The 10 warning signs your ‘social’ coke habit is spiralling out of control – The Sun
So how do you know if your 'social' coke use is tipping over into a serious addiction?
Many people don't spot the subtle signs they are becoming reliant on the drug until it is too late.
Cocaine use in Britain is soaring – the UK was recently branded the cocaine capital of Europe, and 20 per cent of 16-24-year-olds in Britain admit taking it in the last 12 months.
But, as The Sun's End Of The Line campaign is highlighting, it can have a profound impact on mental health, with cheap, potent coke fuelling a three-fold rise in hospital admissions for mental illness.
Here, with the help of Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical director of Patient.info, we reveal the warning signs you need to look out for…
1. Your eyes are bloodshot
Dilated pupils are an obvious sign of cocaine use, but eyes can become bloodshot too.
That's because cocaine has an effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which raises blood pressure and makes vessels in the eyes expand.
The result is that the whites of eyes look bloodshot or red for days or weeks after taking the drug.
Cocaine is a stimulant which can stop users sleeping too – another reason problematic users are likely to have red eyes for long periods.
2. You've got a constant cold
Having a constant runny or bloody nose – from snorting cocaine – is a huge warning sign that your habit has gone too far.
On top of this coke stops people feeling hungry, so users often don't eat well. That lack of nutrition, coupled with lack of sleep thanks to big nights out, makes them more likely to fall ill and feel exhausted.
Suffering from tremors and shaking, as you get with a cold or flu, can be a sign your body is going through cocaine withdrawal.
3. You keep getting tummy bugs
Cocaine reduces blood flow throughout the body which means users run the risk of organ damage, with the stomach and intestines sometimes affected.
In the short term, coke abuse can cause tummy pain, nausea, vomiting and constipation as a result of this.
Longer term there could be severe implications, like necrotic bowel or tissue death.
The large intestine can become inflamed causing pain, and coke users up their chance of ulcers – which can make people feel sick – because the drug changes the acidity of the stomach.
End Of The Line
Cocaine use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.
Use has doubled in the last five years, and with young people the numbers are even worse.
A staggering one in five 16-to-24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.
That’s why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.
Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.
People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Jeremy McConnell – who is backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.
It’s an issue that is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.
4. You keep having nightmares
Cocaine impacts sleep, leading to both insomnia and sleeping too much.
Both are a sign of withdrawal, and symptoms can last anything from 24 hours to months.
People often have sleep problems as the body tries to adjust to the period it was on cocaine – it feels exhausted because it was over-stimulated by the drug, plus you will likely have been more energetic while on it.
This can cause users to experience nightmares or vivid dreams, as the sleep isn't restful.
Dreaming about cocaine when you haven't taken it is another red flag – British researchers have found that abstinent cocaine users who dream about the drug are highly likely to start using again. It's thought the dreams, or nightmares, are memory cues which spark cravings.
Varying between sleeping more than usual and having insomnia could mean your cocaine use has escalated.
5. You constantly feel on edge
When you’ve just taken cocaine you may be extremely chatty, arrogant and feel on top of the world.
But when you’re coming down from it you can feel anxious, edgy and even paranoid.
If you find yourself constantly swinging between the two sides, it might be time to seek help.
Cocaine has a profound impact on mental health and has been linked to depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.
There will always be a crash after usage as the brain and body readjusts to not having the drug, but prolonged periods of restlessness or agitation are a sign you are dependent on the high – you are struggling to cope without it and are in withdrawal.
Irritability and agitation are common, as is a feeling that it's hard to stay on an even keel emotionally.
6. You don't feel the high
Cocaine increases the amount of dopamine – the feel good hormone – in the brain, but as time goes on users get used to the high.
They will chase that initial euphoria and, as it doesn't last long, quickly take more to try and sustain the feeling.
Eventually their brain will need coke just to feel normal, which means withdrawal symptoms kick in if they don't get their hit.
If you're a regular user this means you'll build up a tolerance, resulting in you needing more and more to get the same feeling.
Where to go for help
Helpline open 24/7: 0300 123 6600
For help finding a service or to Instant chat
Change, Grow, Live
Help for anyone with drug and alcohol issues.
Dedicated help for people under 25.
Mental health support line: 0300 304 7000
Help, support and advice for those dealing with addiction and their families
Action on Addiction
Rehab and community addiction treatment
0300 330 0659
Helpline open 9am-9pm, 7 days a week
0300 888 3853
Help for families affected by drugs and alcohol
7. You need coke for a night out
Users who want to reduce the amount of coke they're taking but find they can't should look for help, especially if the thought of a night out without it is a no-go.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant which is mentally addictive, and withdrawal symptoms – and cravings – can last months.
Strong cravings can hit a week or so after use, but these are obviously intensified if you take coke regularly.
Long-term use effects how the brain produces dopamine, so finding it hard to cut down could mean you have become reliant on it to feel 'normal'.
8. You don't want to see your mates
Addicts will often hide their usage from those close to them as they begin to realise things are problematic but don't want to admit it.
As more of the drug is used it can also impact work, with days missed due to the fallout from a binge and low motivation stemming from feelings of anxiety and depression.
Money worries may also kick in, as you spend more and more on chasing that initial euphoria.
Some addicts will struggle to control their emotions, leading them to lash out or manipulate loved ones, while the paranoia and agitation caused by coke use can make maintaining relationships hard.
MORE FROM END OF THE LINE
Kerry Katona I'm amazed I'm alive after mum told me drugs were sweets & got me hooked at 14
GONE TOO SOON Mum of son who killed himself after taking coke says it ‘mangled his brain’
DRAW THE LINE The horrifying rise of coke nose, where lumps of flesh fall from the face
9. Your teeth are playing up
Chances are your teeth are the last thing you will think of when it comes to cocaine use.
But, lots of users will rub the drug into their gums and teeth rather than snort it.
Doing so can leave you with a host of problems, including discoloured gums and loose teeth, celebrity dentist Dr Richard Marques told The Sun Online.
He warned the drug can cause a lack of blood supply to the gums, which can end up with patients having teeth removed.
The drug can also erode the enamel, and those people who are developing a dangerous coke habit are likely to neglect their oral health.
Failing to brush your teeth or floss regularly can be early warning signs of a bigger problem, Harley Street-based Dr Marques warned.
10. You take extreme risks
Problematic users will also take the drug even if it puts them or others in danger – for example when operating machinery, driving or caring for someone else.
They may also take extreme risks, such as doing drugs at work.
In part this is because cocaine addiction impairs judgement, so users might not realise how dangerous what they're doing is.
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