Cocaine Addiction and Treatment Options

Any recreational use of cocaine is considered abuse. And if you regularly use cocaine, it might be a sign of a problem. There are many treatment options available to help you stop using cocaine altogether. With some help, you can embrace a healthy, balanced life without drugs.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that is made by extracting benzoylmethylecgonine from the coca plant.


Cocaine has some medical uses in the United States, but it is primarily a drug of abuse. It can be abused by grinding it up and snorting it, smoking it, mixing it with water and injecting it, or taking it by mouth.

Signs of cocaine abuse could include problems controlling usage or problems in your daily life because of your usage.

Long-term cocaine use is linked with many different potential health conditions; some of these include the inability to feel pleasure due to the effect cocaine has on the pleasure center. Other potential health conditions include movement disorders and an increased potential for a stroke. There are also other organs that are affected by cocaine use, including the liver, skin, kidneys, and cardiovascular system.

Classification and History of Cocaine

Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is a stimulant made from the coca plant that grows in South America. Natives in these areas have chewed on coca leaves and used them in religious ceremonies or to increase their energy.

Cocaine became popular in the United States and Europe in the 1800s. It was even included in soft drinks like Coca-Cola, but by the early 1900s, cocaine was recognized as a potential drug of abuse. After this, its use was controlled.

Today, cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance; this means that there are medical uses for it in the United States. These are mostly isolated cases where it is used as an anesthetic in hospitals. It would be rare for anyone to be prescribed cocaine for personal use.

Cocaine Usage Rates

Data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that a good amount of Americans have used cocaine at least once.

  • In 2016, about 38.9 million Americans reported some lifetime use of cocaine. In 2017, about 40.6 million Americans reported some lifetime use.
  • In 2016, about 8.8 million Americans reported some lifetime use of crack cocaine. In 2017, that number had increased to 9.6 million.
  • In 2016, about 5.1 million Americans reported using cocaine, and 882,000 reported using crack cocaine within the year prior to taking the survey. In 2017, these figures were 5.9 million and 930,000 respectively.

Signs You Might Be Using Too Much

If you are using any Schedule II controlled substance without a prescription, you are probably abusing the drug. Possession of cocaine, in any amount, by an individual without a prescription for it is illegal.

The drug is not designed to be used for recreational purposes like alcohol. Therefore, from a legal standpoint, any use of cocaine is “too much.”

If you display the following signs, you may be suffering from substance abuse:

  • Usage of drugs interferes with important activities, such as work, functioning at school, or relationships with others.
  • Electing to not participate in activities that were once enjoyable.
  • After using drugs, it interferes with the ability to function properly. 
  • Frequently using more than you originally intended on using.
  • Finding it difficult to quit using drugs.
  • Making exceptions for drug use even though you are aware that it may be causing problems with health or emotional well-being.
  • Using drugs in situations where it is potentially dangerous, such as before driving.
  • Hiding the fact of how much you use. 
  • Getting angry or aggressive when people mention your usage. 
  • Finances become difficult to maintain.
  • It takes a lot more of a drug to get the same high.
  • Becoming depressed, anxious, or irritable when you’re not using.

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Stimulant Use Disorders

If cocaine is used on a regular basis, even if it’s once a week, it is considered abuse. However, those who fall into this category still might not have a formal substance use disorder — the clinical term for someone who suffers from severe drug abuse, or what people used to refer to as an addiction.

If someone is diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder as a result of their drug abuse, this is a sure sign that one’s usage is problematic. By definition, any stimulant use disorder is a psychiatric disorder that causes problems in numerous areas of life. 

Effects of Cocaine Use

Regular cocaine usage places many users at risk for physical and emotional problems. There are a lot of physical, emotional, and psychological effects of cocaine abuse.

Issues related to cocaine use are outlined below:

  • Snorting coke will do damage to the nasal passages, such as damage to the mucus membranes, abscesses, or even nasal perforations.
  • Smoking cocaine (crack) makes one more susceptible to respiratory issues that include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the risk of lung cancer. 
  • Injecting cocaine opens people up to various potential health hazards, including damage to the veins and arteries, heart damage, and contracting blood-borne diseases as a result of needle sharing.
  • Severe cardiovascular damage can occur with any mode of administration.
  • Tooth decay is common in users, particularly those who snort or smoke the drug.
  • Damage to the liver and kidneys is a potential result of chronic cocaine abuse. The probability of liver damage is increased if one drinks alcohol when they use cocaine. This is due to the formulation of a toxic substance when alcohol and cocaine are combined. Cocaethylene remains in your system longer than cocaine.
  • Neurological damage as a result of chronic cocaine use can present as problems with attention, memory, emotional control, movement, and the ability to experience pleasure due to alterations in the reward pathways of the brain.
  • Susceptibility to mental health disorders.
  • Higher tolerance increases the probability that all the above effects will occur when using more of the drug. When continuing in high levels of use, withdrawal symptoms will develop when one attempts to stop using cocaine.

