How Addictive is Cocaine?

Cocaine: A Recreational Drug

In today’s world cocaine is often referred to as a recreational drug. It is mainly a white or rather off-white coloured crystalline powdery substance and sometimes also chunky in nature. But how real is the problem with this drug and exactly how addictive is cocaine? The answer to this question lies mostly in the hands of the sellers. Cocaine in most of the cases is contaminated or adulterated for the sellers to make more profit. And for that they add substances like lidocaine which acts as a local anaesthetic, as well as other substances like lactose, mannitol and inositol. For all such adulterations addicts are still snorting, smoking or injecting cocaine without even realizing the lethal ingredients that may be inside.

So, how addictive is cocaine? The answer to this question also lies in the fact that how it is taken in by the addict. One more common name to this drug is ‘Crack’ because when cocaine is heated, a crackling sound comes out of the mixture. The mixture is mainly heated to remove the hydrochloride part from the mixture which is done by first mixing it with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate and water and then heating it.

Smokers of this drug inhale large doses which cause the same effect in the body which had been caused if the person has injected it. But the feelings of smoking crack are lived for a short period of time.


Effects of Cocaine Dependence

How addictive is cocaine, this question can be answered after we analyse its effects. The ones who have been high through cocaine, go through a condition known as paranoia, a state of severe paranoid psychosis, which gets extreme as the level of addiction increases. During such a temporary state the person loses all connections with reality and he starts hearing sounds which are not real. Heart attacks and strokes are common to all cocaine users regardless of the frequency of intake of cocaine. Those who ingest cocaine through their mouth often suffer from ulcers in the lining of their stomach. As the blood flow decreases the tissues in the bowel regions the chances of death are also high. Deaths often occur due to cardiac arrest after the person stops respiring. How much addictive is cocaine can be coined with by analysing its consequences which are as follows:

  • HIV and other diseases that are caused when the same syringe is used by one or more persons for injecting cocaine.

  • Problems in the nervous system which can cause stroke.

  • Problems in digestion.

  • Allergic reactions in the body.

  • Cardiac arrests are mostly common.

  • Skin infections.

  • More: Effects of Cocaine



The euphoric effects that cocaine have on people also portrays how addictive is cocaine. The effects are as follows:

  • It increases the release of dopamine artificially.

  • The brain’s nerve cells cannot reabsorb the dopamine normally under the effect of cocaine.


Mechanism of Craving in Addiction to Cocaine

According to the research that was published in June 2006, in The Journal of Neuroscience, it was found that drug abuse and frequent consumption of drugs increases the amount of dopamine which increases the drug seeking behaviour of the addict. An experiment was conducted to test whether dopamine increase occurs due to conditioned stimuli in the selected subjects who were addicts and whether it is associated with craving for drug. Eighteen such cocaine addicted persons were taken as subjects for this experiment. To test the subjects [11C]raclopride and positron emission tomography were used and the observations were made by comparing the binding of [11C]raclopride when the subjects were made to watch two different videos one containing nature scenes and the other was a video related to smoking cocaine. Results proved that in the dorsal striatum of our brain, dopamine is a fundamental component for addiction and craving and the addicts who had the highest measures of symptoms of withdrawal had the highest changes in the dopamine in the dorsal striatum of the brain.
The results also showed that cocaine addicts who had watched the video showing cocaine use where also expereincing higher levels of craving than the addicts who were watching a neutral video. (see graph below)

How Addictive is Cocaine
Graph showing craving measures before (pre) and after (post) presentation of the neutral and the cocaine videos.
So overall, cocaine addicts can experience more rapid drops of dopamine when the drug is withdrawn for a period of time, and the levels of craving can heighten when an addict is exposed to an environment of cocaine use, which clearly explains the highly addictive nature of the drug and why addicts revert back to the drug habit so quickly. Any cocaine addict looking to quit cocaine should first start clearing all drug related objects that were used during their past addiction, and also avoid meeting those friends who they took cocaine with.

How Addictive is cocaine was also portrayed from another experiment which was conducted by Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D. from University of Texas South-western Medical Centre in 2005. This study saw: ΔFosB, which like dopamine is also a pace-setting chemical that is naturally found within the brain which is known to trigger addictions. ΔFosB staying at the original cell where it is generated, it stimulates some of the specific genes unlike dopamine that affects the neighbouring cells also. The research team of the author hypothesized that independent of cocaine’s effect on our brain, and found that if the level of ΔFosB increases, then so does its addictiveness. So ΔFosB  does play a big part within the brain that can trigger addictions. The tests were done on mice by varying the level of ΔFosB and it was concluded that if the same experiment would have been done on humans it could have the same results.

Thus from the above two studies we can see that how addictive cocaine is and how much it can affect our brain and.
Overall, cocaine is known to be a highly addictive drug which can lead us slowly towards death. Studies have shown that it can have strong addictive pulls due to its effect on the addictive triggers within the brain, so it can be very difficult for an addict to give-up the habit with ease. In such situations, one should seek help from rehab clinics which are local to them, and try some of our cocaine quitting techniques.

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The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction –  Science and Practice Perspectives Journal – 2005 – by Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D.

Cocaine Cues and Dopamine in Dorsal Striatum – The Journal of Neuroscience – June 2006 – by Nora D. Volkow, Gene-Jack Wang, Frank Telang, Joanna S. Fowler, Jean Logan, Anna-Rose Childress, Millard Jayne, Yeming Ma, and Christopher Wong


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