Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, and continues to be a serious health threat in today’s society. Cocaine is extracted from the cocoa plant, indigenous to South America, and produces a short and intense euphoria that can result in:

  1. Talkativeness
  2. Heightened alertness
  3. Increased self-esteem
  4. Paranoia
  5. Increased sex drive
  6. Heightened blood pressure
  7. Faster heart rate
  8. Decreased appetite
  9. Lowered inhibitions
  10. Impaired judgment

Cocaine is most commonly used in binge patterns among users because of its short high, which can last anywhere from 5-30 minutes, depending on the method of administration. Typically used in social and party settings, individuals who abuse cocaine may use it constantly throughout a day and into the night, to maintain the euphoric effects of the drug.

Cocaine AddictionUsually appearing as a white crystalline powder, cocaine is most typically administered through the nose (snorting). Additional routes of administration are smoking the vapors by heating cocaine, or dissolving it in water, and injecting it intravenously. The high from injection and smoking cocaine is almost immediate, and likewise, the duration is very short, lasting approximately 5-10 minutes. When administered through the nose, a cocaine high can last from 15-30 minutes. Either way, compared to other drugs of abuse and addiction, cocaine has the shortest length of effect on a user, and prompts more frequent repeated use on any given occasion it is used by an individual.

Effects of Cocaine Addiction

When an individual becomes addicted to cocaine, the way in which his or her brain functions is drastically altered. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine increases the levels of dopamine in the brain, which regulate pleasure and movement. This is related to the reward system in the brain, which receives natural stimulus from things like sex or smelling good food. Typically, dopamine stimulates the reward system, and is then recycled for later use. However, cocaine blocks the recycling of dopamine in its excess, and this is what causes the intense euphoria associated with it.

Cocaine is more dangerous when it is used with other dangerous drugs of abuse and addiction, which is a very common occurrence. One of the most common drugs used with cocaine is heroin. This mixture is referred to as a “speedball” or “powerballing”. Typically administered intravenously or snorted, the combination of cocaine and heroin is intended by users to regulate the effects of each drug. Since cocaine is a stimulant and heroin is a depressant, each is expected to balance the effects of the other. However, because cocaine has such a short effect on its users, there is commonly a delayed effect of the heroin, which often leads to overdose and death. Although many who use speedballs may feel more regulated initially, once the cocaine wears off, and the effects of the heroin are isolated, it is frequently realized that a fatal dose of heroin has been ingested far too late to avoid serious consequences including death.

After long-term use of cocaine, the brain begins to reduce the natural production of dopamine in an effort to balance the unnaturally high amounts it receives when cocaine is used. The result of this is that pleasure from natural stimulus ceases to be a factor, and cocaine addicted individuals experience a dramatic low when cocaine is not being used. This is known as a crash, and this can occur within an hour of the last administration of cocaine. If more cocaine is not obtained during this time, effects of withdrawal will occur, and it is a combination of crashing and withdrawal from cocaine that can prompt some bizarre behaviors in an attempt to get more of the drug.

Cocaine Withdrawal

When an individual is addicted to cocaine, he or she has a psychological dependence on the drug. When cocaine use is ceased, or drastically reduced, addicts will experience withdrawal from the drug, the severity of which often depends on the severity and nature of cocaine use. Some of the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can include:

  • Extreme agitation
  • Lethargy
  • Insomnia
  • Disturbing and vivid nightmares
  • Itchiness
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Mania
  • Intense cravings
  • Suicidal ideations

While none of the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are considered to be dangerous or life-threatening, they can be severe and grueling for the addicted individual. Most notably difficult to manage are the cravings and agitation exhibited by a cocaine addict going through withdrawal. Although the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are not necessarily dangerous, the behaviors exhibited as a result can bring about some very dangerous situations for addicts, and others around them. Some examples of this behavior are:

  • Severe agitation to the point at which cocaine addicts become violent and/or hostile
  • Addicts can become so paranoid, they may attack innocent bystanders whom they believe pose a particular threat.
  • Addicts can become depressed to the point at which they have suicidal thoughts, and attempt to follow through with them.

It is because of the effects of the psychological withdrawal symptoms from cocaine, that a supervised detoxification is recommended. In such an environment, addicts are in a safe and drug-free place, and monitored by professional staff  who are trained to manage the behaviors resulting from the severe cases of these symptoms. Additionally, in many detox facilities, medications can be given to addicts to ease some of the more severe symptoms  and facilitate sleep throughout the detox process. Typically, cocaine detox takes 5-10 days, and this depends on the individual and the severity of his or her addiction to cocaine.

