What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant drug. It comes from the coca
plant, also known as Erythroxylon coca, which is native to South America.
Indigenous peoples there used cocaine for more than a thousand years for
medicinal purposes. Eventually, Western medicine took notice and began
using the plant as well. Famously, cocaine was even an ingredient in early
formulas for Coca-Cola® beverages.
Visually, cocaine looks like fine white powder or rocks. People primarily
use cocaine as a recreational drug and snort, inhale, or inject it. When
found on the street, dealers often “cut” cocaine with other
substances like baking soda, sugar, talcum powder, anesthetics, or even
other drugs. Combining drugs is potentially dangerous, because the user
is not aware of the additions and can easily overdose.
Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which means doctors can use it for legitimate
reasons, including local anesthesia. However, it also is subject to abuse
and addiction. In fact, it’s one of the most-used illegal drugs
in the United States.
Cocaine is highly addictive because of the way it works in the brain. Like
some legal drugs, it inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine,
and dopamine. This inhibition leads to euphoric sensations. Therefore,
even with little cocaine use, there can be a high risk of dependence,
abuse, and addiction. Common street names for cocaine include coke, crack,
snow, powder, or blow.
What Are the Signs of Cocaine Addiction?
Users of cocaine may have high energy or be unusually sexually excited.
Other symptoms include:
- Increased anxiety or irritability
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Social isolation
Secretive behavior can also indicate a cocaine problem because individuals
who misuse drugs tend to hide their habits. As cocaine addiction deepens,
users will often abandon people and relationships they once held dear.
Once addiction has progressed to this point, most individuals need to
attend medical detox followed by cocaine addiction treatment.
Visual clues that may indicate cocaine use include:
- Traces of white powder around the nose
- Deterioration in physical appearance
- Dilated pupils
- Light sensitivity
- Runny nose
Individuals that inject cocaine into their bodies can have visible needle
marks on the arms, hands, legs, or feet. Discarded syringes are also an
obvious clue of cocaine injections.
As cocaine is highly addictive, it’s essential to recognize the signs
and symptoms of cocaine dependency and addiction. Identifying cocaine
addiction early is one of the best ways to get people the help they need.
What Are Common Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms?
Most of the time, cocaine withdrawal symptoms aren’t physical like
those associated with other drug withdrawals. Instead, the symptoms are
Common cocaine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Unpleasant dreams
- Difficulty concentrating
Cocaine withdrawal begins when a dependent user suddenly stops or dramatically
decreases the use of the drug. The symptoms and severity of withdrawal
depend on many factors. The longer someone has used cocaine and the amount
they used will impact the withdrawal process.
The brain of someone suffering from cocaine addiction becomes dependent
upon the drug to function normally. Therefore, any decrease in the brain’s
expected level of cocaine use will lead to cocaine withdrawal, not just
a complete stop.
What to Expect During Cocaine Detox
The first step in the cocaine detox timeline occurs when a dependent user
decides to start the
detox process. Signs of cocaine withdrawal begin as soon as a few hours after the last
time of use. The actual symptoms usually aren’t that severe, but
the cravings can feel extreme.
The exact timeline of cocaine withdrawal due to detox is different for
everyone and depends on the duration of use, the severity of the addiction,
and other factors. Younger people often experience easier withdrawals
than older people. In general, the longer someone has used cocaine, the
greater the intensity of withdrawal.
The individual’s method of use can also impact the length and severity
of withdrawal symptoms. If the patient abused other drugs along with cocaine,
they would likely experience more intense symptoms. Additionally, everything
from weight to the body’s metabolic rate can also influence detox.
Below is a brief overview of what to expect during cocaine detox:
Day One and Two: Generally speaking, the first day or two of cocaine detox can be the most
severe. Common withdrawal symptoms are irritability, restlessness, hunger,
exhaustion, and depression.
The First Week: Withdrawal symptoms typically peak around the second or third day and
then begin to subside over the next week. Emotions can be drastic as users
deal with the effects of the drug leaving their systems. Suicidal thoughts
are not uncommon.
Week Two: By the end of the second week of cocaine detox, the drug may be completely
gone from the body. For shorter-term users, cocaine can be gone from the
body in less than a week. Severe addictions could cause cocaine detox
to occur for multiple weeks.
The Following Months: In the months that follow cocaine detox, people are likely to experience
bouts of intense cravings for the drug. Depending on how severe the addiction
was, depression may also continue to be an issue. After six months, the
cravings should substantially drop off though, and the brain will slowly
return to normal function.
Because of the addictive nature of cocaine and the challenges of cocaine
withdrawal, one of the best ways to detox from the substance is under
professional medical care. People can attempt cocaine detox without assistance
but trained medical professionals can provide helpful support.
There are also withdrawal medications that doctors can prescribe to individuals
in cocaine detox and addiction treatment to help them restore normal brain
function. Medical cocaine detox can provide a safe and supportive environment
for the withdrawal process.
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction
- Heart disease
- Sexual issues
- HIV or Hepatitis (if injected)
- Bowel decay (if swallowed)
- Loss of smell (if snorted)
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options
After detox, cocaine cravings don’t simply disappear, especially
for people who suffer from longer-term cocaine addictions. In fact, cocaine
cravings can be intense and long-lasting.
The cocaine detox process is just the beginning of recovery. The circumstances
in life that lead people to cocaine addiction don’t disappear. The
same pressures of work, relationships, and society still exist. Ongoing
cocaine addiction treatment is nearly always necessary to improve the
long-term health and wellbeing of people in recovery.
There are no specific medications for the ongoing treatment of cocaine
addiction. Therefore, treatment generally focuses on creating a safe environment
while simultaneously minimizing withdrawal and craving symptoms.
There are two main types of cocaine addiction treatment:
Inpatient Treatment: Inpatient cocaine addiction treatment programs are best for those who are
at high risk, as they offer 24-hour supervision. People with severe psychological
reactions to detox are also great candidates for inpatient programs. Patients
without major life responsibilities or a home life conducive toward recovery
find success with these programs as well.
Outpatient Treatment: Outpatient programs are best for those with robust support systems and
lower risks. Patients don’t stay overnight at these facilities.
They only come during scheduled times to receive treatment and therapy.
Outside of treatment, people can continue going to work or school while
getting the help they need.
Cocaine addiction treatment often involves a variety of therapies, including
but not limited to:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people identify triggers that lead to drug use. Through cognitive
behavioral therapy, people learn what situations might cause them to relapse.
Cocaine addiction treatment providers teach strategies to
prevent relapse from occurring.
Family Therapy: This form of
therapy focuses on the person suffering from cocaine addiction and his or her
immediate family members. Family therapy teaches positive health behaviors
for all members of the family.
Motivational Interviewing: Motivational interviewing is a technique that helps people with motivational
change. Ultimately, people must be motivated to abstain from cocaine.
Thus, this form of therapy helps coach people on the motivational aspects
Contingency Management: Contingency management focuses on incentives for positive behaviors. While
in contingency management, therapists give people tasks to complete in
the path to recovery. As the patients complete the tasks, they earn rewards.
Aftercare: Aftercare is a critical aspect of cocaine addiction treatment to help people with
long-term success. Support groups that provide community can help with
ongoing recovery during aftercare treatment. People can find all kinds
of therapists for tailored counseling, as well, during aftercare treatment.
Other long-term cocaine addiction treatment options are appropriate for
some cases, including sober living homes that provide housing for patients.
While medical professionals don’t usually manage sober living facilities,
these facilities do have strict rules about no drugs in the homes.