Cocaine: The Forgotten Drug Risk

Opioid abuse has garnered plenty of attention lately—with good reason. However, it’s also important for the Lancaster and Lebanon communities to stay aware of the risks associated with other drugs, including cocaine. In 2014, 913,000 Americans met the criteria for cocaine dependence or abuse, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In addition, more than 5,000 people died nationwide that year from cocaine overdoses. Detective Sgt. John E. Burkhart, head of the Lancaster County Drug Task Force, said:

Although heroin and opioids are getting the headlines, and rightfully so, we’ve been involved in some pretty big cocaine seizures in the last two years.  In three of those investigations we seized a total of seven kilos of cocaine.  We have also been involved in two joint investigations with the DEA in which cocaine was the drug being sold.

He added that cocaine use and trafficking seem to have risen across Lancaster County over the last two years. Nationwide heroin/opioid abuse has been a frequent topic in the media, schools, and town halls. Yet some experts believe that youth who’ve learned to recognize heroin as a dangerous drug are now starting to view cocaine as a less dangerous alternative. However, cocaine has a serious and direct impact on the body and brain. Its effects include:

  • Increase in body temperature
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Erratic behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Death

The more frequently a person uses this drug, the more he or she needs to take to feel “normal”—a process called tolerance. Over time, prolonged use takes its toll in the form of permanent damage to blood vessels, lungs, kidneys, and the liver. It can also cause severe depression, leading to suicide. Treatment for Cocaine Addiction Currently, cocaine treatment relies on behavioral interventions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps an addicted person “rewire” their thought processes so they can better resist cravings. Treatment can be administered in an inpatient or outpatient setting. The most effective way to develop a treatment plan is to work with a therapist experienced at treating cocaine abuse. Ongoing recovery support can be a critical part of relapse prevention as well. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved medications to treat cocaine dependence; however, researchers are investigating the potential of pharmaceutical therapies, including a vaccine that may help reduce the risk of relapse. For more information about treatment for cocaine addiction in Lancaster County, PA and Lebanon County, PA, visit Treatment Options or contact Compass Mark for confidential, judgement-free guidance at 717-299-2831.     Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at