In common usage, the terms “drug dependence” and “drug addiction” are often used interchangeably. However, from a physiological standpoint, there is very much a difference between each of these conditions. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, the hallmarks of addiction include:
- Compulsive use, despite knowledge of harmful effects
- Social repercussions such as failing to meet work and personal obligations
- Development of physical tolerance (a biological process the users cannot control)
- Upon stopping use or significantly reducing the regular amount of consumption, suffering withdrawal symptoms
Physical dependence is a part of addiction; however, physical dependence alone may not amount to addiction. For instance, there are many Americans who, post-injury, are treated with pain addiction medications (opioids) and become physically dependent on these prescription drugs without becoming addicted to them (though some do).The distinction between dependence and addiction may be difficult for a non-medical profession or addiction specialist to discern. However, one thing is clear in the case of cocaine – it is a highly addictive drug and physical dependence can easily slip into addiction territory with continued use.
Statistics on Cocaine Use
As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) discusses, cocaine was considered the “it” drug of the 1980s and 1990s. Then and now, cocaine’s popularity owes in part to the fact that it acts quickly on the brain. For this reason, the drug suits the high-energy lifestyle and party scene with which it is most often associated. Although the popularity of this highly addictive stimulant drug has waned, it remains a powerful adversary on the enemy side of the war on drugs.
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that in 2013, there were 1.5 million cocaine users aged 12 and older in the month prior to the survey (that’s 0.6 percent of the population). This rate was similar to 2009 and 2012 rates, which ranged from 1.4 million to 1.7 million (0.5 to 0.7 percent of the population aged 12 and older). The good news is that the 2013 rates were actually lower than those of 2002 through 2007, which ranged from 2 to 2.4 million (or 0.8 to one percent of the population aged 12 and older).
However, cocaine continues to recruit new users. According to the survey, 601,000 Americans had their first cocaine experience in the past year, which was similar to the findings for the survey years covering 2008 to 2012. The number of newcomers for the 2013 survey year was lower than the period from 2002 through 2007.
It is always advisable to seek medical counsel for dependence or addiction conditions. In addition to their training, medical professionals utilize a comprehensive diagnostic resource known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, as a general self-diagnostic tool, a need to increase the amount of cocaine consumed to experience the euphoric effects of earlier use is a sign of physical dependence on this stimulant. Intense cravings will likely also be present, as well as obsessive thinking about procuring and using cocaine. In concrete terms, the more the desire for, and habit of, cocaine use climbs up a user’s priority list in life, the more likely it is that the user is physically dependent and heading straight into addiction.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse
From outward appearances, it may be difficult for people in the company of a person who uses cocaine to know whether the person is dependent or addicted to this drug. Cocaine is fast-acting, but it lasts a short time. Users typically “come down” from a cocaine-induced high after approximately 30 minutes. The rapid cycling nature of cocaine means that sober witnesses may be able to detect the ups and downs characteristic of its use. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse discusses, common signs that a person is under the influence of cocaine include:
- Swift uptick in mood, like the person seems to be on top of the world
- Talkativeness with an inability to attentively listen to others or maintain focus
- Shaking, twitching or highly animated movements
- Mood change from the apparent high to a depressive state (i.e., “the crash”)
In addition to these symptoms, the user may also be experience an increase in body temperature, and mental discomfort including anxiety, irritability, anger and/or nervousness. In some cases, the psychological symptoms increase in intensity and a cocaine user may experience a psychotic episode.
As a research study reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry explains, in chronic cocaine users, it is common for the drug to induce a state of paranoid psychosis akin to the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. The study involved 55 participants diagnosed with cocaine dependence (per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and surveyed them as to whether they had ever experienced psychosis while under the influence.
The survey revealed that 29 of the 55 participants (53 percent) had experienced psychosis while on cocaine. In comparison to cocaine users who did not have this experience, researchers found that psychosis group had consumed significantly more cocaine and for a longer time period. Psychosis was more common among men than women. Among the psychosis-positive group, findings about the particulars of the psychosis experience include:
- 96 percent suffered hallucinations
- 90 percent had paranoid delusions
- 83 percent had auditory hallucinations
- 38 percent had visual hallucinations
- 21 percent imagined feeling an object that didn’t exist
Although cocaine use may have decreased, this highly addictive drug continues to rear its head in the dangerous derivative product known as crack. Despite aggressive anti-crack advocacy and education efforts beginning in the 1980s, according to the 2013 NSDUH, 58,000 Americans used crack for the first time in 2013, which was close in number to the survey findings covering 2009-2012, and lower than findings from survey results for 2002-2008. As the 2006 NSDUH illuminated, 8.6 million American aged 12 and older reported having used crack. Further, as the 2007 Monitoring the Future survey revealed, 3.2 percent of 12th graders had used crack at some point in their lifetime.
Although current use of cocaine has decreased compared to earlier times in its history, this drug remains a formidable threat to individual and public health. The high tendency of addictiveness only strengthens the severe cautionary warning against cocaine use and the need for treatment for those who are abusing this powerful stimulant.
Cocaine dependence and addiction can leave abusers feeling empty and alone, but no one has to be alone with this illness. At Rehab International, our team of admissions coordinators can provide you or your loved one with important information to locate the right rehab center today.