Frequently associated with young, middle-class individuals, cocaine is often perceived as a cleaner, more glamorous version of ecstasy; it can, however, have extremely serious medical implications. Recent Government statistics show that cocaine-related deaths have risen by 50% in the last 2 years alone with 1 in 4 heart attacks in those under the age of 40 linked to cocaine abuse. In addition to damaging the heart, repeatedly using cocaine can also cause increased blood pressure, palpitations, incontinence, agitation, anxiety and visible effects such as sores and scabs produced from the action of snorting. Prolonged use can often also lead to erosion of the nasal septum, which drastically alters the appearance of the nose.
While the number of male users is decreasing steadily, the number of women regularly taking cocaine is increasing at an alarming rate. The number of women seeking help for cocaine dependency has risen by up to 50% in the past 2 years and Ministry of Justice statistics suggest that the number of women being cautioned for possession of cocaine has increased by up to five times since 2002. The shocking rise in female addiction to cocaine is often linked to the increasingly common practice of alcohol abuse, with women seeking the euphoric high often related with the combination of these two drugs. As well as producing dangerous chemical reactions in the body, which cause a racing heart and increased blood pressure, this toxic combination can have serious implications on decision-making, particularly when it comes to sexual behaviour. The ‘high’ produced by cocaine makes it highly addictive; while physical withdrawal symptoms are not so apparent, psychological symptoms can be extremely forceful.
Psychological and Social Concerns
Addicts often find their personality changes drastically under the influence of cocaine, with studies indicating that many users resort to illegal practices such as stealing and prostitution to fund their habit. Cocaine is expensive and once a habit turns into a dependency an individual will do almost anything to finance their next ‘hit’. Often, the failure to keep up with payments to drug dealers can result in spiralling debts and increasingly forceful threats causing those dependent on cocaine to become increasingly anxious and making them more likely to become involved in a vicious cycle where they resort to taking more drugs to escape the mounting pressures. Socially, cocaine appears to be an increasingly acceptable component of a night out, especially amongst young women and this is extremely worrying. Government plans to clamp down on the sale and distribution of class A drugs as well as raising awareness of the dangers of cocaine addiction through educational campaigns hope to reduce the incidence of cocaine dependency.
Support for Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction is treated with intense causes of counselling and psychotherapy by the National Health Service, since there is currently no recommended substitute medication. Recent research funded by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse indicated that the psychological support programmes enjoyed considerable success with 57% of the users surveyed quitting after 6 months of treatment. Ongoing support and advice is also essential to ensure long-term recovery. Further support is offered by charities such as Cocaine Anonymous U.K and FRANK.