Cocaine and the risk factors for dependence
Our Australian newspapers, tabloids and magazines are full of headlines exposing a “dark force” amongst our midst – we regularly come across headlines reading “More than 480kg of meth, cocaine seized in Sydney” or “Drug epidemic has seized Sydney celebrities.” From Mathew Newton to Michael Hutchence; Heath Ledger to Altuyan Childs they have all fallen victim to cocaine but as The Daily Telegraph explains cocaine addiction is not only reserved for the rich and famous, it could just be your 40-something mum or the local pharmacist that has taken to snorting lines.
Increasingly cocaine is becoming the drug of choice for middle and upper class Australians. Whilst the local and international film stars have persistently made it look ‘cool’ on and off set, the reality of this high-functioning drug is quite different. The Australian government’s Institute of Health and Welfare ranks cocaine the fourth most used illegal drug (cannabis being the first) and that is likely to move up in the coming years.
It can be difficult to spot a regular cocaine user and its risk factors for dependence can be varied too. Whilst its use is not exclusive to any particular type of person its reach is far more wide spread than you might suspect. It could be any normal person, it could be a high profile banker keeping up with the fast-paced rate race, or it could be a dreamy creative type in search of inspiration for their next piece, or perhaps that wholesome family man or anyone in between for that matter. One thing is for certain and that is that cocaine abuse has become ‘normal’ in many social spheres that people around the user find it even more difficult to detect when what started out as a one-off recreational use has turned into a serious addiction.
What’s the draw? Risk factors of cocaine dependence in a nutshell
Just so we are all clear, let’s quickly explore what a risk factor actually is. A risk factor is something, which increases the likelihood of developing a condition or disease. Medical News Today provides this example: obesity significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2. Therefore, obesity is a risk factor for diabetes type 2. When exploring the risk factors associated to cocaine dependence there are many potential factors involved for any drug dependence and the same goes for cocaine users. Whilst addiction is a primary disease with genetics playing a huge role in a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction, one cannot attribute to one single cause but rather a combination of genetic background and environmental risk factors. In fact, cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet so no wonder there are so many potential risk factors for dependence. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as key factors for drug dependency, this includes cocaine dependency:
Family history of addiction (genetics) – Individuals that have relatives with an addiction problem are at much higher risk of developing an addiction themselves. For example, alcoholics are generally considered six times more likely to develop alcohol addiction if a blood relative is alcohol dependent than someone that is non-alcoholic.
Being male – It is commonly understood that men are twice as likely to form an addiction and have a problem with drugs than their female counterparts.
Having another mental health disorder – Individuals with mental health disorders such as ADHA, anxiety or depression have a higher risk of drug, alcohol or nicotine addiction.
Peer pressure – Especially with young teens, peer pressure can encourage people to try new drugs, and with repeated use, can potentially develop into an addiction.
Lack of family involvement – People who do not have particularly strong family connections and relationships can be more susceptible to addiction. Individuals who have strong family involvement and relationships are less at risk of developing an addiction.
Anxiety, depression and loneliness – Can all be large factors contributing to dependency as substances can be used as a “coping” mechanism to deal with the stresses the individual is facing.
Taking a highly addictive drug – Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs there is along with crack and heroin. For example, sometimes individuals can be lured into cocaine addiction after just one use; this is substantially less likely with alcohol consumption.
Research highlighted in E-Medicine Health suggests “repeated exposure to cocaine causes a change in genes that leads to altered levels of a specific brain protein. This protein regulates the action of a normally occurring brain chemical called dopamine. It is a chemical messenger in the brain associated with the cocaine’s pleasurable “rush” – the mechanism of addiction.”
Researchers continue to unravel the mystery of the brain around addiction but one thing is for sure and that is that the risk factors associated with cocaine addiction are usually clumped into the following three categories: social risk factors, family risk factors and individual risk factors. An individual may have contributing triggers from one or even all three of these risk factor categories. Cocaine use can have huge health implications some short-term and others long-term, some not so serious and others extremely serious. In new, as well as seasoned users, cocaine has been known to alter the function of the brain and the heart and can be a major risk for sudden cardiac death. Cocaine is indeed one of the most dangerous drugs in the world and many users have a ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude when it comes to any risks associated with taking the drug. According to MentalHelp.Net there is a number of long-term effects of cocaine overdose, including severe damage to the heart, liver, lungs, brain and kidneys to name but a few.
How to tell if someone has a cocaine dependency?
The early warning signs, which can also include, but are not exclusive to, changes to mood (swinging between elation and depression), behaviour and sleep changes and angry outbursts are often hard to detect. Some of the tell-tail signs of more progressed cocaine abuse can be dramatic in nature and can include changes in how an individual relates to friends and family, stealing and even manipulation of others. The addicts may have low motivation; fall behind with daily responsibilities, agitation and nervousness. The Individual’s physical appearance may also change with decreased personal hygiene. They may have a general lack of caring about the people around them and overall metal and physical deterioration.
What can you do?
If you or someone you know is displaying some of the warning signs it is important to find help as soon as you are aware of the problem, as the chances of recovery are much higher with early treatment. It is also important to find a suitable addiction rehabilitation centre, one that has experience in process addictions, as some addiction treatment centres focus on drugs and alcohol only.
Remember that addiction is a chronic disease and that getting help is imperative. As well as getting the required treatment it can also be useful to reach out to support groups like Cocaine Anonymous World Services to support you or a loved one on the path to successful recovery. Perhaps it is apt to finish with this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
To find the best cocaine addiction treatment for your loved ones, contact us today for a no obligation consultation.