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Cocaine Abuse (cont.)

Cocaine Abuse Causes and Risk Factors

Although there is no one single cause of cocaine addition, addictive disease is generally believed to be the result of a combination of genetic background and environmental risk factors. Those from high-risk family environments are particularly susceptible to the development of addictive disease, and they need to be aware of this information during their preadolescent period. However, the presence of an addict in the family does not mean that a person can be certain to become an addict.

  • Researchers supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse have identified a process in the brain that may help explain addiction to cocaine and other drugs of abuse. Their research indicates that repeated exposure to cocaine causes a change in genes that leads to altered levels of a specific brain protein. This protein regulates the action of a normally occurring brain chemical called dopamine. It is a chemical messenger in the brain associated with the cocaine's pleasurable "rush," the mechanism of addiction. Certainly, more research is needed to unlock the mysteries of addiction, but this information adds one more link in explaining how the brain adapts in the addiction process.
  • Social risk factors for cocaine abuse include low socioeconomic status and lower levels of education, peer pressure, easy availability of drugs, and living in an area that has high crime or drug use.
  • Family risk factors for cocaine abuse include low parental supervision, inconsistent or harsh discipline, poor family communication, high family conflicts, and divorce.
  • Individual risk factors for cocaine abuse can be male gender, Caucasian ethnicity, and late adolescent age. While men are more likely to develop cocaine abuse, women are thought to experience more cravings, depression, and social and family problems as the result of abusing cocaine. Women are more likely to seek treatment for this ailment compared to men. Early childhood aggression or other behavior problems; being the victim of abuse; and mental health, peer, or academic problems all increase the likelihood of cocaine abuse. Other individual risk factors include thrill-seeking behaviors and low recognition of the dangers of drug use.

What Are the Warning Signs of Cocaine Abuse?

Warning signs that people may be abusing cocaine include changes in their mood, behavior, and functioning. Warning signs that pertain to mood may include rapid changes in mood, from elation to deep depression and even suicidal or homicidal thoughts. The person who abuses cocaine may exhibit excessive anger, particularly when confronted about their drug use or associated behaviors. Their personality may seem to change as well. Behavioral warning signs of cocaine abuse may be a drastic change in friends, stealing, and manipulation of others. The individual's physical appearance may become compromised due to a deterioration of personal hygiene. Functional warning signs of cocaine abuse include low motivation, failing to meet obligations at home, school or work, as well as withdrawal from loved ones.

Last Reviewed 11/21/2017

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Cocaine is derived from Erythroxylon coca, a shrub endemic to the Andes, Mexico, West Indies, and Indonesia.

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