This central nervous system stimulant remains one of the most popular drugs of abuse in the United States. Its euphoric, energizing effects are not only seductive, but also highly addictive. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that nearly 640,000 American adults tried cocaine for the first time in that year, an average of almost 2,000 per day. Over 1 million Americans met the criteria for dependence on cocaine that same year. Crack cocaine, a more potent form of the drug, is between 75 and 100 percent more powerful than the powdered form, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Crack is highly addictive, causing changes in brain chemistry that quickly lead to compulsive abuse and dependence.
Cocaine is often viewed as an elite drug, associated with movie stars, models, and other celebrities; however, the destructive consequences of cocaine addiction are anything but glamorous. Produced from the leaves of the South American coca plant, cocaine can be snorted as a powder, or diluted with liquid and injected into the bloodstream. In the form of crack, cocaine can be smoked for an intensified rush of energy. As a central nervous system stimulant, cocaine accelerates the activities of the brain, nerves, and heart, putting even healthy users at risk of heart attack or stroke.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for motivation and reward, and therefore it is a crucial neurotransmitter related to addiction. Drug abuse causes the release of surges of dopamine, and these in turn produce feelings of euphoria, followed by cravings, major reinforcement of the same behaviors, and compulsions to repeat whatever behavior produced the surge.
This is an ongoing debate in the medical community, but it is generally agreed that there is no one cause for the development of addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, contributing factors may include a genetic predisposition to develop addictive tendencies, an environment that is permissive of drug abuse, access to illicit substances, and certain developmental issues. The existence of a Dual Diagnosis is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of addiction. Heroin Withdrawal | First Week In