Cocaine, which most frequently comes in the form of a white powder that users snort, is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that there are 1.5 million people in the country who use cocaine regularly. Young adults under the age of 25 are particularly prone to using cocaine. Despite its euphoric effects, the consequences of cocaine addiction can be severe.
Chronic use can cause people to find it nearly impossible to quit. Cocaine withdrawal is an arduous and excruciating experience that most people go to great lengths to avoid. People suffering from drug addiction instead end up with an alternative that is far more drawn out, facing destructive consequences for both their physical and mental health. Cocaine addiction devastates people’s lives, destroying relationships, making it difficult to hold down a job, creating legal difficulties, and sometimes even causing life-threatening overdoses. At any level of addiction, however, individuals suffer from the demoralizing understanding that no matter how much they want to stop using, they are unable to do so on their own.
To treat cocaine addiction, it is essential to seek outside help. Personal willpower is rarely a good substitute for the social support system and behavioral therapies that addiction treatment facilities provide. Individuals hoping to become drug free have a number of treatment options, including residential treatment programs that are highly structured, to outpatient programs that can be readily integrated into a patient’s life. In any kind of addiction treatment program, however, people seeking relief from the pernicious cycle of addiction will have access to a number of resources, including mental health counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), support groups, and life skills mentoring. Getting help via a treatment program is the first step not only to long term sobriety, but to a new and more fulfilling life.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM-5, is the book used by members of the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose patients with specific mental health disorders. People suffering from cocaine addiction can be diagnosed with substance use disorder, the term psychiatrists use, if they suffer from two or more symptoms from a list of eleven. These criteria consist of the following:
The DSM-5 describes people with 2-3 symptoms having mild substance use disorder. Those with 4-5 are classified as moderately afflicted. Individuals who report 6 or more symptoms are considered severe cases. Continuing to use cocaine without seeking treatment can be life threatening for this population.
While the most glaring risks of severe addiction are the physical consequences, most notably overdose, cocaine abuse dramatically changes a person’s lifestyle. Because cocaine is a highly addictive substance, a person who is addicted to cocaine generally finds that drug-seeking behavior comes to take precedence over other activities. As a result, some of the most life-altering effects of cocaine addiction are the person disasters that individuals suffer such as loss of work, divorce, loss of child custody, financial difficulties, incarceration, and even homelessness.
Many cocaine users also turn to other addictive substances, such as crack cocaine or opioids, or they use other substances simultaneously. Alcohol, for instance, is commonly used alongside cocaine and can increase the risk of physical impairments. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and cocaine is a stimulant, using both at the same time can damage the heart and even cause respiratory failure.
Individuals with severe cocaine addictions are prone to developing mental illness. Cocaine abuse can also exacerbate pre existing mental health disorders. Ironically, this can make cocaine more appealing to users, who may continue to use it as a form of self-medication. This can further entrench them in the cycle of addiction. Over the long term, a person addicted to cocaine can find themselves living lives that they would have one point considered unthinkable. The only solution to the vicious cycle is seeking help.
Cocaine is a stimulant with rapid-onset but short lived effects. Cocaine users take the drug because of the high it provides. Other short term effects of cocaine that many users report include feeling more motivated or confident. However, it also has a number of unwanted consequences. These include:
The different methods of ingesting cocaine also come with their own risks. Users who snort cocaine are susceptible to, runny nose, nosebleeds, and problems swallowing. Smokers suffer frequent respiratory illnesses. Users who inject cocaine are at a higher risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, infections, and collapsed veins. Over the long term, no matter which method is chosen, people addicted to cocaine suffer frequent issues with mental health. Another commonality is drug overdose – which can occur at higher doses. Many users die even before making it to the emergency room. In 2017, 13,942 people died in the United States as a result of cocaine overdoses.
Many cocaine users begin using cocaine quite innocently. As a recreational party drug, it is sought after for the high it provides. This high is due to the high quantities of dopamine it releases in the brain. Dopamine is deeply implicated in the brain’s reward center. When it is released, it affects areas of the brain that control motivation, causing users to return to the activity that led to dopamine release. The result is that over time, a recreational pastime can turn into chronic cocaine abuse. Over the long term, the body begins to develop a tolerance to dopamine. This tolerance creates a physical dependence that causes cocaine users to seek out higher quantities of the substance to achieve the high to which they are accustomed. Many people stop snorting cocaine and opt for the quicker, cheaper, and more intense high offered by crack cocaine, which can increase the risks. Withdrawal effects at these higher doses can become so severe that quitting feels all but impossible. At this point, an individual can be said to suffer from a severe cocaine addiction.
