Cocaine is a highly addictive chemical substance that produces euphoria and increases energy. The majority of men and women who abuse cocaine smoke crack and are likely to be poly-substance abusers i.e. use more than one drug. The widespread abuse of cocaine has motivated efforts to develop treatment programs specifically for cocaine addiction. As with any drug addiction, this is a complex problem that involves biological changes in the brain as well as myriad of social, familial and other environmental problems.
The term addiction liability refers to a drug’s tendency to produce addiction. When comparing the relative addiction liability of cocaine and heroin, cocaine appears to be somewhat more addictive than heroin.
Cocaine produces its psychoactive and addictive effects primarily by acting on the brain’s limbic system, a set of interconnected regions that regulate pleasure and motivation. The drug produces the cocaine high by causing a buildup of dopamine, which results in euphoria and intense drug craving.
In all cases of habitual cocaine addiction the body builds a tolerance to the drug itself as well as the increased dopamine. Over time the cocaine addict must use larger amounts of cocaine to achieve the same intensity of effect.
Comprehensive treatment of cocaine addiction includes a plan of action with multiple treatment strategies that assesses the neurobiological, social, and medical aspects of the patient’s drug career. Moreover, patients who have a variety of addictions often have other co-occurring mental disorders that require additional behavioral or pharmacological interventions.
Those who suffer from cocaine addiction often experience severe paranoia, which is a temporary state of mistrust psychosis. In this state they lose touch with reality and experience auditory hallucinations (hearing sounds that are not real).
Regardless of the manner or frequency of use, cocaine addicts may experience heart attacks or strokes. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac conditions followed by respiratory failure.
Cocaine abusers typically experience long-term changes in the brain’s reward system and in other areas of the brain. This results in unusual or unpredictable behavior toward those around them. Many cocaine abusers become frustrated when tolerance results in a failure to get high enough. So they increase the dose, which increases the health risk of heart attack and overdose.
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