WhatYou Can Do
Cocaine controls theaddict the way a puppeteer controls a marionette. The drug pulls the addict'sstrings, leading him or her along a path toward self-destruction. The addict'sbehavior, in turn, affects the feelings, thoughts, and actions of the restof the family, making cocaine addiction a family disease.
Family members can besthelp the addict by first helping themselves. By learning about cocaineaddiction and understanding family roles, family members can free themselvesfrom the bonds of the disease and start the entire family on the road torecovery
WARNING SIGNSOF COCAINE DEPENDENCY
People on the road toaddiction usually don't realize they are growing increasingly dependenton cocaine. But there are warning signs, and this list will help cocaineusers and family members recognize the problem. The questions also canhelp friends and coworkers understand cocaine dependency.
Questions forCocaine Users:
Questions forFamily Members:
LEARN ABOUT COCAINE
Many of us believe thingsabout cocaine that aren't true. These myths blind us to how dangerous thedrug is. By unmasking the myths and learning the facts about cocaine, wecan keep ourselves and those we care about from unknowingly falling intothe trap of cocaine addiction.
MYTH FACT It'san elite drug used only by high-class people Cocaineand crack are used by people of all social and economic classes Cocainehas no side effects Itcan cause tremors and convulsions, infection, heart attack, stroke, psychosis,and death Ittakes a long time to get hooked on cocaine Cocaineaddiction can develop after only a few uses Itraises level of performance Chronicuse severely diminishes performance Cocaineisn't addictive It'shighly addictive. Many people require professional help to stop using Cocaineis a safe drug Cocaine,in all forms, is dangerous to both body and mind Youcan get addicted only if you use a needle Allforms are highly addictive. Smoking crack creates addiction as fast asinjecting
Cocaine, the "champagne"of drugs, has been popularly associated with life in the fast lane. Itis a drug of illusion that makes people feel powerful in ways they'd liketo be normally, but aren't. Cocaine is also dangerous and addictive. Itsquality is unpredictable, the cost of a cocaine habit turns many usersinto dealers, and all methods of using it can be lethal.
This smokable form ofcocaine is made by heating a solution of powder cocaine, baking soda, andwater. The flakes or "rocks" that remain after the cooking process canbe transparent, beige, or dirty white. Like powder cocaine, crack containsimpurities that increase its health risks and make it difficult for usersto determine how much of the drug they're really ingesting.
How It Is Used
THE ROAD TOADDICTION
Some people say they becameaddicted to cocaine the first time they used it. But, for most people,the road to addiction is made up of progressive stages of dependency, takingfrom a few weeks to a year or more. The journey begins with the user incontrol of the drug and ends with the drug in control of the user. Whena person uses cocaine compulsively and can't stop, even though it is ruininghealth, family, or career, that person is addicted.
The person experimentswith cocaine for fun, usually in social situations.
The user turns to cocainefor that extra kick to help with a challenging situation, such as stayingup all night to meet a deadline.
The user depends on thedrug regularly to cope with normal events, such as getting through a dayat the office.
The addict "hits bottom."Without treatment, total dysfunction or death is likely.
The user loses controlover his or her drug use and can't stop taking the drug despite the harmit is causing. The person chooses cocaine over virtually everything elsein life.
A HARMFUL CHEMICALDEPENDENCY
Cocaine is a powerfuldrug that overstimulates the central nervous system and produces an artificialeuphoria. Even the occasional user takes dangerous chances, but chronicuse can create a harmful dependency that affects behavior and multiplieshealth risks. To make matters worse, cocaine tricks people into feelingbetter than they are, making it possible for them to put on a "superhuman"exterior, while inside they may be suffering.
Cocaine triggers manyof the same effects as adrenaline, including increased heartbeat, respiration,body temperature, and blood pressure. Within seconds or minutes (dependingon method of use), users experience a rush of energy and well-being,which many rely on to help them cope with challenges. But the high frompowder cocaine wears off in less than an hour, and crack's euphoric effectslast only about 5 minutes. The user is left feeling agitated, depressed,and wanting more.