Dangers of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction can lead to devastating consequences, and for those addicted to it, there is little enjoyment in life other than the euphoria associated with its use. Unfortunately, the euphoria of cocaine use is short lived and comes with some serious health consequences and risks. One of the most commonly used definitions of addiction is the continued use of a drug (or engagement of a behavior) despite repeated negative consequences as a result of it. This pattern is inherent to addiction because most individuals would naturally cease or reduce any activity that produces negative consequences. Only those whose entire thought process has been altered by addiction can experience multiple negative consequences in life, yet continue with the behaviors that cause said consequences. Some examples of the consequences cocaine addicts are likely to encounter over the duration of their addiction are as follows:

  • Financial troubles like never being able to pay off debts, burning through large amounts of money quickly, and spending money on cocaine before fulfilling financial obligations.
  • Legal troubles from criminal charges like DUI, public intoxication, drug and paraphernalia possession, and solicitation, theft, fraud and forgery to get money for more cocaine.
  • Troubled or broken relationships over continued use of cocaine.
  • Health consequences resulting from cocaine use, and use of other drugs with cocaine, including compromised health resulting from sharing needles and unsafe sexual behavior while under the influence of cocaine.

The unfortunate reality is that a number of cocaine addicts may find themselves in and out of incarceration, without a home, friends or family to call on, and in complete despair over their addiction. However, all hope is not lost, as cocaine addiction can be treated, and addicts can find a path to recovery and sustained sobriety.

Recovery From Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction treatment is the leading resource for addicts who are willing to receive help to get their lives back on track towards health and sobriety. Although cocaine addiction can be a very powerful influence in an individual’s life, when he or she is ready to receive help, cocaine addiction treatment programs can offer vital assistance in a number of individualized ways:

  1. Detoxification
    Detoxification from cocaine is not life-threatening, nor does it typically have any effects on one’s health or the occurrence of complications. The length of time is usually no longer than 5 days, and depends on the individual, his or her general health, possible other drugs from which he/she needs to be detoxified, as well as the severity of his/her cocaine addiction. Once detoxification has been completed, addiction treatment can begin.
  2. Individual Therapy
    Individual therapy aims to get to the underlying issues, traumas, and pain each addict has experienced in life that may be contributing to his or her addiction. Most often, addicts have some sort of trauma from which they seek escape, and drugs tend to be their best coping mechanism. In addiction treatment, addicts are offered individual therapy to help identify these issues, confront them, and reconcile them to the point at which they are able to use healthy coping skills as a replacement for drug use.
  3. Group Therapy
    Group therapy is essential in addiction treatment because it encourages fellowship, support, and understanding between several addicts. This helps each to understand that he or she is not unique in his/her struggles, addiction, and or life experience. Results have shown that the less isolated an individual feels, the more comfortable he or she will be with change.
  4. Individualized Therapy Methodologies
    Perhaps one of the most underrated characteristics of effective addiction treatment, these various therapy methods are designed to appeal to people from all backgrounds, religions, beliefs, lifestyles, and preferences. These can include various treatment tracks such as:

    • Christianity based
    • Self help based
    • Self discipline
    • Buddhist
    • Islam faith
    • Catholicism
    • Judaism
    • Native American
    • Gender specific
    • GLBT specific
    • Age specific
  5. Aftercare Programs
    Aftercare programs are designed to establish a plan for recovering cocaine addicts once their addiction treatment program has been completed. This plan is put in place as a safety net to promote relapse prevention as much as possible. Some of the things covered in aftercare programs are:

    • Where will the individual live?
    • Where will he/she work?
    • In what activities will he/she continue to participate outside of treatment?
    • Where are the useful support groups for the individual to utilize?
    • Where should the individual continue with individual therapy?
    • Who are the supportive contact people in case the individual runs into trouble with maintaining sobriety?

If you, or someone you love is addicted to cocaine, and in need of addiction treatment, please call us now and speak with a trained counselor about what kind of addiction treatment will be most effective for yourself, or your addicted loved one, based on belief system, preferences and needs. We understand how daunting it can be to sift through thousands of treatment options without a real understanding of what each do, and what is actually needed for the suffering individual. Addiction treatment does work, so please let us help you to find the right path towards a sustained recovery with sobriety from drugs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for life.