The road to recovery: Cocaine
For most men and women it is hard to admit that they are addicted to a certain object. It maybe something small like addicted to washing hands or eating a lot of sugar but then there big addictions like cocaine. To me addiction plays mind tricks on you. You can be so dependent on a certain object that the mind tells you that you are not addicted at all. Women love shopping. They want to keep shopping until, not trying to be mean, they drop dead. However for some it is an addiction. They HAVE to go shopping. It is the same scenario with men. One example is a gambler. Some men abuse gambling but they keep on blowing money. The mind tells them it is just a game and they are not addicted. Just as it is hard for a shopaholic or a gambler to admit they are addicted, it is also hard for a cocaine user to admit they are hooked. Knowing where cocaine came from, who can help, and where you can get help from are important steps to admitting you are addicted and the road to recovery.
Cocaine was introduced into mainstream Western society in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, in various tonics, patent medicines, and remedies. In 1886, a Georgia pharmacist introduced what was to become the most famous drink of all time, Coca-Cola, which had extract of coca leaves. Cocaine's most famous proponent was Freud, who wrote extensively of its supposed virtues. He believed it could cure morphine and alcohol addiction. Not surprisingly, Freud struggled with a severe addiction to cocaine.
Back in the day if you were addicted to any drugs you had to deal with it yourself or with the help of your family. But usually drug addicted people pushed their family away from them so most people were on their own. Society is more fortunate now. In the 1950s Narcotics Anonymous was originated by Jimmy Kinnon. This group helps you fight the addiction with a 12 step program. I wanted to see how a NA meeting worked and I knew that I would find more facts there than the internet so last weekend, one hour before work, I went to a NA meeting hoping to make the best out of my time.
The meeting was held near my house about 10 minutes away at Christ the king Episcopal Church in Taylor, Mi. I had talked to the program director before going to see if I could check out the meeting. Having gotten a yes from the director, I entered the church and followed the signs to the room where the meeting was held in. At first when I entered there were not a lot of people present but after about 5 minutes a handful came in and the room was half full with about 20 people. I was a little nervous since this was my first time at a NA meeting so I stayed towards the back of the room listening quietly. The person running the program saw me in the back and nicely asked why I was in the back. I explained that I was doing a paper for my English class and was just here to learn some facts about being addicted to cocaine. After introducing myself, I got a warm welcome from everybody in the room. I went to the front so I could hear better and from the fact that everybody was nice to me which eased my nerves a little. Someone behind me got up and suggested we share some stories about how they are recovering from the addictions for me since I was new to all of it.
Many people at the NA meeting were addicted at a young age. Some were introduced to the drug by friends and some even by their parents. Many are still recovering after many years in the 12 step program. There are many ways a person can get addicted. According to the Cleveland clinic foundation “Cocaine causes chemical changes in the brain that control happiness and trigger an intense craving for the drug. These chemical changes stay in the brain even after the person stops using cocaine. They account for the extreme pleasure the user feels, as well as the depression that occurs when the user stops taking the drug.” (Cleveland clinic foundation, 2006).
The effects of cocaine are severe both short term and long term. As I observed at the NA meeting, all of the people were edgy and looked distant. They were obviously not use to being in public which is an effect of cocaine, withdrawal. Some short term effects of cocaine are increased blood pressure, Constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils, mental alertness, increased energy, increased heart rate, Decreased appetite, and increased temperature. Some long term effects are Addiction, Paranoia, irritability, restlessness, auditory hallucinations, and mood disturbances (cocaine-effects).
According to Dr. Flynn Gawin, cocaine affects the body in many ways.
Cocaine induces profound changes in behavior and psychological state as well as alterations in bodily physiology. It is administered in a variety of ways, but most commonly it is injected intravenously, snorted intranasally, or smoked in its free-base form (crack cocaine). Cocaine activates the sympathetic nervous system. It is a potent vasoconstrictor and increases heart rate and blood pressure. Cocaine also induces changes in mood and emotional state. In general cocaine produces feelings of stimulation, well-being, vigor and euphoria. Enhanced alertness, increased sexuality, heightened energy, and deepening of emotions may accompany the cocaine high. In contrast to some drugs, cocaine does not appear to alter perceptual processes or distort reality.
To me, the drug is one of the most dangerous. It can get you addicted and get you killed. Knowing the facts about the drug can help a lot.
Many people want to try the drug but if they know the facts, they will think twice before touching the white powder. Everybody that I surveyed said that they have not used cocaine which is fantastic but who says that they will not try it in the future? 50% of them said they are curious to try the drug. I have no doubt in my mind they will try it in when they mature a little more. This is why knowing the facts about cocaine and how to deal with the drug are important. The feeling you get at that moment is not going to last your whole life time but the addiction may be with you until you die.
One of the last stories at the NA meeting made me realize that you can recovery if you are strong. A man was addicted to cocaine when his brother tricked him into trying it. He got hooked on it after that. He was hooked at the age of 25. After he got hooked on it, he put all his money towards the drug and soon lost his job. Right after he lost his job he got divorced from his wife taking the kids with her. After a few months of misery, he lost his best friend to cocaine which made him realize he had to get help. He has been coming to NA meetings ever since. There is help if you need it. The first step is to admit that you are addicted and get help.
Gawin F. (1991) Cocaine addiction: psychology and neurophysiology. Science 251: 1580–1585.
“The effects of cocaine use” Psychology 2002. http://psy.rin.ru/eng/article/222-101.html
“Cocaine effects and withdrawal” Cocaine effects 2005. http://www.cocaine-effects.com/index.htm
“Cocaine and Crack” Cleveland clinic 2009. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/drugs/cocaine_crack/hic_cocaine_and_crack.aspx
“Information about NA” Narcotics Anonymous 2010. http://www.na.org/?ID=ips-eng-index