There are few diseases in the world today that can bring about as much stigma as drug abuse. If you are not a drug user or an addict, it is easy to judge or ridicule the person in your life who is using drugs. It’s easy to be angry with this person and to ask repeatedly, “Why don’t you just stop?” The truth of the matter is that stopping the use of drugs once the disease of addiction has taken hold is not as easy as it sounds, no matter how much we would like it to be. Cocaine abuse, as well as the abuse of other types of drugs or alcohol, changes how a person thinks. It changes how they react to the world around them. It changes behavior.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is no way to gauge, for certain, which people in our society will become addicted to drugs or alcohol. However, any individual who makes the choice to use addictive drugs is at risk. There are certain risk factors that can increase the risk of addiction, including:
- A pre-existing mental condition, such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia
- Ethnic background
- Environment, including exposure to sexual abuse, parental and/or peer influence, and stress
- Age at the time of first exposure to and use of additive drugs
While these influences and factors play a role, they do not determine whether someone will become addicted. The only way to ensure that one does not develop addiction is to not use illicit or addictive drugs in the first place.
Changes in Behavior Are Telltale Signs of Addiction
Because addiction is a disease, there are certain symptoms or signals that become inherent to the condition. The psychological community has established a manual – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – that defines diseases and their components in order to regulate diagnostic procedures on a specific standard. When a person abuses cocaine, for instance, the diagnosis would include very specific behaviors, many of which are behavioral in nature.
One of the first items on the list of changes, as outlined in the diagnostic description for substance abuse, occurs when an individual is unable to meet their obligations. These obligations may be work- or school-related, or they may fail to uphold responsibilities at home. While cocaine is a stimulant, the abuse of this drug often results in a “crash,” according to the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus. Once the effects of the drugs have worn off, the drug abuser may sleep for long periods of time, making them unable or unwilling to clean the house, do their homework or wake to an alarm clock.
The next symptom or diagnostic description can be frightening, particularly to a parent or loved one of someone abusing cocaine. Cocaine is not a substance that can be purchased over the counter or picked up at a local drug store with a prescription. Because it is illegal, those who abuse the drug must sometimes frequent dangerous neighborhoods and interact with drug dealers in order to obtain their drugs. They may also find it necessary to drive a car while they are using drugs, even though they know this is hazardous. Placing oneself in these types of dangerous situations is a common behavior for someone who is abusing cocaine.
Cocaine Abuse Changes a Person’s Behavior Because It Changes the Brain
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has published findings that indication the long-term abuse of cocaine can decrease the brain’s ability to produce and recognize an important neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that allows us to feel pleasure and recognize rewards for certain behaviors. As the receptors in the brain that are specifically designed to receive the dopamine fail, and as less dopamine is produced, the cocaine abuser may find it difficult to experience pleasant emotions at all. This can lead to them to feel tired, which can appear as laziness to others, and sad.
In many cases, an individual whose behavior has radically changed because of cocaine addiction can rediscover who they used to be. They can become the vital and compassionate person they were before they began abusing drugs. However, studies have shown that they are far more likely to enjoy recovery with the help of trained professionals in a treatment program designed specifically for them.
If you or someone you love is abusing cocaine, please contact us here at Axis as soon as possible to find out how we can help you begin a plan for recovery. We have the tools and experience — and the compassion — to help you and your family.