Is Cocaine a Narcotic?
Cocaine is a street drug used by millions of people across America each year. Roughly one in every six of those users will develop major problems with the drug. But while most adults have heard about cocaine, not everyone knows how it is classified as a substance. Some commentators loosely refer to all street drugs as narcotics. But is cocaine a narcotic according to experts?
The answer to this question is no. What kind of drug is cocaine? It belongs to another class of substances called stimulants. Stimulants affect your body in different ways than narcotics. Crucially, treatment options for stimulant problems also differ from those used for narcotics-related problems.
What Is a Narcotic?
The term narcotic refers to substances that ease pain and dull your senses. Today, experts use this term to identify street drugs and medications classified as opioids or opiates. The most well-known street drug in this category is heroin. The list of opioid medications includes:
All of these drugs and medications are based on substances found in a plant called the opium poppy. Some, like morphine and heroin, come straight from this plant. Others are created partially or entirely in a laboratory.
Effects on Your Brain and Body
When you take them, narcotics travels through your bloodstream to your brain and spinal cord. Once there, they reduce your brain’s ability to register pain. This fact explains the usefulness of certain narcotics as pain medications. Narcotics also affect a brain area known as the pleasure center. There, they trigger an extreme form of pleasure known as euphoria. The combination of pain relief and euphoria helps explain why some people become addicted to these substances.
In addition, narcotics affect the area of your brain responsible for controlling your breathing. If you take too much of a narcotic, it will start to slow your breathing down. This situation is a classic sign of a narcotic or opioid overdose. In a worst-case scenario, people overdosing on narcotics stop breathing altogether. Thousands of Americans fatally overdose on opioids every year.
Narcotics also have a number of other effects on your brain and body. Common examples of these effects include:
- A confused mental state
- A slowdown of your normal bowel function
- Narrowed pupils
- Facial and neck flushing
- Slowed body movements
In addition to a major slowdown in your breathing, high doses of narcotics may lead to problems such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of muscle control and coordination
What Is a Stimulant?
Stimulants get their name because they stimulate activity in your brain and spinal cord. Legal medications in this category include amphetamine and methylphenidate. Methamphetamine also belongs to the stimulant family. Most people take illegally produced forms of this substance. However, pharmaceutical companies also make legal methamphetamine. Cocaine is the other major stimulant drug. The category also includes “bath salts” made from illegal substances called synthetic cathinones.
Effects on Your Brain and Body
By speeding up activity in your brain and spinal cord, stimulants produce effects that include:
- Increased energy levels
- A higher rate of physical activity
- A heightened sense of confidence or self-importance
- A faster heartbeat
- Blood pressure increases
- Sharper mental and physical reflexes
- A reduced need for sleep
- A declining appetite
Like narcotics, stimulants are also capable of producing euphoria. For this reason, they also have the potential to trigger substance abuse and addiction. In addition, the damaging mental consequences of using large amounts of stimulants may include:
- Feelings of extreme agitation
- Panic attacks
- Bouts of hostility or aggression
- Violent or homicidal behavior
- A paranoid state of mind
- Sight- or sound-based hallucinations
- Suicidal thoughts
Heavy use of stimulants may also lead to physical problems such as:
- Vomiting and stomach cramps
- Muscle tremors
- Heart palpitations and chest pain
- Heavy sweating
Your brain and body can only tolerate a certain amount of stimulant-based increases in activity. Past this point, severe negative consequences may appear in the form of an overdose. Specific areas that are in danger when stimulant effects go too far include:
- The systems responsible for controlling your body temperature
- Your cardiovascular system, which includes your heart and blood vessels
Without immediate medical attention, major problems in these areas can easily result in a fatal overdose.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant made by chemically processing the leaves of the South American coca plant. This processing produces the well-known powdered form of the drug. Cocaine powder can then be processed again to produce the rock-like substance known as “crack.”
Effects on Your Brain and Body
Like other stimulants, cocaine speeds up your brain and spinal cord activity. This results in the same kinds of changes produced by amphetamine or methamphetamine. As a powerful stimulant, cocaine also triggers euphoria inside your brain’s pleasure center. However, the level of euphoria depends on how the drug is consumed.
If you inject or smoke cocaine, it will produce very rapid and intense euphoric sensations. If you snort cocaine through your nose, it doesn’t reach your brain as quickly. It also produces a lesser degree of euphoria.
Cocaine shares another property with other stimulants: the power to produce an overdose. However, the drug poses some unique overdose risks not shared by methamphetamine or amphetamine. With those drugs, long-term users can roughly predict how big a dose they can take without overdosing. That is not the case with cocaine. Experienced users are just as susceptible to an overdose as first-time users. That’s true even if you take the drug in accustomed amounts. Why? No one can predict how their bodies will react to any given dose of cocaine.
Researchers refer to this unpredictable risk as sudden cardiovascular death. It occurs when you undergo extreme, rapid changes in your normal heart function. There are other potential causes of this severe problem. However, evidence shows that cocaine use may quadruple your chances of dying suddenly from heart dysfunction.
Legal Status of Cocaine
Is cocaine illegal in the United States? Yes. No one within the country’s borders can legally make, distribute or sell the drug. Is cocaine a scheduled drug by DEA guidelines? Yes. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies the stimulant as a Schedule II drug. Schedule II drugs have some legitimate medical usefulness (in the case of cocaine, as a topical anesthetic). However, they come a high risk for misuse and substance problems.
Is Cocaine Addictive
Cocaine is an extremely addictive drug. No matter how you take it, it produces powerful feelings of euphoria in your pleasure center. And as is the case with narcotics, desire for this euphoric feeling can lead to a repeated cycle of use.
What Is Cocaine Addiction
In time, repeated use can make your brain grow physically dependent on cocaine. This change sets the stage for the development of psychological dependence and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. When this behavior appears, full-blow addiction has begun. Cocaine addiction is classified by addiction specialists as a form of stimulant use disorder.
People who smoke cocaine in the form of crack may become addicted more quickly than other users. That’s true because:
- Crack produces a very strong form of euphoria
- That euphoria only lasts for a brief amount of time
For these reasons, many people get involved in rapid cycles of crack use. The pace of these cycles can, in effect, speed up the process of developing an addiction.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Treatment for cocaine addiction is based on a group of techniques called behavioral therapies. Each of these therapies helps you change how you think and react to such things as:
- Your own emotions
- Everyday situations
- The urge to use cocaine
The overall effect is to help steer you away from thoughts and actions that support addiction. In addition, you establish new habits that support a sober lifestyle. Forms of behavioral therapy used to treat cocaine addiction include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Motivational Incentives/Contingency Management
- Therapeutic Communities
All of these treatments are evidence-based. This means that a substantial amount of research backs up their usefulness. Not everyone will benefit from the exact same treatment options. Nonetheless, with help from therapy, recovery is a realistic goal for anyone addicted to cocaine. Participation in a self-help group like Cocaine Anonymous may also play a crucial part in your recovery.
Learn More About Cocaine Addiction and Treatment
Is cocaine a narcotic? No, it’s not. Nevertheless, like narcotics, cocaine often serves as a source of drug abuse and addiction. Today, roughly one million Americans are addicted to cocaine or have serious problems with cocaine abuse. If you or your loved one are affected, evidence-based treatment is your surest path to sobriety.
For more information on cocaine addiction and treatment, talk to the experts at The Discovery House. Every day, we provide crucial help for people struggling with the effects of this powerful drug. With a range of treatment options and a luxurious environment, we’re a premier source for effective substance recovery. Contact us today to learn more about how The Discovery House treats cocaine addiction and abuse.