cocaine addiction

A Guide To Cocaine Addiction And Treatment

If you or a loved one is facing a drug addiction and looking for more information and support to properly handle the addiction, Vertava Health is here to help you. Our guide to cocaine addiction will cover the basics of the drug, examine common symptoms of using cocaine, walk through negative consequences of use, and go over the options that exist for cocaine treatment.

We know that dealing with addiction can be a confusing and worrying time, but we’re here to assure you that you can get all the treatment and information you need right here!

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant. Generally, cocaine comes in the form of a white powder that can be dissolved in water, but it is also available as a liquid. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), cocaine use has remained stable in the U.S. since 2009. 

Another survey, which monitors teen attitudes on drug use, reports a significant decline in the prevalence of powder cocaine use among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from peak use in the late 1990s.

Although use of cocaine has remained stable in the past few years, the number of individuals who still struggle with cocaine addiction remains pretty significant. According to NSDUH, in 2014, about 913,000 Americans met the diagnostic criteria for dependence or misuse of cocaine in any form.

Cocaine is a strong stimulant that makes the signals between the brain and body move faster. This results in an increased sense of alertness and physical activity. Cocaine causes the brain to be flooded with a rapid-release of dopamine, a hormone involved in mood and thinking processes.

How Is Cocaine Consumed?

The powdered form of cocaine is either inhaled through the nose (snorted), where it is absorbed through the nasal tissue, or dissolved in water and injected into the bloodstream.

Street names for cocaine include basa, base, blow, coke, crack, and toot.

How Did Cocaine Use Become Such A Problem?

Pure cocaine is extracted from the leaf of the Erythroxylon coca bush found mostly in South America. Historically, chewing the coca leaf was the primary mode of cocaine ingestion. In the 1880s, the drug was isolated and was used in eye, nose, and throat surgeries as an anesthetic and to constrict blood vessels and limit bleeding. Coca leaves have also been used in teas and at one time were incorporated in beverages such as Coca-Cola®.

As cocaine’s popularity increased in the 1880s and 1890s, reports of addiction emerged, and the potential harm from the drug was soon recognized. As a result, the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 was passed to prohibit the importation of cocaine and coca leaves, with the exception of pharmaceutical uses. Then, shortly after the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 strictly regulated the manufacture of pharmaceutical amphetamines, the use of cocaine began increasing.

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Widely popular in the 1980s, cocaine was a party drug that gave users intense feelings of euphoria, awakeness and superiority. Famous actors and athletes used the drug and increased its reputation and popularity. Cocaine addiction became a household name when these high profile personalities overdosed on cocaine and died. Celebrities like John Belushi, college basketball player Len Bias and actor River Phoenix all died due to complications of cocaine use.

Signs And Symptoms Of Cocaine Use

cocaine addiction treatmentAlways be on the lookout for the general signs of drug addiction like job loss, excuses to borrow money, stories about whereabouts not adding up and aggressive responses to confrontation.

The immediate and intense cocaine high lasts about 15 to 30 minutes if the drug is snorted. If cocaine is smoked, the high can last approximately five to 10 minutes. The residual effects, no matter the method of use, can last for one to two hours.

Short-term effects of cocaine use may include:

  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased temperature, heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased stress on the heart and circulatory system
  • Increased energy and alertness (hyperstimulation)
  • Euphoria
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Increased possibility of risky behaviors that may lead to sexually transmitted diseases (HIV and hepatitis by sharing needles)

Other effects of cocaine use can lead to loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and an overall irritation of the nasal septum, which could result in a chronically inflamed, runny nose.

Ingested cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene due to reduced blood flow. Persons who inject cocaine have puncture marks called “tracks,” most commonly in their forearms, and may experience allergic reactions either to the drug or to some additive in street cocaine, which in severe cases can result in death.

Many chronic cocaine users lose their appetite and experience significant weight loss and malnourishment.

