offers an on-site facility where medical professionals compassionately supervise and care for clients. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.
There are also inpatient and outpatient treatment options for clients. Residential treatment provides for 24-hour care and support. Treatment is holistic and deals not just with the physical component of addiction but also with the emotional, mental, social, and spiritual aspects.
Clients have a range of therapies that they can try, including participation in group and individual therapy sessions along with skill-building sessions, clinical psychotherapy, and holistic mind-body therapies. All of this takes place in a beautiful and safe setting.
Outpatient treatment options are also provided; they may be more suitable for those with a supportive home environment. Finally, ongoing care and support are provided by extended-care programs.
It can be extremely challenging addiction to overcome cocaine addiction. However, you or your loved can do it. The important thing is that clients know they are not alone. They have the individualized care and support system they need to recover, grow, and thrive. For treatment options, contact our team at Granite Recovery Centers. Our dedicated team of Admissions Specialists is available 24/7 at 855.712.7784.