Most severe addicts face a number of long-term consequences that, if left untreated, pose major risks to health and quality of life. Long term effects of cocaine include heart attack, constricted blood vessels, and other damage to the cardiovascular system. But damage from cocaine isn’t limited to physical health problems. Mental health can also suffer. Users who prioritize cocaine abuse tend to struggle to fulfill commitments at work, school, or in family life. Relationships with friends and loved ones can deteriorate. Cocaine addiction also inflicts damage on an individual’s self-esteem. When a person recognizes the damage that cocaine has done and wants to moderate use or become drug free, it can be deeply humiliating to discover that one is unable to do so.
Individuals who suffer from cocaine use disorder alongside another mental health condition or conditions are known as “dual-diagnosis” or “comorbid.” These mental health problems vary widely and include bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), among others.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 9.2 million adults in 2018 were diagnosed as dual-diagnosis. Addiction and mental health are deeply interrelated. Those with substance use disorder are at an increased risk of experiencing mental illness. Many individuals with mental disorders are also drawn to drink cocaine as a way of self-medicating, which can lead to dependence and ultimately addiction.
It is essential that treatment programs work individually with dual-diagnosis individuals to treat their underlying mental health conditions if any progress is to be made in addressing their cocaine use disorder. People with co-existing conditions are a unique population requiring integrated care.
Anyone who suffers from a physical dependence on cocaine has probably had the disheartening experience of trying and failing to quit. Because cocaine releases large quantities of dopamine, it hijacks the reward centers of the brain that control motivation. For this reason, willpower is rarely sufficient to stop using. Over the short term, it is sometimes possible for people to refrain from using cocaine. Inevitably, however, cocaine addiction rears its ugly head again and a return to substance abuse is inevitable. For any heavy cocaine user, outside help via support groups such as Cocaine Anonymous is essential for long term recovery
Further, an individual dependent on cocaine is bound to experience a variety of complications and difficulties during withdrawal that call for supervision under trained medical and addiction professionals. These dangerous symptoms of withdrawal include paranoia, sleep disturbances, anxiety, hostility, and depression. Medical experts advise that anyone interested in quitting cocaine seek out a licensed cocaine detox facility where an individual can get proper care.
Withdrawal from cocaine is known in the medical community as cocaine withdrawal syndrome. Because chronic cocaine abuse desensitizes the brain to the effects of dopamine, when a user suddenly stops taking the drug the brain reacts. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
The withdrawal process can be arduous. It is highly recommended that anyone considering quitting cocaine seek the help of a medical detox treatment center. At a cocaine detox facility, individuals can recover in a safe space while receiving necessary behavioral therapies.
Because cocaine has such a short half life, users can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms soon after quitting — sometimes in less than 90 minutes. While the majority of symptoms resolve themselves in 7-10 days, the severity and length of withdrawal depends on a few factors. These include how long the person has suffered from substance use disorders, the quantities of cocaine they consumed, their age, medical history, and whether or not they used other substances as well.
The first phase of cocaine withdrawal involves low mood. Many people suffer from fatigue, irritability, increased appetite, and a general inability to function. Some individuals, especially those with underlying mental health conditions, experience suicidal thoughts. After a few days, many of these symptoms subside. However, cravings for cocaine can go into overdrive. At this point in the withdrawal process, people find it difficult to think of anything but cocaine. Rest assured, however, these symptoms generally disappear after a number of weeks.
Withdrawing from cocaine is extremely difficult to do on ones own. Furthermore, the risks to physical and mental health make it inadvisable to do so. Medical professionals recommend that individuals who want to quit using cocaine begin by entering a detox program where they can get the support they need.
Treatment for cocaine addiction usually occurs in a series of stages that work to meet patients’ evolving needs as they progress toward lasting sobriety. Studies show that the longer an individual spends in treatment programs, the less likely they are to relapse down the line. It is highly recommended that people who have cocaine use disorder take the time necessary to recover from their cocaine addiction and get the care they need by making use of all treatment options.
Create Recovery Center’s Cocaine Addiction Treatment Program is carefully supervised by medical professionals and counselors trained to handle addiction. Our safe, nonjudgmental environment is a perfect place to recover and develop the tools to treat a substance abuse problem. Create Recovery Center takes a holistic approach to each person. Case workers work individually with each patient to ensure that their program of recovery takes into account their unique needs and personal circumstances.
At Create Recovery Center, we understand that achieving sobriety is not merely a matter of quitting cocaine. Long term sobriety requires learning and developing the tools necessary to live healthy and fulfilling lives. To that end, Create Recovery Center works to ensure each patient is ready and prepared for life outside of a treatment center.
Services we offer include:
Create Recovery Center offers treatment programs for patients who are interested in developing a new way of living. Whether you are transitioning from a residential program or you are entirely new to sobriety, our outpatient treatment program and aftercare services will provide you with the tools and the support you need. If you are ready to begin the process of obtaining freedom from the pernicious cycle of cocaine abuse, contact us today. Long term sobriety is yours if you want it.