Cocaine problem use continues to increase in the Australian population. It is the intention of this article to provide information to help someone who may be experiencing a problem. A cocaine problem can cause legal and health issues among other issues.
Why do it?
Cocaine’s effects are intense and brief with a feeling of extra energy, euphoria and sexual arousal (2). Users feel more intelligent, wittier and able to mix with others easily. There may be a perception that work is easier and more interesting and more is accomplished in the same amount of time. At the same time energy levels seem improved, appetites are suppressed, so weight loss can occur also users often claim to feel more at ease and self-confident while on cocaine (1).
How is it done?
Cocaine can be smoked, snorted and injected.
Recognising a person using cocaine
The following signs and symptoms could be indicative that the person is using cocaine:
Physical effects (7)
- Energetic, even hyperactive
- Grinding of teeth
- More sensitive to sight sound, and touch
- Jaw clenching
- Dilated pupils
- A high temperature
- Increased breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Erratic or violent behavior
- Blurred vision, chest pain, nausea, fever, muscle spasms, convulsions and death from convulsions, heart failure or brain failure
Psychological effects (7)
- Mentally alert
How can it go wrong?
Short term problems include cardiac arrest, seizures and strokes, infection risk from injecting users, perforation of nasal passage, psychosis, and social and financial problems (2). The person may become anxious and paranoid, irritable and restless.
What can I do to help a friend?
Some physical signs you may see which you can assist with include a blood nose, have white powder around their nostrils constant or periodic sniffing and checking their nose with their fingers. Cocaine in one of the most rapidly addicting drugs and the longer they use, the tougher it is to stop (1). Removing the person from the source of the drug is very important as the desire to reuse is very high. Talk to your friend about it the following day. The person may lose touch with reality so you need to explain that certain things they can see, hear or believe may not be true.
Other helpful tips
Take the person to a room with light green or blue walls as this may be calming. Make sure it is a reasonably quiet place and perhaps put on some calming music. Talk positively and don’t mention police or parents or other things that may add to paranoia. Let them know you are there for them and they are safe.
After the crisis is over listen non judgmentally, be supportive and get support for yourself. Talk with someone about this as any kind of substance abuse can lead to further problems which are easier to address early.
Does it get better?
Not really. The person will need to use more and more to get the same high which will cost more money. Signs and symptoms of longer term use are:
- Dependence and depression (4)
- Feelings of restlessness, irritability, mood swings, paranoia, sleeplessness, and weight loss.
- Emotional problems and isolation from family and friends
- Psychosis, paranoia, depression, anxiety disorders, and delusions
- Damage and holes on the inside of the nose and inflamed nasal passages
- Increased risk of hepatitis and HIV
- Severe respiratory infections
- Heart attacks, chest pain, respiratory failure, strokes, and abdominal pain and nausea
The comedown from cocaine is unpleasant. After a single line, you feel dulled and restless. Coke makes you feel good in short bursts, but it’s a superimposed, artificial ‘good’ that wears off dramatically and leaves you panting for more. A coke binge can affect your mood for days afterward. The hangover includes: fatigue, jammed-up or sore nose, headaches, irritability, depression, lethargy and inability to concentrate. Basically, a “zombie state”. Often, when you first start using it, these after-effects are minimal. But they get worse with continued use and may lead to a cocaine problem.
Will I get in trouble?
You should keep in mind that there are implications:
- Purchasing and using ecstasy is a criminal offence. If you sell, supply, participate in the sale of any drugs you could be hit with a $5,500 fine, or imprisonment for 5 years(5).
- People who purchase drugs get them from criminals or potential criminals and risk becoming linked into these friendship groups in order to ensure supply.
- Ongoing use could lead to substance abuse which could affect the physical and mental health of the user and impact on their studies and personal relationships.
- You may be more likely to accept a drink from a stranger when under the influence of cocaine. Drink spiking becomes more likely.
- A drug conviction may stop you gaining employment in many public and private sector organisations. It can even stop you travelling to overseas destinations such as the USA (6).
- To help someone dealing with a cocaine problem you need to talk to them and refer them to someone who is trained in this area such as a GP, Psychologist, Counsellor, Headspace or The Mental Health, Justice Health and Alcohol & Drug Services. For more information about local services in Canberra click here.
(5) Law Stuff http://www.lawstuff.org.au/act_law/topics/drugs/article6
(6) Victorian Police www.police.vic.gov.au/retrievemedia.asp?Media_ID=56941
(7) Inexcess http://www.inexcess.tv/?p=9138