Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Table of Contents
- Cocaine Addiction Treatment
- What is Cocaine?
- What Makes Cocaine So Addictive?
- Methods of Cocaine Use
- The Dangers of Cocaine Abuse
- Why Do People Abuse Cocaine?
- How Cocaine Addiction Affects Your Body
- How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?
- How Does Cocaine Affect the Nervous System?
- Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse
- Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse
- Signs of Cocaine Addiction
- Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
- Can Cocaine Addiction Be Treated?
- Methods of Treating Cocaine Addiction
- Preventing Relapse
- Finding the Right Treatment Options for You
- Medically Reviewed By
For decades, cocaine has been thought of as a harmless party drug that people take to fit in and have a good time. But like all illegal drugs, cocaine is far from harmless. Not only is it extremely addictive, but it can also cause many different negative health effects.
Over time, cocaine abuse changes the way that your brain works. Cocaine makes your brain release a flood of dopamine which creates euphoric emotions, or a “high”. But the longer you abuse cocaine, the harder it is for your brain to release dopamine naturally. This makes your brain crave cocaine in order to release dopamine and make you feel good, and is what leads to addiction.
As a street drug, coke can be found as a fine, snowy, crystal powder which is commonly known as White, Toot, Snow, Sniff, Sneeze, Paradise, Nose Candy, Mojo, Flake, Dust, Coke, Crack, Charlie, C, Blow, Binge, Bernice, or Aunt Nora. Street dealers usually cut or dilute coke with non-psychoactive substances such as flour, inositol, baking soda, or talcum powder to boost their profits.
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What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an illicit drug that is made from coca plant leaves, which are native to South America. These leaves are processed multiple times, often with toxic chemicals (such as gasoline), until all that is left are small white rocks.
This is what is called crack cocaine, which can be smoked with a small glass pipe. Crack cocaine can then be processed even further until it is a white powder. This is typically the form that people tend to visualize when discussing this particular drug.
While no longer typically used in a medical context, this substance previously was administered as a solution called cocaine hydrochloride, primarily as a topical anesthetic for the upper respiratory tract.
What Makes Cocaine So Addictive?
This particular substance often causes its users to experience intense euphoric feelings and a heightened sense of confidence. Because it is a fast-acting drug, individuals may try to prolong its effects by increasing the amount taken or taking it more frequently.
Particularly in the case of prolonged cocaine use, this substance causes dopamine levels in the brain to increase over time. However, the longer cocaine is abused, the harder it is for the brain to release dopamine naturally.
Thus, it is this gradual building of the body’s dependency on the drug’s ability to produce this chemical that makes cocaine such a highly addictive drug.
Methods of Cocaine Use
There are several ways in which cocaine can be taken, including orally, intranasally, through inhalation, or intravenously via injection. It is most commonly snorted while in its powdered form. However, this can also be dissolved in water, which is then injected directly into the bloodstream via needle.
Individuals can abuse and get addicted to two types of cocaine: the freebase or water-insoluble cocaine base, and/or the water-soluble hydrochloride salt. The powdered water-soluble hydrochloride salt is sniffed or injected, while the water-insoluble cocaine base is smoked.
The cocaine freebase type of the drug is prepared by mixing coke with baking soda or ammonia, then heating the solution to evaporate the hydrochloride to leave a smokable crystal. This mixture produces a crackling sound when being smoked, hence the creation of the term “crack cocaine.”
The Dangers of Cocaine Abuse
While cocaine use can provide individuals with a sense of euphoria, this feeling is fleeting. Like all illegal drugs, cocaine not only has the potential to be extremely addictive but can have severe consequences when abused. In extreme cases, this form of substance abuse can even be fatal.
Regardless of what form it is taken in or the method of ingestion used, accidental absorption of toxic amounts of cocaine is not uncommon and can cause several adverse effects, such as cardiac arrest, heart attacks, seizures, or strokes; all of which can be fatal in nature.
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Why Do People Abuse Cocaine?
Cocaine belongs to a class of drugs called stimulants. This means that it can make individuals feel like their body is being sped up, making them feel more energetic, happy, and excited.
This happens because of the flood of dopamine that cocaine causes the brain to release. Dopamine is called a “feel-good” chemical because it is what makes people feel happy and relaxed. When an individual uses cocaine, they may feel:
- Joy, euphoria, or extremely energetic.
- Less inhibition, similar to drinking alcohol.
- A feeling that their thinking is extremely clear.
- A sense that they are more in control.
- Increased self-confidence.
- A desire to be more talkative and social.
When it comes to illegal drugs, cocaine is one of the quickest to exit the system. That means that a cocaine high does not last very long. People who snort cocaine are usually high for anywhere from five to 30 minutes.
This leads many people to try injecting cocaine instead. While this can make the high last up to an hour, this minor boost in length brings with it the risk of significantly more dangerous health effects. Most people who resort to injecting cocaine have already developed an addiction to this drug.
How Cocaine Addiction Affects Your Body
Many people start taking cocaine because they are intrigued by the idea of its ability to boost their mood. However, while cocaine does speed up brain functions, it also speeds up some of the bodily ones as well.