Cocaine Overdose

People who abuse coke often binge on the drug because its euphoric effects do not last very long. Peak levels of cocaine occur about 30 minutes after snorting it, 45 minutes after injecting it, and 5 minutes after smoking it. The euphoria is extremely short-lived.

The high from cocaine is often followed by apathy, depression, a feeling of emptiness, and cravings to use the drug more. When enough cocaine is available, it is easy to binge and overdose.

The following are symptoms of a cocaine overdose:

  • Heartbeat irregularities that can include an extremely slow or extremely fast heartbeat
  • Alterations in blood pressure that can be dangerous (either elevated or decreased blood pressure)
  • Chills and/or perspiration
  • Dilated pupils
  • Problems moving, such as being very irritable and hyperactive or moving very slowly
  • Weakness, problems breathing, and chest pains
  • Confusion or psychosis
  • Heart attack, stroke, or a comatose state
  • Seizures

At the current time, there is no specific medication to reverse the effects of a cocaine overdose. Instead, the symptoms are addressed with medications and IV fluids. Symptoms are addressed on an individual basis.

A cocaine overdose can be fatal. If you suspect one, immediately call 911.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

People who abuse cocaine typically refer to their withdrawal symptoms as a “crash” or “comedown” from the drug.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include the following:

  • Depression, apathy, feelings of emptiness, and sensitivity to perceived stress
  • Lethargy and sleepiness
  • Increased appetite 
  • Mood swings
  • Headache, nausea, increased body temperature, altered heartbeat, chills, fever, and sweating

In some cases, people experience hallucinations or paranoid delusions during the comedown period.

These withdrawal symptoms are not considered to be potentially fatal, but they are very uncomfortable. As a result, one could potentially overdose on cocaine if they attempt to make the symptoms go away by taking more of the drug. People often take high doses in these situations out of desperation to make the symptoms dissipate.

During withdrawal, dehydration and other ill effects are likely to occur. It’s beneficial to have medical supervision during this process. Professionals can ensure safety and stability as one detoxes from the drug. Medical supervision also significantly reduces and often eliminates the potential for relapse during this vulnerable period.

The Need for Cocaine Treatment

group therapy session

If you struggle with continued cocaine abuse, professional treatment is likely necessary. In treatment, you can identify and address that which led to your substance abuse. You can learn how to manage triggers that prompt you to use, and you can develop healthy coping mechanisms to combat substance abuse.

While there is no quick fix to cure addiction, you can learn to effectively manage the disease over time with perseverance. With some help, you can reach sobriety and stability.

The first step in the treatment process is a full evaluation by a medical professional or mental health care clinician. Most often, a team approach is effective, so you can be assessed by professionals with various specialties. This evaluation will investigate all areas of an individual’s biology and psychiatric needs and can be used to develop a treatment plan for them.

The treatment plan is based on the empirically validated principles of treatment.

Cocaine addiction treatment will be adjusted to fit your specific situation and needs, and the plan may develop somewhat over time:

  • You may be placed on medications to help you get through the withdrawal process. While there is no specific medication used for cocaine withdrawal, you may receive prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, or medications to help you sleep. Symptoms are treated individually.
  • In many cases, outpatient medical detox is appropriate. If you have a history of relapses, a co-occurring psychological disorder that also needs treatment, or your living situation is not conducive to recovery, inpatient, or residential medical detox may be preferred.
  • Substance use disorder therapy is the core component of addiction treatment. Most often, this type of therapy is of a cognitive-behavioral nature. It can be performed in individual sessions or groups. Often, clients receive therapy in a combination of individual and group sessions.
  • Getting involved in support groups, like 12-step groups, can be extremely helpful. You can learn from others in recovery, follow the program that is offered in these groups, and get a lot of structure to increase your confidence in recovery.
  • There are other methods that you can choose from in many addiction treatment programs. Alternative or complementary therapies include music therapy, art therapy, equine-assisted therapy, and wilderness therapy. Case management, tutoring, vocational rehabilitation, and other services may be offered.
  • Support from family and friends is crucial to recovery. Family therapy can be extremely helpful in repairing relationships that may have been damaged in active addiction.
  • Long-term involvement in treatment is crucial. Again, there isn’t a quick fix to addiction. Recovery takes time.

What Kind of Treatment Options are Available?

Substance abuse is a very difficult road to travel, but you’ll never have to walk alone if you reach out. If you are addicted and want to receive help, it is imperative that you contact a professional at footprints or any other treatment center. These professionals know that there are many ways to combat addiction.

Some of these options for cocaine addiction treatment include the following:

Medical Detox Treatment for Cocaine

Inpatient (Residential) Treatment for Cocaine

Partial Hospitalization Program for Cocaine

Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Cocaine

Outpatient Treatment for Cocaine

Addiction Therapy for Cocaine

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is a rehab program that is meant for severe cases of addiction. Inpatient residential treatment allows someone to stay in the care of a treatment facility 24/7. For those who participate, inpatient treatment grants patients with round-the-clock access to professional medical personnel as well as weekly (in some cases daily) access to professional therapists and psychiatrists. This method of care could last anywhere between 28 days and six months; it all depends on the individual and their needs. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is meant for milder cases of addiction, in which those who participate are able to reside in the comfort of their own homes as opposed to staying in the care of a treatment facility. This provides minimal disruption to the daily lives of patients. 