Effectsof Chronic Use
Chronic use can producecocaine dependency, behavior change, and weight loss. Cocaine also interfereswith sleep, causing moodiness and irritability. To counteract these effects,many people compound the cocaine habit by abusing alcohol or other sedatives.Chemically, chronic cocaine use can lower the threshold for brain seizuresand alter the brain's pleasure centers so that the user may need cocainejust to feel normal. Those who smoke crack can also suffer chronic sorethroats and lung damage.
Cocaine fatalities areon the rise, even among first-time users. The drug is known to cause toxicreactions, brain seizures, heart attacks, and cardiorespiratory collapse,leading to sudden death for some normal, healthy people. Users with heartconditions, epilepsy, or high blood pressure are especially at risk. Also,many chronic users develop multiple drug dependencies and severe mentaldisorders that can require psychiatric care. People who inject the drugrisk getting infectious diseases, such as hepatitis, and needle sharingamong users has become a major factor in spreading AIDS.
EFFECTS ON THEFAMILY
When cocaine controlssomeone in the family, life for that family can't be normal. Dependenceon a drug makes users behave in ways that hurt the very people they areclosest to. It dominates their thoughts and priorities, occupies theirtime, money, and attention, and threatens their values and behavior. Theeffects of these changes ripple through the family, often causing the nonusersto develop their own physical, psychological, and emotional problems asthey struggle to adapt. In this way, the entire family falls under thecontrolling influence of the addiction
Chronic suspicion aboutthe addict's behavior leads to frequent conflicts over his or her druguse. Money in particular becomes a problem for most families. Over time,family members begin to feel increasing insecurity because they never knowwhat problems the addict's drug use might cause them next.
Because the addict ispreoccupied with drug use, he or she often withdraws from participationin the family in order to spend time alone or with other drug users. Thisgrowing isolation can throw a chill into family relationships and deeplyhurt the people the addict is closest to because they believe they arecausing the isolation.
Family members commonlyfeel fearful and guilty because the addict uses cocaine. They fear thepossible consequences for the addict, as well as for the family as a whole.And to make matters worse, they often blame themselves for the addict'sillness and start believing that the drug abuse must have been caused bysome failure of their own.
Because cocaine is sucha high priority for the addict, family members may be forced to make manypainful and unreasonable compromises. The joys of normal family livingare sacrificed to a chemical dependency. As a result, family members feelresentful and disappointed that the drug has caused such deprivation.
In their desire to beloving, supportive, or helpfull family members and friends often unknowinglydo things that actually contribute to the addict's drug use. This kindof behavior - making it easy or possible for the addict to use drugs -is known as enabling, and it takes a variety of forms. Some of the mostcommon forms of enabling include: denying the existence or seriousnessof the problem, taking over responsibilities that rightfully belong tothe addict, rescuing the addict from troubles caused by his or her druguse, and reinforcing the addict's desire to use the drug.
When drug addiction strikesclose to home, families often understandably grope for a reason to believeit's not so. They invent false explanations for the evidence or dismissthe drug use as being insignificant. This way they avoid seeing or acceptingthe painful truth that the drug use exists or is a problem, or that itis causing other problems they may be having. Unfortunately, denial prolongsthe drug use and delays treatment
People close to a drugaddict often find themselves taking over the addict's responsibilitiesand obligations. Sometimes they do this to cover for the addict duringa bad time but often it's the only way to assure that important thingswill get done. In addition, family members and friends frequently act ascaretakers; they attend to such fundamental tasks as waking the addictin time for work or school, and paying the addict's bills.
Most addicts have a circleof rescuers they can rely on to step in and save the day when things getrough. For instance, when the addict can't make it to work or is havingfinancial difficulties, a spouse, sibling, or friend will come to the rescueby making excuses or lending money. The effect of these rescue missionsis to shield the addict from having to deal with the problems caused byhis or her drug abuse, making it that much easier to keep on using.