Cocaine addiction can cause a number of complications, whether as a result of short-term or long-term usage, and can be physical or mental in nature.
How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?
Cocaine begins to affect the brain within seconds – and these effects can last for about 5 to 30 minutes. When someone smokes or injects cocaine, it travels swiftly into their blood and brain.
The high of snorting is also rapidly felt and lasts for about 10 minutes. The brain’s normal uptake of hormones that are involved in pleasure and desire is inhibited, leading to a short-lived feeling of euphoria.
How Does Cocaine Affect the Nervous System?
Cocaine can have a significant impact on the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. This is the part of the body that is responsible for movement, memory, responsiveness, reflexes, etc.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has indicated that coke affects the nervous system in two ways:
- It stimulates the production of dopamine that enters the hollow spaces between neurons, ultimately flooding the brain with neurotransmitters. This can lead to euphoria as well as impaired decision-making abilities.
- Long-term use damages the dopamine receptors, which means that individuals can continue to take the drug but not feel its effect. In other words, they can no longer experience feelings of reward or pleasure.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse
When it comes to short-term cocaine usage, individuals may experience a number of side effects, including:
- Increased heart rate or irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Decreased appetite
- High body temperature
- Difficulty breathing
While not necessarily considered life-threatening in nature, even these short-term effects can prove detrimental, particularly for those with underlying health conditions. For example, changes in an individual’s heart rate and/or increases in their blood pressure can create a risk of their experiencing a stroke or heart attack.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse
In the case of long-term usage of this particular substance, the severity of the health consequences this can have is often drastically heightened. These effects can vary depending on an individual’s method of engaging in this particular form of drug abuse and can be either physical or psychological in nature.
Long-Term Psychological Risks
As a central nervous system stimulant, there are several cognitive impacts this behavior can have. This is primarily because cocaine use typically occurs in the form of binging, in which increased amounts of the drug are taken at progressively more frequent rates.
Some of these effects include:
- Increased irritability
- Panic attacks
- State of psychosis; experiencing hallucinations
Long-Term Risks of Injecting Cocaine
Individuals who administer this drug via needle, expose themselves to a number of complications, both from the substance itself, as well as any drug paraphernalia used. These can include:
- Tracks. Puncture marks in the forearms, that may scar or cause further complications over time.
- Infection. When sharing or using unsanitized needles, individuals can contract infectious diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis C (both of which can be fatal).
- Allergic Reaction. Individuals may also have an allergic reaction, either to the drug itself or additives in it, which can quickly become life-threatening due to the substance’s direct access to the bloodstream.
Long-Term Risks of Smoking Cocaine
Particularly for individuals with underlying respiratory conditions, smoking this substance can lead to several complications over long periods of time, including:
- Extensive lung damage
- Worsened asthma
- Respiratory failure
Long-Term Risks of Snorting Cocaine
The most common method of cocaine use, snorting this drug can cause extensive damage to an individual’s health. Long-term cocaine sniffing primarily results in damage to the nose, as it creates a hole in your septum (septal perforation).
An individual’s blood vessels in their nose may also begin to shut off as a result of this behavior, a process which is called vasoconstriction. When these vessels shut off, less oxygen is supplied to the tissues in the septum lining. Over time, this lack of oxygen can lead to cartilage deterioration in the nose, resulting in nasal collapse. This can require extensive surgeries to repair, and may still not be able to fully fix the damage done.
Some additional side effects of sniffing cocaine may include:
- Weakened or complete loss of sense of smell
- Difficulties swallowing
- Hoarseness, throat irritation
- Irritation to the nasal cavity, which can lead to a chronically inflamed and/or runny nose.
Other Long-Term Health Effects
Apart from the various long-term risks associated with particular methods of administering this drug, there are several additional side effects that can occur just from its general usage. Some of these may include:
- Malnutrition. Prolonged usage of this drug can also lead to rapid weight loss, and the development of severe nutritional deficiencies. Issues, of which, can lead to a number of health complications on their own.
- Organ Damage. Long-term cocaine use can cause tears and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract, strokes, aortic ruptures, weakening of heart functions, chest pain resembling a heart attack, and/or the inflammation of heart muscles.
- Neurological Damage. Increased risk of seizures, hemorrhaging in the brain, movement disorders, impaired motor functions, and difficulty paying attention or with memory recall are all potential effects of cocaine use over long periods of time.
Furthermore, this form of drug abuse can cause narrowed arteries, as well as increased blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally, coke stimulates alpha as well as beta receptors which leads to an increased force of contraction of the heart, making it pump faster. All of this can result in a heart attack, and even death.
There is also always the risk of a cocaine overdose, particularly in the case of individuals who have engaged in this form of substance abuse over prolonged periods of time.
