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Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that comes from the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine has anesthetic properties that make it useful for some medical purposes, but, the majority of cocaine is used for its ability to produce euphoria and elevate moods and energy.
Cocaine is usually snorted, injected, or smoked to produce a rapid and intense high that can last for minutes or hours depending on the dose, potency, individual, and methods of use. It is highly addictive and most users end up craving more of the drug long before the dosage effects wear off seeking more of the drug to the detriment of themselves and others.
There are many signs of cocaine abuse stemming from the person’s behaviors, appearance, health, use, and environment and the following are 10 signs of cocaine abuse you can’t ignore:
1. Extreme Weight Loss
Cocaine is an appetite suppressant and abusers not only avoid eating while they are intoxicated, but, they have difficulty maintaining healthy eating habits as the abuse progresses. They tend to develop nutritional deficiencies and increased deterioration in their health the longer they abuse the drug. Since cocaine abusers often binge on cocaine until supplies or finances run out or they become totally exhausted, the risk of compromised health is significant.
Cocaine makes abusers hyperactive and talkative while they are high, but, prolonged over-stimulation of the central nervous system can have major neurological effects that can be long lasting or permanent.
3. Fast Heart Rate and Rapid Pulse
Cocaine overdoses are often a result of cardiovascular problems and a fast heart rate can damage the heart valves and linings. Cocaine constrict blood vessels while at the same time, raises blood pressure which can cause circulatory system failures, decreases in oxygen levels, ruptures or bleeding in the brain, seizures, coma, heart failure, and damage to other vital organs, resulting in long-term impairments or death.
4. Frequent Runny Nose or Nose Bleeds
These symptoms are signs of cocaine snorting that can damage the intranasal cavity and cause a number of adverse consequences. According to the SAMHSA,” Nasal insufflation is associated with sinusitis, loss of sense of smell, congestion, atrophy of nasal mucosa, nosebleeds, perforation or necrosis of the nasal septum, hoarseness, and problems with swallowing.” Long term abusers have an increased risk of perforated septum (hole in the nasal wall between the two nostrils) or a deviated septum (one nostril is wider than the other because septum becomes misaligned).
5. Emotional Instability
Anxiety, unexplainable moods swings, aggression, depression, suicidal tendencies, and frequent outbursts of anger are common signs of cocaine abuse. Ups and downs, the nerves and emotions of a cocaine abuser become progressively more unstable the more cocaine they use and the longer the durations. Cocaine intoxication causes a disruption of communications between the brain and central nervous system and the accumulation of problematic neurological malfunctions become like faulty wiring in an electrical system, you never know when the person will lose control.
6. Track Marks, Needle Marks, and Bruises on Arms or Legs
These are signs of IV use that you can’t ignore. The person’s life is at risk. According to the SAMHSA, “Intravenous users frequently develop illnesses associated with the preparation of drugs for use (i.e., mixing/making) and the use or sharing of unsterile needles, including HIV infection, hepatitis, tuberculosis, lung infections and pneumonia, bacterial or viral endocarditis, cellulitis, wound abscesses, sepsis, thrombosis, renal infarction, and thrombophlebitis.”
Many cocaine abusers share needles, straws, rolled up dollar bills, pipes, or stems which can also spread bacteria, infections, and diseases.
7. Isolation from Family or Loved Ones
Cocaine abusers will try to hide their abuse to avoid confrontational issues with family or others who would discourage abuse. They may also isolate themselves during the lows that hit after a binge and while going through withdrawals. Depression, loss of interest, guilt, and excessive stress can all be reasons that a cocaine abuser ignores the people they love.
8. Changes in Associations
Like isolation from family and loved ones, cocaine abusers will develop associations outside of their normal routines. They do this not only to enjoy the social activities and engagement with others using cocaine, but, also to keep up with the access to suppliers and dealers.
9. Erratic Behaviors
According to the NIDA “Repeated abuse of some stimulants (sometimes within a short period) can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia, even psychosis.” Psychosis can include paranoia, auditory or visual hallucinations, obsessive or compulsive activities, and tactile hallucinations known as “coke bugs” or the perceived conclusion that bugs are crawling under the skin. Picking at the skin, face, or plucking hairs is another sign of cocaine abuse that you can’t ignore as the mutilation damage the person’s appearance.
According to the SAMHSA “chronic, high-dose stimulant users may also become sensitized to the drug, a unique phenomenon…After one psychotic episode is experienced following chronic, high-dose use, a lower minimal dose of cocaine or MA may induce another psychotic episode, with more rapid onset following drug intake and a longer duration than the initial psychosis.”
10. Cognitive Changes
Cognitive changes in cocaine abusers are often quite negative. The person may begin to suffer memory loss, lose their inhibitions and engage in dangerous activities such as crimes to get more drugs, or unprotected sex. Poor concentration, flight of ideas, shifts in focus, and disoriented thinking patterns can lead to problems in school, at work, or communicating in relationships. Cocaine abusers often suffer added senses of guilt, shame, or stress that become “triggers” to use more cocaine as a way of avoiding the negative consequences.