Cocaine is making a comeback, and with fentanyl in the mix, it’s deadlier than ever. From 2019 to 2021, the number of cocaine-related deaths jumped by 54%, totaling almost 25,000 people, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s roughly the population of South Salt Lake.
And the death toll continues to rise.
Cocaine is a psychoactive drug derived from coca leaves grown in South American countries such as Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. Drug cartels operating out of Colombia are primarily responsible for processing the leaves into cocaine and funneling the final product to dealers in the United States. In the last decade, Colombia has more than doubled the production of its coca crops, making the drug cheaper and more accessible than ever before.
Couple this increased supply with the fact that more and more producers are cutting synthetic opioids like fentanyl into cocaine to heighten its effectiveness and keep manufacturing costs low. You suddenly see why overdose deaths are skyrocketing.
Cocaine also packs a punch that can maim you physically and mentally, sometimes permanently, even if it doesn’t kill you. This is why we strongly believe getting connected with a qualified substance abuse center as soon as possible could save your life.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant because it boosts brain activity, increases alertness, and gives you a generally euphoric feeling. Since it is a psychoactive drug, it affects your mood, perception, behavior, and cognitive processing.
People use cocaine differently, depending on how it’s produced and their preferences. Cocaine in powder form can be breathed in through the nostrils, where it gradually moves through the nasal tissues and into the bloodstream.
Users can also dilute the powder in water and inject it directly into their veins or inhale the smoke from burning cocaine crystals, known as crack. Since injection and inhalation represent more direct methods of taking cocaine, they also elicit a faster, more intense high.
The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies cocaine as a Schedule II narcotic, meaning it’s dangerous and has a “high potential” for physical and psychiatric dependence. Schedule II narcotics include methamphetamines, oxycodone, fentanyl, and Adderall.
Many years ago, cocaine was a prescription drug used as a local anesthetic. It has since been replaced by less dangerous medications, such as lidocaine, and only in extremely rare cases do doctors still prescribe it. For the most part, cocaine possession, use, and distribution are illegal throughout the United States. In Utah, having cocaine is considered a third-degree felony and carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
How Does Cocaine Affect My Brain?
Once cocaine enters your bloodstream, it activates three neurotransmitters – dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that send messages to the rest of your body. They generally fall into one of three categories – excitatory, inhibitory, or modulatory.
Dopamine and norepinephrine (the companion hormone to adrenaline) are excitatory because they continue to pass on their messages to the next cell. Dopamine is the chemical that creates a sense of pleasure and reward. Successfully finishing a difficult task, for example, would give your brain a surge of dopamine. Norepinephrine works with adrenaline to activate the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and boosting your glucose levels to create energy.
Scientists classify serotonin, on the other hand, as inhibitory. It acts to block specific chemical messages from being transmitted. Your serotonin level determines mood, sleep patterns, the body’s healing process, and other functions.
Typically, neurotransmitters travel from one neuron to the synapse (the space between neurons) and from there to the receptors in the next neuron. Once the signal is delivered to the next neuron’s receptor, it returns to the previous neuron through transporters, where it is recycled for later use.
Cocaine interrupts this process by blocking or binding transporters, not allowing the signals to return in the cycle. The result is an accumulation of neurotransmitter signals in the synapse. The resulting chemical overload in the synapse leaves you feeling euphoric, alert, and energized.
Once the drug’s effect wears off, you tend to crash, experiencing fatigue and depression. Naturally, you will then crave more of the drug to stave off the depression and restore the feelings of euphoria. While not necessarily addicted, your mind has started to develop a psychological dependence.
At this point, it’s a good idea to seek out a drug rehab that utilizes behavioral therapies to learn ways of addressing and fighting those cravings. These can include group and individual sessions using modalities such cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance commitment therapy, or other forms of counseling.
How Does Cocaine Affect My Body?
Let’s be clear – one hit of cocaine, laced with fentanyl or any other drug, can kill you. Period. End of story. Because it’s an illegal substance, you will never know for sure exactly what’s in it. That fact alone means every time you inject, sniff, or smoke cocaine, you are playing Russian roulette with your life.
On its own, cocaine constricts your blood vessels, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. The reduced oxygen and blood flow from narrowed vessels puts you at a heightened risk for heart attack and stroke. Other short-term ailments include a runny nose or nose bleeds, a rise in body temperature, digestive problems, and malnutrition.
Over time, sniffing or snorting cocaine can cause sores and scarring in your nasal tissues and even destroy parts of your septum (the cartilage and bone inside your nose between your nostrils). Repeatedly injecting cocaine can scar and harden arteries and blood vessels, further impeding blood flow. You also expose yourself to serious diseases like HIV and hepatitis if you share needles.
Since you can become psychologically and physically addicted to cocaine after only a short time of use, it’s critical to pay attention to how your mind and body are feeling when you attempt to quit using cocaine. Any of the following withdrawal symptoms indicate you have likely developed a physical dependence on or addiction to cocaine and need supervised detoxification:
- Constant drug cravings
- Increased appetite
- Poor concentration
- Psychomotor retardation (slowness in thinking or movement)
You may think trying cocaine is worth the risk for the recreational high. We can tell you unequivocally that it’s not. The legal, mental, and physical repercussions are just too high.
If you already struggle with a cocaine addiction that you can’t shake, don’t give up. Consider checking yourself into a local drug treatment facility like Renaissance Ranch. You will discover that it’s never too late to achieve real and lasting recovery.