There are many ways inwhich family members and friends can unintentionally reinforce an addict'sdrug use. Whenever they approve of cocaine use for special occasions, wheneverthey encourage performance or behavior for which the addict has come torely on drugs, whenever they participate in social relationships that arebased on cocaine sharing, the people close to the addict unknowingly givethe addict the message that it's all right to use drugs.
UNDERSTAND FAMILYROLES: WHAT YOU CAN DO
As long as the addictmanipulates the feelings, thoughts, and actions of the entire family, theaddiction is in control. But when family members get help in overcomingthe disease, and change their behavior to stop enabling the addict's druguse, cut the bonds of addiction that are controlling the family.
Reaching outside thefamily for help is the first step in breaking the hold of cocaine addiction.Family members need outside guidance and support and often benefit fromtherapy themselves. A professional therapist trained in drug and alcoholdependency can help family members understand how they are controlled bythe addiction and how they can cut themselves free.
When family members stopenabling, they cut themselves loose from the controlling influence of theaddiction, and they make it much more difficult for the addict to use drugs.This brings some normalcy back into the household and frees the familyto take positive steps toward helping their addicted member into recovery.
The family can play adecisive role in initiating the recovery process for the cocaine addict.By intervening in the addiction cycle of drug abuse, and by helping theaddict get help in overcoming his or her dependency, family members canget the addict to join them on the road to recovery.
Intervention by the familycan be a powerful technique for overcoming the cocaine addict's denialand resistance to treatment. With all members of the family present, eachone tells the addict about specific instances when his or her cocaine usebrought trouble and hurt. Intervention is a process that should be plannedand carried out under the guidance of a professional intervention specialist.
HelpThe Addict Get Help
Just as the family membersneed help, so does the addict. But facing the realty of cocaine dependencyand getting help for it can be a fearful proposition for an addict. That'swhy family support is critical. With all members of the family contributingto the effort, the addict, too, can cut free from the bonds of addiction.
WhereTo Get Help
People looking for helpwith a chemical dependency problem will find plenty available. Counseling,intervention, treatment, and support services are available from professionalsand self-help groups. For professional help, look in the yellow pages under"drug abuse" or "alcoholism," or call your community mental health association.You can also get advice and referral by calling the national hotlines:(800) - COCAINE or (800) - 662-HELP.
Self-help groups providelong-term support for recovering addicts and family members. Cocaine addictscan get self-help by calling Cocaine Anonymous (C.A.), Narcotics Anonymous(N.A.), or Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). Family members can get self-helpby calling Al-Anon, Coke Anon, or Nar-Anon. Other good sources informationand referral are the National Council on Alcoholism and your communitymental health
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Those addicted to cocainecan recover by learning to reshape their lives without drugs. Family memberscan initiate this change by getting help for themselves and then interveningin the addict's drug abuse cycle. The recovery process begins with gettinghelp. But with cocaine addiction, crack use especially, relapses may occur.The user usually will require long-term continued support to remain drug-free.
Getting help from a professionaldrug dependency counselor allows family members to learn ways to free themselvesand the addict from cocaine addiction.
Intervention by familymembers (with professional assistance) gets the addict to join them onthe road to recovery.
Professional evaluationreveals the addict's needs and provides course of action.
Professional treatmentis avail-able on either an inpatient or out-patient basis. Treatment maytake place in either a hospital or treatment center and involves groupor individual therapy. Some addicts
Self-help groups suchas Cocaine Anonymous provide continued support to help addicts remain drug-free.These groups support the addict in making lifestyle changes, such as establishingnew, drug-free friends and activities, necessary to maintaining abstinence.
Drug-free living is thegoal of the recovery process, and any notion that the addict can becomea controlled user has no basis. Nonetheless, cocaine addiction is a persistentand often relapsing illness and the temptation to make one more try atcontrolled use lurks everywhere along the road to recovery. This is whyeven after prolonged abstinence, the addict needs continued support toremain drug-free.
DRUG FREE LIVING:
Cocaine addictionis a disease that takes control of the entire family. But it is possibleto cut free, and family members can take the initiative. By first gettinghelp to free themselves, and then help to free the addict, family memberscan put the entire family on the road to recovery and into the world ofdrug-free living.
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