Cocaine addiction is not different than any other drug addictions. It begins with a problem, discomfort, or some form of emotional or physical pain that a person is experiencing. Here is a person who, like most people in our society, is basically good. However, they find their problem to difficult to deal with and turn to drugs as a solution. This could include problems such as difficulty “fitting in” as a child or teenager, anxiety due to peer pressure, identity problems, or divorce as an adult. It could also include physical discomfort such as a broken arm or a bad back.
The person experiencing the discomfort has a real problem. They feel this problem is a major situation that persists and can see no immediate resolution or relief from it. We have all experienced this in our lives to a greater or lesser degree. The difference between those who develop a cocaine addiction problem and those who do not is dependent on the individual and their environment. Whether or not, at the time of this traumatic experience, the person is subjected to pro-drug or alcohol influences via some sort of significant peer pressure when the problem is manifesting itself is a major contributor.
Cocaine works on the brain’s pleasure center. In the user’s brain, cocaine changes the balance of chemicals that regulate their mood. The “high” one experiences while on cocaine often only lasts twenty minutes or so. Those who inject the drug introduce it into their bloodstream immediately. The effects of cocaine from injection are practically instantaneous. Users who smoke the drug will experience its effects within five seconds. This is because the drug makes its way into their bloodstream though their lungs. From there it then travels to their heart and brain. Lastly, when cocaine is snorted it enters the user’s bloodstream through the mucus membranes in their nose before making its way throughout the rest of their body.
For the person in our story, the painkilling effects of cocaine become a solution to their discomfort because they experience relief from the negative feeling associated with the problem. Cocaine users often find that after just one use they are craving the drug and thinking about when they will use it again. As soon as they experience relief from the discomfort, they inadvertently attach value to cocaine, because it helped them feel better. Even though the relief is only temporary, it is adopted as a solution to the problem. This assigned value to cocaine for its problem solving ability is the main reason a person uses cocaine a second, third, or more times. At this point, it is just a matter of time before they form a cocaine addiction and lose the ability to control their drug use.
Cocaine addiction can occur very quickly and may end up being very difficult to break. Animal studies have shown that animals will work very hard (press a bar over 10,000 times) for a single injection of cocaine, choose cocaine over food and water, and take cocaine even when this behavior is punished. Animals must have their access to cocaine limited in order not to prevent ingestion of a toxic or even lethal dose. People addicted to cocaine behave similarly. They will go to great lengths to get cocaine and continue to take it even when it hurts their school or job performance and their relationships with loved ones.