Cocaine addiction follows a path that begins with tolerance, then dependence, and finally full blown addiction. Tolerance is the process where the same amount of drug doesn’t quite give the same pleasure or euphoria that it used to. This leads to increasing the dosage to reach a better high.
Dependence begins to occur when the brain has become used to getting the drug. Without using cocaine, users become moody and depressed. Fatigue is a common symptom and many users will resort to sleeping medications to recover from bouts of heavy use.
Physical dependence means the neurological pathways in the brain have changed in response to repeated dosing and ordinary levels of these reward/pleasure neurotransmitters are not enough to give the normal uplifting mood.
Addiction has all of the symptoms above, but is marked by a strong craving. The craving can be so strong that addicts will risk criminal behavior, job loss, and valued relationships – all in service of getting cocaine.
No longer is drug use simply a hobby or something to do on the weekend. Rather, it has become a main concern in daily life. Addicts find themselves thinking about using, planning how to get their next high and anxious when immediate supplies run out.
The physical symptoms of chronic cocaine use are:
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- This can result from a lack of interest in food, which no longer gives pleasure. Other affects of cocaine, such as losing one’s sense of smell and difficulty swallowing may increase this effect.
- Nasal deterioration
- This leads to a constantly runny nose (cocaine drip) and possible gastrointestinal effects from cocaine laden fluids that leak down into the esophagus. Gangrene of the esophagus has been reported because of vasoconstriction caused by cocaine use.
- Rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure
- This will happen with each dose and over time can lead to serious cardiac consequences and the possibility of stroke.
- Mental disorders
- These include paranoia, anxiety, depression, and hallucinations.
- Sociological Effects
- Perhaps more important are the sociological effects – job loss because of increased absenteeism (both from binging and then recovery), marital and relationship problems, and financial distress. Significant others will notice the personality changes that come with increased paranoia and irritability. Along with these, arrest and criminal charges for possession or distribution may finally expose the addiction for what it is.