Cocaine use on its own does not necessarily constitute an addiction. However, it can turn into one. With repeated use, it is possible to become physically and mentally dependent on the drug. Once this happens, individuals are no longer able to control their use of the drug, and their bodies have convinced them they need the drug to function.

The human body is quite adaptable. When a drug is introduced to the body’s system, the body will gradually adjust and learn to function in conjunction with the substance. However, this is also where addiction sets in. Once the body has become accustomed to the drug, it constantly expects the substance and craves more of it, thus ending up in addiction.

Prolonged cocaine use can cause a number of other health issues.

Some long-term effects of cocaine use may include:

  • Headaches
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Heart disease, heart attack and stroke
  • Lung damage and disease (respiratory failure and difficulty breathing)
  • Damage to the nasal septum (snorting)
  • Irritability and mood disturbances
  • Auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Sexual dysfunction (men and women)
  • Reproductive damage and infertility
  • Sudden death–even with the first use

Once tolerance to cocaine has formed, more frequent and larger doses are needed in order to feel the same effects a smaller dose once produced. If someone tries to stop using cocaine after a tolerance has developed, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. As the body tries to adapt to functioning without its usual substance, chemical imbalances can result that cause common withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Strong cravings for cocaine
  • Mood swings that can make an individual feel depressed, agitated or anxious
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Physical reactions such as headaches, aches and pains, increased appetite, not sleeping well
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frustration

Paraphernalia can also be an indication that someone is abusing or addicted to cocaine. Objects like needles for injection, rolled-up pieces of paper for snorting, or powdered covered, flat surfaces may indicate a problem with cocaine.

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How Cocaine Affects The Brain

Cocaine is a strong central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that interferes with communication pathways in the brain by rapidly releasing excessive amounts of dopamine hormone.

Dopamine is a hormone that is strongly influential on pleasure sensations and movement through the brain’s reward center. Cocaine is particularly addictive because it alters the brain’s sense of reward and punishment.

As individuals use cocaine more frequently, a buildup of dopamine occurs in the brain and causes constant stimulation (a sense of reward) while the drug is still effective. Once the drug wears off, however, the extreme drop (or lack of sense of reward) causes individuals to crave more of the drug.

As dopamine levels increase and the substance stimulates key pleasure centers within the brain, the user may experience an extremely heightened euphoria. A tolerance to cocaine develops quickly as users soon become unable to achieve the same highs experienced previously from the same amount of cocaine. Repeated cocaine use alters the user’s brain chemistry and results in those long-term changes in the brain’s reward systems.

Cocaine is highly addictive and creates the greatest psychological dependence of any drug next to methamphetamine.

Some research also found that cocaine use may also affect the levels of corticosterone in the brain. Corticosterone is a stress hormone that can be higher in people who are constantly stressed out. The research also indicated that individuals with higher natural levels of corticosterone in their systems were more sensitive to low doses of cocaine.

This increased sensitivity to the effects of cocaine may be a contributing factor to why cocaine is such an addictive substance. When people are stressed, cocaine’s effects may seem even more relaxing and powerful. This finding could also reflect why some individuals experience more intense cravings for cocaine than others.

When used for a long time, cocaine can cause the deterioration of white brain matter in the frontal lobe. This is significant because the frontal lobe of the brain is the self-control center and when it becomes deregulated, addictive behaviors can worsen. This can make it even more difficult to get an addiction under control or employ self-restraint.

Dangers Of Cocaine Use

Cocaine can be a very risky substance with many negative consequences. Dangers of cocaine use include potentially fatal overdose and uncomfortable withdrawal. When someone takes too much cocaine for their system to handle, the effects of the drug are put into hyperdrive.

cocaine overdose treatmentHyperactivity of the heart can lead to potentially lethal side effects like:

  • Irregularities in heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
  • Severely elevated heart rates (tachycardia)
  • Extremely high blood pressure, leading to stroke
  • Dangerously high body temperature
  • Sweating and nausea
  • Confusion and psychosis
  • Severe anxiety or agitation
  • Tremors and seizures

The chances of someone overdosing on cocaine can be difficult to predict because it is influenced by several factors. These factors include the method of use, the purity of the cocaine, an individual’s tolerance of the drug, and whether another substance was used alongside cocaine.

