Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows in South America. It is a type of drug called a stimulant, which means it increases alertness and energy. Cocaine can be inhaled through the nose in powder form ("snorting"), injected into a vein, or smoked. Crack, a less expensive form of cocaine that is smoked, has made cocaine abuse a widespread problem.
Cocaine abuse and dependence are patterns of using drugs that lead to serious personal, family and health problems. Abuse is when your child keeps taking cocaine even though it causes a problem such as:
If your child continues to abuse cocaine, he can become dependent. When your child is dependent on cocaine, he:
Dependence is also called addiction. Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs. If your child uses cocaine a few times, he can become dependent.
The brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Cocaine changes the balance of these chemicals in your child’s brain. When he uses cocaine regularly, his brain starts to get used to it. As a result, your child doesn't feel right unless he uses cocaine. When he stops using cocaine suddenly, the balance of chemicals in his brain changes, which causes the symptoms of withdrawal.
Your child has a higher risk of becoming dependent on drugs if he:
The symptoms of cocaine abuse or dependence depend on how much and how often your child uses cocaine. The symptoms can be mild to severe, such as:
If your child snorts cocaine, your child may have:
If your child smokes cocaine, your child may have symptoms of a lung infection, such as a cough or mucus in his lungs.
Your child may also have symptoms of new or worse health problems caused by cocaine use. Health problems caused by cocaine include heart problems, seizures, or a stroke.
The symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can be mild to severe. Your child may have some of these symptoms when he stops taking cocaine:
The feelings that your child gets from cocaine only last a short time. This causes your child to crave more cocaine to get the feelings back. Your child may binge, which means your child take large amounts of cocaine for several days. The binge is followed be a "crash," where your child feels very sad and depressed. Then your child starts all over again. This pattern of cocaine use can lead to an overdose. A cocaine overdose can be life threatening.
Pregnant girls using cocaine are at high risk of having a miscarriage. Babies born to cocaine-dependent mothers are addicted at birth. The baby will be jittery and will not respond well to people. Cocaine dependent babies have to go through the painful process of withdrawal.
Your healthcare provider will ask how much and how often your child uses cocaine. Your child needs to be honest about his drug use. Your provider needs this information to give your child the right treatment. He or she will also ask about your child’s symptoms, medical history and give your child a physical exam. Your child may have blood or urine tests.
Cocaine abuse and dependence can be treated. For any treatment to be successful, your child must want to stop using cocaine. When your child stops using cocaine, his or her healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help get through withdrawal symptoms. Your child should not use alcohol and other drugs to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
If your child is abusing or dependent on cocaine and wants to quit, get help.
Self-help groups such as Cocaine Anonymous, support groups, and therapy may be helpful. Your child might be treated in a substance abuse treatment program. Your child’s healthcare providers and counselors will work with you and your child to develop a treatment program. If this therapy does not work, your child may need treatment in a hospital or a treatment center. Your child may need to stay for several weeks, or your child may be able to go in each day.
Recovery from dependence is a long-term process. Follow-up treatment is very important so that your child doesn’t go back to abusing drugs.
If your child has overdosed, or is having severe withdrawal symptoms he will need to be treated in a hospital. He will also be treated for any health problems such as a heart attack or stroke, or other life-threatening problems.
You can help prevent cocaine abuse if you:
People and resources in your community that can help include your healthcare providers, therapists, support groups, mental health centers, and alcohol or substance abuse treatment programs. You may want to contact: