According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2017, just under one million Americans struggled with a cocaine use disorder over the past year. In this same year, one million people used cocaine for the first time.
A cocaine use disorder includes harmful patterns of abuse and cocaine addiction. In addition to causing serious health problems, cocaine abuse and addiction can substantially damage a person’s work, school or home life.
The best drug rehab programs for cocaine address the mental, physical and spiritual damage caused by addiction. This integrated approach promotes mind-body-spirit healing and long-term recovery from cocaine.
Cocaine is a stimulant drug that carries a high potential for abuse and addiction. Because of this, it’s considered a Schedule II drug.
Cocaine comes in two forms, both of which are extremely addictive. The more common, powdered form is referred to simply as cocaine, coke or blow. The freebase, rock-like version of cocaine, crack, is even more addictive than its parent drug.
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Powdered cocaine is most commonly snorted, however, it may also be injected, smoked or taken orally. Despite being viewed as a fun party drug by many, each route of administration carries unique risks and exposes a person to the threat of addiction.
Cocaine is considered a stimulant or “upper” due to the way it stimulates the central nervous system and brain. As this occurs, certain parts of the brain and body can speed up.
When cocaine hits a person’s system, it causes the neurotransmitter dopamine to build up. These excess amounts create a sense of reward and pleasure that drive patterns of drug seeking and using.
While these characteristics are responsible for the pleasurable effects people who abuse cocaine seek, they’re also what makes this drug so risky to abuse.
Some people believe that because cocaine is made from coca leaves, a natural substance, the drug is safe. On the contrary, cocaine is a very dangerous drug, abuse of which carries serious risks and dangers, including overdose and death.
Cocaine found on the street is rarely pure. Instead, it is frequently cut or laced with other drugs or chemicals, such as baking soda or amphetamine. Depending on the substance, this could increase the risk of overdose and adverse health effects.
Cocaine Abuse Signs And Symptoms
As cocaine abuse accelerates into addiction, a person will likely develop the following major signs of cocaine addiction:
- Tolerance: A person does not experience the sense of euphoria or pleasure they desire when they take their typical dose of cocaine. Because of this, an individual may take a higher dose.
- Cravings: Thoughts of finding and using the drug becomes excessive, to the point these urges begin to disrupt a person’s life.
- Dependence: Frequent use of cocaine causes the body to become reliant on it, to the extent it cannot function normally in the drug’s absence.
- Withdrawal: If a person is dependent on cocaine and abruptly stops using it or drastically reduces their dose, their body may malfunction. This can cause discomfort and illness.
As these states set in, an individual’s priorities can rapidly shift, leaving important work, family, educational and personal goals ignored.
A person may act evasive when questioned about drug use and push close friends and family members away. In their place, a person may spend increasing amounts of time with people who buy or use the drug.
When a person is struggling with cocaine addiction, they may continue to take the drug even after it’s causing physical or mental health problems. A person may not be able to quit using the drug even after multiple attempts at quitting.
In order to use cocaine, a person must have certain equipment or paraphernalia. Many of these items are common household goods that are adapted to serve this purpose.
If abuse is suspected, being on the lookout for the following items could help a person spot a potential problem.
Paraphernalia for snorting cocaine includes:
- a straw or cut-off pen for snorting the drug
- a rolled-up dollar bill for snorting the drug
- snuff bullets for snorting the drug
- razor blades for cutting the cocaine into lines
- small baggies for transporting it
- a small, folded paper package, or bindle, to transport coke in
- powdery residue on hard surfaces, such as mirrors or CD cases
Needles or syringes can be signs of abuse when a person is injecting cocaine intravenously.
Cocaine Abuse Short-Term Effects
The high or euphoric state caused by snorting cocaine can last 15 to 30 minutes, however, a person may feel some effects for one to two hours after their last dose. To compensate for this short-lived high, some people may binge, or take back-to-back doses of cocaine.
Cocaine can quickly change the way a person’s body and mind functions. Shortly after taking cocaine, an individual may become extremely talkative, energetic or excited. They may also seem overly happy, however, shifting moods can accompany cocaine abuse.
Taking cocaine can make a person feel as if they’re not hungry or that they need little sleep, effects that can be even more pronounced during binges. A person may also become overly sensitive to sights, sounds or touch.
Other short-term physical effects of cocaine abuse can include:
- dilated pupils
- tremors or muscle twitches
Additional short-term mental effects of cocaine abuse can include:
When a person takes cocaine, they may also be overcome with feelings of confidence and power. In this state, a person may take part in risky behaviors, such as operating a vehicle or having unsafe sex. Unprotected sex could expose a person to serious transmissible diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
Cocaine Abuse Long-Term Effects
As a person continues to abuse cocaine, their neurochemistry, or chemistry of the brain, can change. These changes contribute to the development or reinforcement of tolerance, dependence and in turn, addiction.
The more a person uses cocaine, the greater the changes to their reward system. With continued exposure to this drug, the brain’s reward pathway struggles to experience reward and pleasure from natural rewards, such as eating, drinking water or relationships.
These changes in the brain circuitry can also lead to negative moods and depression when a person is without the drug, sensations that accompany withdrawal from cocaine. The combination of these effects can drive patterns of drug-seeking and intensify addiction.
As a person’s focus becomes increasingly centered on cocaine and they struggle to feel pleasure from anything else, they will likely begin to ignore things that are vital to their health and well-being.
Paired with the physical side effects of the drug, such as a decreased appetite, this can cause a person to eat or drink very little. From this, a person may develop dehydration, malnourishment and/or lose a substantial amount of weight.
When a person experiences sensitization to cocaine’s effects, smaller doses of the drug can cause toxic effects, such as anxiety or convulsions. After a binge and crash cycle, a person may also become irritable, restless or have panic attacks.
Cocaine Abuse Risks And Dangers
Cocaine abuse can cause serious or lasting health problems, such as:
- Brain Damage From Cocaine: Long-term cocaine can damage the brain and nervous system. This may result in brain bleeds, brain seizures, strokes, and movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. Research has also found that cocaine abuse may age the brain and reduce grey matter.
- Cardiac Problems From Cocaine: As a stimulant, cocaine can place great strain on the heart. In fact, cocaine abuse is considered a risk factor for heart disease.
Further, research shows that within an hour of taking coke the threat of heart attack is almost 24 times greater. Long-term abuse may also cause aortic ruptures, cardiac arrest, heart inflammation, and more severe atherosclerosis.
- Cognitive Problems From Cocaine: Using cocaine over an extended period of time can change the way a person thinks and reasons. A person may struggle to remember things, make decisions, maintain attention or regulate impulses.
- The Dangers Of Snorting Cocaine (Insufflation): Repeated use of cocaine can damage delicate nasal tissues. This can lead to nosebleeds, chronic sinus infections, loss of sense of smell and a hole developing in the septum or tissue between the nostrils.
- The Dangers Of Injecting Cocaine: People who share needles for the purpose of injecting cocaine intravenously may contract an infectious disease, such as HIV or hepatitis C (HCV).
- The Dangers Of Mixing Cocaine And Alcohol: Cocaine is commonly abused with alcohol. This combination can cause a toxic chemical, cocaethylene, to result. The dangers of mixing cocaine and alcohol include an increased risk of cardiac problems, overdose, and sudden death.
- Teen Cocaine Abuse Dangers: Cocaine abuse is dangerous at any age, but according to research, teens who binge on cocaine may be more sensitive to the drug’s rewarding sensations. This effect could increase the risk of cocaine abuse later in life.
Cocaine Overdose Signs
At its most severe, a cocaine overdose can cause heart attacks, an irregular heartbeat, seizures, and death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, deaths from cocaine are most frequently due to cardiac arrest or seizures.
Getting prompt medical help could be dependent on knowing the signs of cocaine overdose which may include:
- blue skin hues
- heavy sweating
- high blood pressure
- a high temperature
- loss of urine control
- rapid breathing
- rapid heartbeat
A cocaine overdose can occur any time a person uses this drug, however, the risk of overdose can increase when cocaine:
- is used in large amounts in a single setting
- is taken in binges
- is abused with other drugs, such as alcohol or heroin
- is used in hot weather, a behavior that increases harmful side effects such as dehydration
Individuals who have developed both a tolerance to cocaine and sensitization to cocaine toxicity may face an increased danger of overdose when they abuse this drug.
Further, cocaine may be cut or laced with harmful substances that increase the potential for addiction and overdose, such as the potent opioid fentanyl. Just a minuscule amount of fentanyl-laced cocaine could cause a deadly overdose.
Cocaine Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms
A person who is dependent on cocaine may experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop using cocaine.
Individuals who take large amounts of this drug on a regular basis may also go into withdrawal if they significantly reduce the dose they take.
The timeline of cocaine withdrawal may vary and can be dependent on the severity of abuse and dependence. Generally, symptoms can begin in only a few hours and last up to a week.
Signs and symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can include:
- intense cravings
- muscle tremors
- needing more sleep
- overwhelming hunger
- severe headaches
- slowed activity
- vivid dreams
Cravings and depression may continue for several months for individuals who used large amounts of cocaine over a prolonged period of time. Suicidal thoughts have been linked to withdrawal symptoms in certain individuals as well.
Cocaine Withdrawal And Detox Treatment Programs
Medical stabilization may be necessary for people who are severely dependent on cocaine. This comprehensive medical care is often best delivered in an inpatient medical detox program for cocaine.
Here, 24-hour supervision helps to protect a person from the most serious risks associated with cocaine withdrawal, such as suicidal thoughts.
A residential medically supervised detox program for cocaine dependence may use certain medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Nutritional support and IV fluid hydration may be administered to address malnourishment or dehydration caused by cocaine abuse.
Counseling sessions may be integrated into detox. These sessions begin to teach a person valuable coping skills that can help them protect their sobriety. This compassionate support and encouragement can also ease fear and anxiety at this time.
Finding A Cocaine Drug Rehab Program
People who abused cocaine can have a high risk for relapse even after they’ve been sober for an extended period of time. For this reason, a comprehensive treatment plan for cocaine should include substantial relapse prevention training.
Residential drug rehab centers for cocaine provide the highest level of care at this time and may be preferable over outpatient treatment for those who are severely addicted.
The best inpatient drug rehab programs for cocaine addiction provide individualized treatment that addresses each client’s unique needs. This approach increases a person’s opportunity for achieving greater mind-body-spirit healing and wellness.
During rehab, guidance and support are offered through therapy and counseling sessions. Commonly offered in an individual, group and/or family setting, these sessions work to equip a person with sober living skills that are tailored to their life.
Evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and 12-step facilitation therapy may be used to help a person find and maintain long-term sobriety.
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- AHA Journals — The effects of acute and chronic cocaine use on the heart
- Business Insider — This Is What Cocaine Does To Your Body
- Center for Substance Abuse Research — Cocaine (Powder)
- Cleveland Clinic — Cocaine (Crack)
- MedlinePlus — Cocaine intoxication, Cocaine withdrawal
- Molecular Psychiatry — Cocaine dependence: a fast-track for brain ageing?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Cocaine: Research Report Series, Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Behavioral Therapies, What is cocaine?