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
For many people, it can be difficult to tell whether or not they have an addiction. It can be even more difficult to spot addiction in loved ones, as many people are good at hiding drug problems. But cocaine addiction has a number of different signs that can be looked for in either oneself or a loved one. These signs include:
- Extreme Mood Swings. When someone uses cocaine, they become very energetic, chatty, and social. But when their high wears off, they often swing into a negative mood. This can include depression, anger, and aggression.
- Money Problems. Cocaine is one of the most expensive illegal drugs to form an addiction to. This is due to how much processing it requires, as well as the fact that it must be smuggled into the U.S. from South America. Thus, people with a cocaine addiction spend a lot if not all of their money in order to get high; they may also be willing to resort to stealing or engaging in other risky behavior as a means of funding their addiction.
- Changes in Physical Appearance and Health. Cocaine abuse causes many different health problems, as previously discussed. The most obvious signs that someone is addicted to cocaine are if they are experiencing chronic nosebleeds, runny nose, extreme weight loss, loss of smell, infections, or have needle marks on their arms.
- Changes in Mental Health. Because of the way that cocaine addiction changes the brain, many people experience negative mental health symptoms as well as physical ones. These can include paranoia, anxiety, depression, and even psychosis. These symptoms can manifest both when the person is and is not high.
- Withdrawal Symptoms. When someone who is addicted to cocaine stops taking it, they will experience withdrawal. These symptoms are a result of the brain craving drugs in order to regulate dopamine levels. While cocaine withdrawal is not life-threatening, it can be very unpleasant to deal with, which leads to most people continuing to use cocaine in order to feel better.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Drug abuse of any kind will result in an individual’s body becoming dependent on this abused substance over time. Thus, when attempting to overcome this addiction, a lack of access to this dependency will result in the occurrence of withdrawal effects.
Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may include:
- Agitation, restlessness
- Increased appetite
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams
- Slowness, lethargy
- Drug cravings
Cocaine cravings and feelings of depression can last for months after stopping usage, and some individuals may experience suicidal thoughts. Withdrawing individuals may also experience increased feelings of fear, paranoia, and stress.
Can Cocaine Addiction Be Treated?
While substance abuse in any form can be a seemingly impossible problem to overcome, this behavior can be treated. As with any substance use disorder, the best way to be successful in overcoming an addiction to cocaine is to seek out professional addiction treatment services.
Furthermore, despite the always-present risk of relapse, lifelong recovery from drug addiction can be attained with the right tools and resources.
Methods of Treating Cocaine Addiction
Addiction treatment centers can offer specially-designed treatment programs to help cocaine users stop their drug habit for good. Although there are no FDA-approved drugs for treating cocaine addiction, studies have shown that a combination of medical and behavioral treatments is the most effective in treating cocaine addiction.
Most treatment programs will begin with a medical detox process so that an individual’s system can be gradually weaned off of an addictive substance. While remaining under constant supervision from medical professionals, individuals may also receive medication assisted-treatment that lessens withdrawal symptoms.
Once their system has been completely cleared of any signs of cocaine remnants, the administration of behavioral therapies will typically be the next step in an individual’s recovery process.
There are several types of therapeutic services available in treating any underlying mental health conditions that may be influencing a person’s use of cocaine (or other drugs). One example of this is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), in which an individual learns to recognize their feelings and adjust the thoughts and actions they engage in as a means of handling them.
While receiving this initial addiction treatment is an essential first step in the recovery process, an individual’s journey to sober living does not end there. Finding and committing to means of maintaining a life free from substance abuse is a critical, and permanent part of this.
Some of these methods of abstaining from substance addiction include:
- Joining Support Groups. Getting involved in community-based or online organizations that promote a sober lifestyle can help inspire and keep individuals on track in their own abstinence.
- Social Connections. Engaging with family and loved ones can help recovering individuals feel supported and connected, and can provide a safety system in helping them cope with particularly difficult or stressful periods without the use of substances.
- Practicing Healthy Habits. Maintaining a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, practicing basic self-care habits, and acquiring mindfulness skills are all simple ways individuals can keep themselves positive and motivated, as well as respond to negative environmental factors in a healthy way.
- Getting Therapy or Counseling. Recovering individuals are often highly encouraged to seek professional therapeutic help once they have completed their initial substance abuse treatment, in order to help address any underlying factors contributing to their addictive behaviors.
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Finding the Right Treatment Options for You
Addiction is a difficult and isolating experience, and it can oftentimes feel impossible to overcome, but this is not true. If you or a loved one is struggling with cocaine abuse, know that you are not alone, and help is available.
Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, we are dedicated to helping people struggling with substance abuse problems to find addiction treatment centers that are best suited to their personal care needs. Simply by calling us at our 24/7 hotline, one of our representatives can help get you started on a path to a happier and healthier way of living; today!
Eric R. hails from Maine and does extensive work in the field of behavioral health as both a professional writer and passionate advocate for those suffering. From his own personal encounters with mental illness, he speaks to those seeking healthy relief from depression and anxiety and embraces wellness both personally and professionally. After losing friends and family to the darkness of suicide, Eric aims to educate and inform about the nature of treatment and render it accessible for all those seeking a way out of darkness and despair.