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Cocaine Addiction Treatment

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 assistance, you can embrace a healthy, balanced life without drugs.

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

Cocaine retains a few isolated 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 orally.

Signs of cocaine abuse include problems controlling your use of the drug or experiencing problems in your daily life as a result of your cocaine use.

dopamine

Long-term cocaine use is linked with many different potential health conditions, including alterations to the brain that result in you not being able to experience pleasure in the same manner as you did before your cocaine abuse, movement disorders, and an increased potential for a stroke. Many organs are affected by cocaine use, including the brain, liver, skin, kidneys, and cardiovascular system.

Classification

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

Cocaine became popular in the United States and Europe in the 1800s. It was even included in soft drinks like the original versions of Coca-Cola. But by the early 1900s, it was recognized that cocaine was a potential drug of abuse, and its use was tightly controlled.

Today, cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that there are recognized medical uses for it in the United States. These are mostly very isolated cases where it is used as an anesthetic or vasodilator in hospitals or medical clinics. It would be extremely rare for anyone to be prescribed the drug for personal use to treat some medical condition.

Use Rates

Data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that a fair number 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 (which cannot conceivably happen with cocaine), you are probably abusing the drug. Possession of cocaine, in any amount, by a private 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 are using coke recreationally, you probably don’t care too much about the legal aspects associated with your drug use (at least until you are caught).

But if you display the following signs, it’s clear that you’re using too much cocaine:
  • Your use of cocaine interferes with important activities in your life, such as your work, your functioning at school, or your relationships with others.
  • You give up activities that were once important to you in favor of using cocaine.
  • You spend a lot of time trying to get cocaine or using it.
  • After you use cocaine and come down off from the drug, it interferes with your ability to function. You might take time off work, neglect obligations, or have personal problems with others.
  • You frequently (more than a few times) use more cocaine than you originally intended to use.
  • You keep saying you are going to cut down on your cocaine use or stop using cocaine, but you don’t.
  • You keep making excuses for your cocaine use even though you know it is causing you problems with your health, emotional well-being, and/or in other important areas of life.
  • You sometimes use cocaine in situations where it is incredibly dangerous, such as before driving.
  • You hide your use of cocaine from people important to you, and you like about your use.
  • You get angry and even aggressive when people comment that you use cocaine too much.
  • You cannot afford to use the amount of cocaine that you use. You struggle financially to obtain it, or you steal it.
  • You find that it takes a lot more cocaine to get the same type of buzz that you once got.
  • When you stop using cocaine, you become depressed, easily stressed, or irritable. You have significant urges or desires to get more cocaine.

Stimulant Use Disorders

If you use cocaine on a regular basis, even if it’s once a week, you are abusing the drug. However, you still might not have a formal substance use disorder — the clinical term for someone who has a severe drug abuse problem or what people used to refer to as an addiction.

man filing out health insurance forms
If you are diagnosed with a stimulant use disorder as a result of your cocaine abuse, this is a sure sign that your use of cocaine is problematic. By definition, any stimulant use disorder is a psychiatric disorder that causes you major problems in numerous areas of life. There is no such thing as a “functional cocaine user.”

Effects of Use

If you regularly use cocaine, you are placing yourself at risk for many different types of physical and emotional problems. There are many physical, emotional, and cognitive effects of cocaine abuse.

Just a few of these issues are outlined below:
  • If you snort coke, you will almost certainly incur some damage to your nasal passages, such as damage to the mucus membranes, abscesses, or even nasal perforations.
  • If you smoke cocaine (crack), you are very likely to develop respiratory issues that can include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a risk to get lung cancer. You may also have an increased risk for these if you snort cocaine.
  • If you inject cocaine, you open yourself 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 coke abusers, 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 you drink alcohol when you 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.
  • You run the risk of being diagnosed with some other mental health disorder in addition to a substance use disorder.
  • Increased tolerance to cocaine increases the probability that all the above effects will occur because you will use more of the drug. If you continue high levels of use, you will eventually develop withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop using 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. If you have enough cocaine available, it is quite easy for you to binge and then overdose on it.

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.

Withdrawal

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

  • Depression, apathy, feelings of emptiness, and sensitivity to perceived stress
  • Lethargy and sleepiness
  • Increased appetite (When you are using cocaine, you will experience significant appetite suppression.)
  • 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, you could potentially overdose on cocaine if you attempt to make the symptoms go away by taking more of the drug. People often take a high dose in this situation out of desperation to make the symptoms dissipate.

During withdrawal, you could become severely dehydrated and experience other ill effects. It’s wise to have medical supervision during this process. Professionals can ensure you stay safe and stable as you detox from the drug. Medical supervision also significantly reduces, and often eliminates, the potential for relapse during this vulnerable period.

The Need for Treatment

If you struggle with continued cocaine abuse, professional treatment is likely necessary.

In treatment, you can identify and address the root issues that led to your substance abuse. You can learn how to manage triggers that prompt you to use cocaine, and you can develop healthy habits to take the place of substance abuse.

group therapy session
While there is no quick fix to cure addiction — there is no cure for addiction — you can learn to effectively manage the disease. With some help, you can live a healthy, happy life without cocaine or any other substance of abuse.

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. The evaluation will investigate all areas of your functioning and be used to develop a treatment plan for you.

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

It will be adjusted to fit your specific situation and needs, and the plan may morph somewhat over time, depending on your progress.
  • 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 interventions that you 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 to repair 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.

Cocaine Abuse Resources

Most addiction treatment programs are equipped to effectively address cocaine and other stimulant addictions.

If you’d like more information on cocaine abuse, check out these resources:

 

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