It is very possible for someone to experience a fatal overdose from cocaine with just the first use.

Cocaine Use In Pregnant Women

Most women who are addicted to cocaine are of childbearing age, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is also estimated that about five percent of pregnant women use one of more addictive substances and that there are about 750,000 cocaine-exposed pregnancies every year.

cocaine abuseDue to the negative social stigma surrounding cocaine use by pregnant women, and fear of losing their children, many women are unwilling to report their substance use disorders. This can potentially lead to certain risks that include a lack of appropriate levels of prenatal care and lower overall health for both the mother and child.

Cocaine use during pregnancy has been associated with maternal migraines and seizures, premature water break, and separation of the placental from the lining of the uterus (miscarriage).

Normal cardiovascular changes in pregnant women can also be increased by cocaine use. Sometimes, this can cause serious issues like severely high blood pressure, spontaneous miscarriage, preterm labor, and difficult delivery. To reduce these risks, formal treatment for cocaine addiction should be considered necessary.

Cocaine And Polydrug Use

It is also more likely for people to engage in polydrug use while simultaneously using cocaine. Polydrug use refers to any instance in which multiple substances are mixed together to achieve a certain effect. Many drug combinations can be highly dangerous and can result in fatal overdose.

According to Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), 56 percent of all emergency admittance (12 years and older) in 2012, reported cocaine as a primary substance of use seven percent of the time, and as a secondary substance of use 14 percent of the time.

Mixing substances can severely increase the risk of negative side effects, including health complications, not just the increased risk of fatal overdose.

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There Is Help For Cocaine Addiction Recovery

The good news in all this is that there are great treatments out there for cocaine and crack cocaine addiction. Healing and recovery is possible! A program with solid inpatient or outpatient treatment services is imperative to prevent cocaine relapse.

cocaine treatmentAt Vertava Health, we work closely with our patients to determine the right cognitive therapies to treat their addiction.The goal of cognitive behavior therapy for cocaine addiction is to help individuals reduce drug use and successfully prevent relapse. This approach attempts to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope. They are taught to recognize the situations in which they are most likely to use cocaine and avoid these situations when appropriate.

Users are also taught how to use coping skills to more effectively manage a range of problems and problematic behaviors associated with cocaine use. If you or someone you love is struggling with a cocaine addiction, Vertava Health is poised to help–today.  Within one hour of your call you can be on your way to learning how to lead a new life, free of addiction.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Treatment for cocaine addiction begins with detoxing from the drug. The cocaine detox process can last between one to three weeks, and can be very difficult for individuals to overcome on their own.

When cocaine use is discontinued immediately, the user will experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on an individual and how long an individual has struggled with a cocaine addiction.

To review, cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Itching
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • An intense craving for more cocaine
  • Nausea and vomiting

Formal treatment for cocaine addiction should take into consideration the wide range of social, familial, and other environmental factors that lead to cocaine addiction.

There are currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. However, many behavioral treatments, like contingency management, have been used to treat cocaine addiction with great success.

After successfully completing detox, individuals often enter into inpatient treatment programs to learn about addiction and gather some tools they can use to help ensure a more secure recovery and longer sobriety.

Inpatient treatment programs can cover subjects from a family’s role in addiction and recovery, to healthy stress management, to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and more.

To learn more about cocaine use, addiction, and treatment options, contact us today.

24/7 Cocaine Addiction Support Hotline:(615) 208-2941

Recover From Cocaine Abuse  At Vertava Health

Vertava Health provides all levels of addiction recovery care in a comfortable and safe environment. Our campuses offer the perfect place to reflect, learn, change, and thrive. Our cocaine treatment programs are tailored to each client, and overseen by dedicated addiction recovery professionals,from our admissions specialists to licensed counselors and medical staff. Contact us at (615) 208-2941 for assistance.

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