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Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Substance abuse comes in many different forms, and some drugs are different from others. In many cases, we may underestimate the danger of a drug or its effect on our loved ones. It may also be the case that we do not know how the drug works or how it affects our loved ones or us. When dealing with cocaine and addiction, it helps understand how it works, what effects it has, how it interacts with other drugs, and how one can get further help.

Cocaine is a hazardous and addictive drug. Its street form often appears as a fine, white crystal powder and is sometimes referred to as blow, coke, crack, rock, or snow. Cocaine functions as a stimulant and is illegal for recreational use.[1] Cocaine is used in various ways, including snorting, rubbing into gums, dissolving and injecting it into the bloodstream, or combining it with heroin. Cocaine can also be smoked when in the form of a rock crystal known as Crack.[2]

Cocaine Effects and Abuse

Cocaine’s addictive qualities come, at least in part, from its stimulation of the dopamine system. As it is called, the mesolimbic dopamine system is one of the primary “reward” pathways in the brain. Essentially, certain stimuli, such as sex, food, or drugs like cocaine, activate a sensation of reward and pleasure in the brain. However, in certain drugs like cocaine, the normal communication process regarding dopamine and the brain is disrupted. During cocaine usage, dopamine, the substance which causes the sensation of pleasure, accumulates abnormally. It is this accumulation of dopamine that causes a sense of “euphoria” when using cocaine.[3]

Addiction to Cocaine

Unfortunately, the usage of the dopamine system in such an abnormal way is not without side-effects. First, the brain and body do not want to have the pleasurable sensation removed, and too long without the sensation will cause withdrawal symptoms to begin. Secondly, the reward circuit being used by cocaine begins to adjust and adapt to the drug’s presence. Over time, more and more of the drug is required to reach the same level of activation of the dopamine system (that is, it takes longer to reach the same “high” as before).[4]

Short-term Effects

In most cases, cocaine will trigger effects almost immediately and maybe gone anywhere from a few minutes to an hour later. These effects include the following:

  • Euphoria
  • Increase of energy
  • Talkativeness
  • Mental alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • The decrease in the need for food and sleep
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increase in body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle twitches[5]

In some cases, cocaine may also trigger medical complications, such as heart attacks, headaches, seizures, strokes, comas, abdominal pain, or nausea. There are also reported instances of sudden death after one use of cocaine. Cardiac arrest or seizures are the most frequent medical complications from cocaine usage that lead to death.

Long-term Effects

As mentioned above, long-term usage of cocaine will cause increased dependence (and withdrawal symptoms when not using) and decreased sensitivity to the drug. This often causes users to require higher or more frequent doses to reach the same “high” and experience relief from withdrawal.[6] This dangerous cycle of increased usage makes overdose more and more of a risk for regularly using cocaine.

Different methods of using cocaine can also result in specific long-term health consequences. For cocaine users who snort cocaine, long-term effects may include the loss of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and trouble swallowing. In cases where cocaine is smoked, long-term effects may include cough, asthma, respiratory distress, and a higher risk of infections like pneumonia. Cocaine users who consume cocaine by mouth may experience severe bowel decay due to the reduced blood flow cocaine causes. Consumption of cocaine through needle injection will often put users at higher risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. Additionally, these users will be at risk for skin or soft tissue infections and scarring or collapsed veins.[7]

Cocaine and Other Drugs

In some cases, cocaine may be used alongside other drugs. This is a hazardous practice, as the drugs are already dangerous by themselves. When combined, the possibility of more serious issues arises.

  • Cocaine and Alcohol: increases risk of heart complications through raised heart rate and blood pressure
  • Cocaine and Heroin (or Other Opioids): potentially fatal, increases risk of breathing problems and heart complications
  • Cocaine and MDMA: potentially fatal, increases the possibility of heart complications.
  • Cocaine and Antidepressants: potentially fatal, increases the possibility of “serotonin syndrome,” in which the brain’s level of serotonin exceeds what is safe, and can lead to excessive sweating, tremors, raised heartbeat, seizures, shaking, shivering, and death[8]

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is a serious, difficult, and complicated issue. The possibility of overdose, which is compounded by other drugs alongside cocaine, makes cocaine addiction particularly dangerous. In cases of overdose, there is no specific medication that can resolve the problem. Still, certain steps can be taken to alleviate symptoms, including restoring blood flow to the heart, restoring oxygen-rich blood supply to an affected part of the brain, or stopping a seizure.

Because of the dangers involved in cocaine addiction, it is of great importance that helps in the form of treatment is sought out as soon as possible. Withdrawal is one of the most difficult parts of recovering from cocaine addiction. Withdrawal can include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased Appetite
  • Unpleasant Dreams and Insomnia
  • Slowed Thinking

At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to come alongside those struggling with cocaine addiction and withdrawal symptoms to help transition into recovery. We can offer 24/7 on-site medical help and supervision, counseling, and consistent care to facilitate the process of healing. Please review our various programs[9] to see what meets the situation or need. It is also recommended to review our accreditation,[10] staff,[11] and facility,[12] so that you can be confident Cycles of Change Recovery is the right path for you or your loved one.

Sources:

  1. [1] NIDA. “Cocaine DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 13 Jul. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine.
  2. [2] Ibid.
  3. [3] NIDA. “How does cocaine produce its effects?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11 Jun. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/how-does-cocaine-produce-its-effects.
  4. [4] NIDA, “Cocaine DrugFacts.”
  5. [5] NIDA. “What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 11 Jun. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use.
  6. [6] NIDA. “What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 Jun. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-long-term-effects-cocaine-use.
  7. [7] NIDA, “Cocaine DrugFacts.”
  8. [8] Drug Policy Alliance. “What happens if you mix cocaine with alcohol and/or other drugs?” https://drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/cocaine/what-happens-mix-cocaine-other-drugs.
  9. [9] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/programs/.
  10. [10] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/about/accreditation/.
  11. [11] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/about/staff/.
  12. [12] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/about/palmdale/.