Undeniable Signs of Cocaine Use
As one of the most powerful stimulant drugs on the market, cocaine has seen a long and varied history of uses. Initially used for medicinal purposes as an anesthetic, cocaine soon became a household drug during the late 1800s, eventually appearing in many wines and well-known products, such as Coca-Cola.
According to the University of Maryland, it wasn’t until the early 1900s when cocaine was banned as an illicit substance in response to the widespread recreational use of the drug. Today, cocaine belongs to the Schedule II class of narcotics, all of which carry a high addiction potential, but still offer certain medicinal benefits.
Anyone who’s used cocaine for any length of time will likely start showing signs of cocaine use. This drug works aggressively, targeting essential brain and central nervous system processes. Over time, signs of cocaine use start to take shape within a person’s overall physical and psychological functioning.
The ongoing use of this drug leaves users at a diminished capacity to the point where definite health risks start to develop. Ultimately, undeniable signs of cocaine use should be taken as warning signs of a serious addiction problem.
Cocaine Effects on Brain Activity
Signs of cocaine use develop out of the drug’s effects on brain chemical activities. With each dose, cocaine triggers the release and accumulation of dopamine neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain.
Dopamine, a key chemical involved in the brain’s reward system functions, helps regulate:
- Pain and pleasure sensations
- Movement and coordination
- Cognition and behavior
- Mood state
- Sleep cycles
It’s role in reward system functions accounts for the drug’s high abuse and addiction potential. With frequent use, cocaine starts to warp the brain’s chemical pathways and eventually skew reward system functions. Once the reward system is affected, signs of cocaine use become plainly apparent.
Signs of Cocaine Use
Short-term signs of cocaine use can vary from person-to-person. The method of use also has a bearing on how the drug affects the body.
Cocaine can be smoked and snorted, with smoking delivering the quickest and most intense “high.” The more intense the high the greater the abuse potential, so smoking carries the greatest risk of abuse and addiction.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, short-term signs of cocaine use may take the form of:
- Enlarged pupils
- Surge in energy levels
- Increase in body temperature
- Rapid heart and breathing rates
When ingesting large amounts at a time, signs of cocaine use increase in severity to the point of bringing on dangerous effects, including:
- Panic attack
These changes aptly reflect the degree of force cocaine exerts on brain functions, and over time can cause widespread damage to brain cells as well as central nervous system functions.
Signs of Withdrawal
Withdrawal signs of cocaine use gradually take shape as the brain’s tolerance level for the drug starts to rise. Tolerance levels increase in line with the degree of damage caused to brain cells.
In effect, cocaine acts on individual brain cell sites, forcing the release of large amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter chemicals. These interactions take a toll on cell functions with repeated drug use leaving cells unable to secrete the amount of dopamine needed to produce cocaine’s desired effects.
In the process, cells lose their ability to produce the chemical amounts needed for normal bodily functioning. When this happens, withdrawal effects start to surface.
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, withdrawal effects may include:
- Depressed mood state
- Bizarre dreams
- Overall state of malaise or discontent
With continued drug use, withdrawal signs of cocaine use will increase in severity and frequency.
Cocaine effects on neurotransmitter levels inevitably cause chemical imbalances to form in the brain. These imbalances offset a person’s ability to think logically and warp his or her emotional and behavioral perceptions of self and others.
Paranoia-based signs of cocaine use may well be precursors to full-blown psychological disorders, especially in cases of chronic, long-term drug use. Over time, it’s not uncommon for users to display symptoms of psychosis that can persist for hours, days or even weeks at a time.
Other paranoia-based signs of cocaine use include:
- Distrustful of other’s intentions
- Feelings of rage and/or hatred
- Antagonistic behaviors towards others
Violent Behavior Displays
As a powerful stimulant drug, cocaine can all but “fry” communication circuits throughout the brain. This constant overstimulation of chemical pathways distorts communications between brain regions.
As one of the most noticeable signs of cocaine use, violent behavior displays develop in response to the psychological dysfunction that continues to thrive in the face of worsening brain chemical imbalances. This sign of cocaine use accounts for much of the criminal behavior carried out by addicts, especially in cases of crack addiction.
Chronic cocaine users quickly develop high tolerance levels for the drug, requiring massive doses to bring on the drug’s desired effects. Large dosage amounts can cause widespread disruptions within the body’s autonomic nervous system causing:
- Severe fluctuations in blood pressure
- Changes in heart rate
- Profuse sweating
These effects create prime conditions for delirium to take hold. As one of the more serious signs of cocaine use, delirium states can be potentially fatal bringing on the following symptoms:
- Agitated behaviors
- Bizarre behaviors
Signs of Cocaine Dependence
While any one of the above signs of cocaine use may well indicate a drug problem, a person need only exhibit three out of the following seven signs of cocaine use for a full-blown cocaine dependence to exist:
- Rapid tolerance level increases
- Withdrawal episodes
- Inability to control intake amounts
- Inability to stop or cut back on drug use
- Disregard for negative consequences of drug use
- Impaired functional capacity, especially at the workplace
- Investing increasing amounts of time in getting and using drugs
Undeniable signs of cocaine use are easy to spot, simply because of how this drug commandeers essential brain and body functions, according to the Journal of the Association of Medicine & Psychiatry. Not surprisingly, cocaine addictions can develop fairly quickly leaving users hopelessly dependent on the drug’s effects to cope with daily life.