Outpatient treatment could be good for those who don’t require as much immersive care as those who participate in residential treatment, or for those who have completed inpatient rehab and aren’t ready to make the jump to the outside world. 

With 10-12 hours of weekly access to professional therapists and psychiatrists, outpatient care doesn’t give patients any less quality when it comes to their treatment. This method of care could last anywhere between 3 months to over a year. Once again, it all depends on the needs of the individual. 

Medical Detox Treatment

Medical detox is meant to help patients wean themselves off of drugs while the medicine keeps withdrawal symptoms at bay. Some symptoms of withdrawal include the following:

  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Drug rehab is difficult. Managing the symptoms of withdrawal can be discouraging when you’re trying so hard to quit drugs altogether, but you don’t have to do it alone. It is imperative that you seek treatment if you believe medical detox will be beneficial to you. 

Detoxing from home is dangerous, and if not done under the care of a professional, it could even prove fatal. Detox treatment allows individuals to take a medicine that manages their withdrawal symptoms so that they can say no to insatiable drug cravings while feeling comfortable. 

Therapy in Rehab

Therapy is one of the most successful parts of addiction treatment. The purpose is to help patients cope with their withdrawal, their addiction itself, or any sort of trauma from their past. This sort of environment allows individuals to feel validated and encouraged to move past their substance abuse.

There are a few different kinds of therapy in addiction treatment, some of which include the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy

Individual Therapy

As previously mentioned, the goal of therapy is for individuals to improve their coping mechanisms when it comes to their struggle with substance abuse. In individual therapy, this is done with the help of a therapist who facilitates a more intimate, comfortable environment where patients feel as though they can be vulnerable with their addiction and the way it impacts them and those around them. This is done because when it comes to substance abuse, there are usually external factors that contribute to one’s behavior. Lots of emotional baggage has been lifted due to this process. 

Group Therapy

Sometimes, there’s no better way to open up about one’s addiction than to have the support of those who surround you. Being upfront and vulnerable in this regard with the encouragement of others goes a long way in addiction treatment. The purpose of group therapy is to help individuals who suffer from substance abuse feel validated and encouraged. The worst part about recovering feels as though you’re all alone.

Isolation is scary, but confronting it face to face with individuals who have suffered the same way you have makes the fear seem that much smaller. As far as how these sessions are conducted is concerned, it’s a sort of socratic conversation. Anybody who feels as though they have something to share can do so. This allows each patient to feel comfortable and validated when they share their struggles and even their victories. When common people are united against a common enemy, great strides can be made. A professional therapist usually moderates the conversation and contributes a sort of structure for each session.

Family Therapy

Those who abuse drugs directly are not the only ones who suffer from the impact of substance abuse. Loved ones and family members also suffer from addiction. Substance abuse is a huge mess; a mess that has a splatter effect on those who care most about an addicted person. Family counseling allows individuals to clean that mess up and mend the pieces of a broken relationship. As the name suggests, family therapy involves loved ones and individual suffering from substance abuse to speak openly in a controlled and intimate environment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a therapeutic technique that seeks to narrow down the motivations behind someone’s actions. For example, if a doctor is treating a patient for nausea, the patient may be fine for a little bit, but if they have the stomach flu and aren’t taking the medicine that attacks at the source, the treatment is no good. This is the idea behind cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Ultimately, analyzing someone’s thought processes allow individuals to examine the reason behind a person’s action. If a patient is able to reconstruct the world around them in a positive way, it could be the difference between a failed or successful recovery.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a kind of cognitive-behavioral therapy. This method of therapy aims to treat the following:

DBT is successful in helping those who suffer from addiction combat their mental health disorders. Like cognitive behavioral therapy, this method aims to treat the cause of someone’s behavioral health disorder rather than exclusively treating the symptoms. 

What Are My Next Steps?

As far as the next steps are concerned, it may be beneficial to simply have a conversation. For those who are suffering from addiction, it is common to not initiate the conversation; that’s okay. What they need is to be met with love and understanding at the right time, and that’s our approach at Footprints Recovery. That’s not to say the matter isn’t urgent, however. If you believe having a simple one-on-one won’t help, it may prove helpful to stage an intervention. 

What is an Intervention?

An intervention is a planned, strategic conversation between a few individuals, facilitated by a professional therapist. Interventions are helpful because they allow an individual to see what kind of effect their actions are having on those around them. 

In a controlled environment, this could do great in the area of raising their awareness. This may be the route you want to go if you feel a conversation is necessary because, without a professional moderator, things could get out of hand pretty quickly. If you believe an intervention may be necessary for someone you love, it is important to contact help as soon as possible. 

Footprints is Walking Beside You 

If you or a loved one are suffering from cocaine addiction, help is just a phone call away. At Footprints, we are more than willing to meet each individual’s unique needs. We are passionate about seeing them all the way through their recovery. If you want to take the next step today, you can contact us.

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