Amphetamines and cocaine are two of the most commonly abused drugs in our society. They have been in existence for years and millions of people around the globe were documented to have abused and misused amphetamines and cocaine in their lives.
Amphetamines and cocaine-related drugs are known to induce tolerance and psychological dependence. They are both classified as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. Generally, amphetamines are mood elevators and appetite depressants. They are being used years ago by Word War II soldiers, students, and truck drivers to combat drowsiness and fatigue. However, when people started to discover it euphoric effect, amphetamines are being manufactured by illegally and obtained over the counter. Despite the decline and re-emergence of amphetamine class drugs in recent years, the number of people who have been using them did not completely vanished. In fact, even high profile people have been caught in several occasions using amphetamines and cocaine-related drugs at some point in their lives.
Symptoms of Amphetamines and Cocaine
Two of the highly informative references we have today that greatly discusses the symptoms of abuse for amphetamines and cocaine users are Caroline Bunker Rosdahl and Mary T. Kowalski’s Textbook of Basic Nursing and Lois White’s Foundations of Nursing:
1. Behavioral Symptoms: euphoria, anger, irritability, confusion, poor judgment.
2. Psychiatric Symptoms: hypervigilance, paranoia, delirium, depression, and other mood disorders.
3. Physical Symptoms: dilated pupils, pulse & blood pressure disturbances, GI symptoms (nausea, vomiting, and weight loss), chest pain, muscle weaknesses, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, sleep disorders.
4. Life-threatening Symptoms: respiratory depression, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and coma.
Many symptoms of cocaine abuse are similar to those of the amphetamines such as sleep disorder and sexual dysfunction. Cocaine is an alkaloid derived from the coca plant; and is one of the most widely used drugs across all socioeconomic groups. Other notable symptoms include:
- mood and anxiety disorders
- hallucination and delusion
- increased heart rate
- dilated pupils
- increased blood pressure
- reduced social inhibitions
- compulsive behavior
Effects of Amphetamines and Cocaine
Harold E. Doweiko cited in his book, Concepts of Chemical Dependency, that the effects of amphetamines to an individual depend upon the individual’s mental state, the dosage level utilized, the relatively potency of the specific form of amphetamine, and the manner in which the drug is used. In addition, there are major differences between the effects of cocaine and the amphetamines such as that the effects of cocaine might last from a few minutes to an hour at most, whereas, the effects of amphetamines may last for many hours.
When amphetamines are taken at low and moderate dosage level, the effects will include: alertness, an elevation of mood, feeling of mild euphoria, less mental fatigue, and an improved level of concentration. On the other hand, when amphetamines are abused, the intensity of mood changes may vary, too. The strongest effects are known to occur when the compound is smoked or injected into a vein.
Some of the more serious effects of amphetamine abuse are hypertensive episodes, pulmonary edema, tachycardia, arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac death, especially when the drugs are used at high dosage level.
According to the Concepts of Chemical Dependency, experienced cocaine users can experience both positive and negative effects from the drug. Low doses of cocaine can increase a person’s libido, energy, and generalized feeling of arousal. On the other hand, higher blood level of cocaine can cause users to feel impulsiveness, irritability, confusion, paranoia, hallucination, and increased blood pressure. Furthermore, a toxic blood level of cocaine may cause cardiac arrhythmias, rhabadomyolysis, convulsion, strokes, and possible death from cardio respiratory arrest.
Treatment of Amphetamine and Cocaine
In an article authored by Malcolm Bruce, a Consultant Psychiatrist in Addiction at the Community Drug Problem Service, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, there are three sections that informatively describe the management of amphetamine dependency. The management protocol is divided into: assessment; management of dependence; andpreventing relapse.
The assessment level is deemed fundamental to the future application of appropriate interventions. This process aims to identify all experimental and recreational users of amphetamines. Factual information and advice are given by psychiatrists once amphetamine use at this level is detected.
Meanwhile, under the management of dependence level, the management depends on the drug, the patient’s environment and the patient. If the patient is continuing to use amphetamines and does not currently wish to stop, management should be along the lines of harm reduction. On the other hand, education is required about the dangers of amphetamine use and the options available for changing that behavior, as outlined above for those experimental and recreational users.
The preventing relapse stage is divided into three parts: raising awareness regarding the areas causing relapse and the high-risk situations being explored; developing skills to anticipate, avoid or cope with these high-risk situations; and implementation of a global lifestyle change away from drug misuse towards a more normalized and socialized lifestyle.
This model is only one of the many types of treatment and management performed for amphetamine dependents or users. Health experts continue to conduct studies and research that would identify other ways and means to help amphetamine users abstain from their drug dependency.
For cocaine users, treatment is normally aimed at reducing the craving and managing the severe depression. Careful and constant monitoring of the client is necessary to identify and prevent actions aimed at carrying out the idea of suicide. According to Lois White’s Foundations of Nursing, a cocaine user has an intense craving for cocaine and a strong denial that cocaine is addicting. Inpatient programs are suggested to be necessary for some clients with cocaine dependency, whereas, other clients can be effectively treated in outpatient programs.