Cocaine is a stimulant known for its potential to trigger diagnosable symptoms of drug abuse or drug addiction, as well as for its potential to produce sudden, unpredictable and potentially fatal changes in short-term health. Some people tend to decrease their cocaine use over time, while others maintain or increase their level of use.
In a study published in June 2014 in the journal Addiction, researchers from five Spanish institutions assessed the likelihood that any given young adult will increase or decrease his or her cocaine intake. They also examined the underlying factors that increase the odds that a young adult will keep using the drug.
Cocaine Abuse And Addiction
Estimates from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that 1.6 million Americans use cocaine in the average month. This number equals roughly 0.6 percent of all people age 12 or older. The intake of cocaine and other illegal drugs spikes among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.
Since cocaine has only very limited potential as a legitimate medication, nearly all who take the drug technically qualify as substance abusers. However, the official diagnosis of cocaine abuse requires the presence of certain symptoms that indicate serious life disruption stemming from intake of the drug.
Cocaine addicts have undergone long-term changes in brain function that set the stage for physical dependence; they also experience additional physical and behavioral symptoms of serious, cocaine-related life disruption. As a rule, any given person’s chances of developing physical dependence and addiction increase the longer he or she uses cocaine.
Under guidelines now in common use, both diagnosable cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction form part of a more comprehensive diagnosis called stimulant use disorder. This diagnosis also includes abuse/addiction issues related to the well-known stimulants amphetamine and methamphetamine.
Additional Health Risks Of Cocaine
People who consume cocaine in large amounts either once or repeatedly over time can experience mental health consequences that include paranoia, panic attacks, generally unpredictable behavior, outbursts of violence and the highly debilitating combination of hallucinations and delusional thinking known as psychosis.
Serious potential physical consequences of cocaine use include convulsions, heart attacks, nerve damage, strokes and coma. In addition, both experienced and inexperienced users of the drug can die with little or no warning.
Whether a cocaine user dies suddenly or in other circumstances, the most frequent pathway to death is convulsions or stoppage of the heart (i.e., cardiac arrest) and a subsequent stoppage of lung function. Some people also die as a result of a cocaine allergy or an allergic reaction to impurities contained in cocaine.
Which People Keep Using Cocaine?
In the study published in Addiction, the Spanish researchers examined the patterns of cocaine intake in 720 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 who used the drug regularly. This examination included measurements of how much cocaine each study participant used per day and per week during a 24-month time frame, assessments of whether cocaine intake changed significantly during this same period of time and assessments of each participant’s level of involvement in alcohol use and the intake of other mind-altering substances. None of the study participants was receiving treatment for his or her cocaine use or any other form of substance use.
The researchers found that the average weekly cocaine intake among the study participants was 2.14 grams (0.08 ounces) during the 24 months under consideration. Roughly 72 percent of the participants decreased their level of cocaine consumption substantially over the course of the study, while roughly 14 percent increased their consumption. The remaining participants experienced no substantial change in their intake.
Factors That Increase Cocaine Use
The researchers concluded that several factors boost the chances that any given young adult will increase his or her intake of the drug. These factors include:
- Participating in brief episodes of heavy cocaine use (i.e., cocaine binges)
- Frequent use of the drug in a residential environment
- Increasing the intake of other types of mind-altering drugs
- Consuming large amounts of alcohol
- Having a relatively low level of educational achievement
The study’s authors specifically cite the role of excessive drinking and increasing use of other drugs in making it more likely that any given young-adult cocaine user will not lower his or her typical level of consumption.
If You Or Someone You Love Is Struggling With Cocaine Abuse Or Any Other Substance Abuse
Call Us Now – Help Is Available!