Cocaine is an extremely addictive substance that is made from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Health care providers may sometimes use it for medical purposes, but recreational use is illegal in the United States. Cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and addiction.
Cocaine works as a stimulant, flooding the brain with dopamine and increasing alertness, attention, and energy. The immediate physical effects of cocaine last about 15 to 30 minutes, but people who abuse this drug usually do so in binges, taking several increasingly higher doses of the drug within a short period of time to maintain their high.
On the streets, cocaine is sold as a fine white powder that dealers often dilute with other substances, such as flour, baking soda, or cornstarch to increase their profits. It may also be mixed with other drugs like amphetamine or heroin.
To use cocaine, people snort the powder, rub it into their gums, or dissolve it with water before injecting it directly into their bloodstream. Cocaine may also come in the form of a rock crystal, which some people heat and then inhale the fumes. This form of cocaine is called “crack cocaine.”
No amount of cocaine use is ever safe, as it is an extremely addictive and harmful drug. Some people may begin using cocaine because they find that it helps them perform physical and mental tasks more quickly. Unfortunately, because the user experiences the pleasurable effects of cocaine use almost immediately, it has a very high risk for abuse. The duration and intensity of the effects will vary based on how the cocaine was ingested.
It is not uncommon for users to abuse cocaine and alcohol simultaneously, which makes the liver produce a chemical called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene makes a cocaine high last longer and feel more intense, but it is also associated with a much higher risk of sudden death.
Despite the serious health concerns associated with cocaine use and abuse, many individuals in the United States still abuse this addictive substance. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 5.1 million Americans used cocaine in 2016.
People who abuse cocaine may suffer serious side-effects and health problems as a result. Even a single dose of cocaine can be extremely dangerous and could potentially lead to addiction.
Immediate short-term effects of cocaine abuse include:
- Burst of energy
- Increased happiness
- Increased mental alertness
- Increased sensitivity to sound, sight, and touch
- Decreased appetite
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature and blood pressure
- Muscle twitches
- Increased heartbeat
- Constricted blood vessels
Long-term effects of cocaine abuse include:
- Severe paranoia
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Lung damage
- Bowel decay
- Loss of smell
- Increased risk of HIV or hepatitis
Large doses of cocaine can also lead to extremely bizarre and violent behavior.
Anyone may become addicted to cocaine, but certain factors increase a person’s risk of developing a drug addiction. These risk factors include:
- Age – Being exposed to drugs or using them for the first time at a young age increases a person’s risk of developing a drug addiction later in life.
- Social environment – Individuals who have close family members and friends who abuse drugs are more likely to do the same. Additionally, aggressive behavior, easy access to addictive substances, poverty, abuse, and a lack of parental supervision are all high-risk environmental factors.
- Biology – Research shows that certain genetic factors may influence a person’s likelihood of becoming addicted. Those with parents or other close relatives who suffer from addiction are more likely to develop addictive behaviors as well.
- Mental health issues – Substance abuse and mental illness often go hand-in-hand, putting those with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental disorders at an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.
Just because a person has one or more of these risk factors does not mean that he or she will develop a drug addiction. Regardless, having several of the above factors does significantly increase a person’s risk.
If an individual is addicted to cocaine, he or she may display some or all of the following signs:
- Neglecting important obligations in favor of using cocaine.
- Needing more frequent and higher doses of cocaine to get high.
- Having strong cravings or urges to use cocaine.
- Continually using cocaine despite the damaging effects it causes.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the cocaine wear off.
- Getting into dangerous or life-threatening situations while under the influence of cocaine.
- Being unable to control or limit cocaine use.
Cocaine addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease and should be addressed as soon as possible. Although there is no quick fix or cure for cocaine addiction, it can be overcome with a thorough and comprehensive drug and alcohol rehab program.
Comprehensive treatment for cocaine addiction should always begin with a medically assisted cocaine detox program. Detoxing from cocaine at home is very dangerous, so it is always recommended that individuals complete the detox and withdrawal process in a medically monitored environment. This ensures that medical assistance is nearby in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
Medically assisted cocaine detox programs also provide 24/7 monitoring and treatment for uncomfortable physical symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal. These typically include:
- Cocaine cravings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches
- Nerve pain
1-3 hours after the last dose: Withdrawal symptoms may begin very shortly after the last dose and typically include exhaustion, anxiety, and irritability.
1-7 days after the last dose: Intense cravings are common, accompanied by insomnia, depression, and mood swings.
2-4 weeks after the last dose: Strong cravings for cocaine are most likely still present, and irritability is common. Extremely vivid dreams may also occur.
5-10 weeks after the last dose: Cravings should have dissipated and most other physical symptoms have subsided. Anxiety and depression may continue to persist for days or weeks.
There are many different types of drug and alcohol rehab programs for cocaine addiction, including 30 and 60-day treatment programs, but according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), long-term rehab of 90 days or longer produces more positive treatment outcomes.
A long-term drug rehab program helps addicted individuals maintain their sobriety by giving them a safe place to remain sober after detox, providing opportunities to learn and practice coping strategies and life skills, and using therapeutic interventions to address the root causes of their addiction.
Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab typically takes place at a comfortable addiction treatment center where clients are given adequate time to adjust to their new sober lifestyle. During this time, treatment typically includes behavioral therapy, 12-step interventions, educational lectures, and other evidence-based treatments. The primary goal of rehab is to address and modify negative behaviors that have contributed to the client’s addiction and apply relapse prevention strategies to prevent current and future cocaine use.
Clients will work with a wide range of addiction treatment professionals during rehab, including licensed counselors and therapists, recovery specialists, medical doctors, and their peers in recovery. In working with these various individuals, clients also have opportunities to establish a recovery support network whom they can rely on to help them through the challenges of early recovery.
Depending on the rehab center, the cost for long-term inpatient drug rehab will vary. Most addiction treatment centers will accept some form of insurance to help pay for treatment. Other common payment options include third-party healthcare loans or reduced out-of-pocket payments. Some employers also offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to help cover the cost of addiction treatment services, such as inpatient or outpatient drug rehab.
After completing an inpatient or outpatient drug rehab program, a person may continue their treatment plan with a transitional housing program. Also known as sober living programs, these structured homes are safe, clean, community living environments that are designed to ease the transition from drug and alcohol rehab to independent sober living.
These programs require that a person remains sober while living in a gender-specific, group home, and residents are often required to adhere to community policies, program requirements, and regular drug and alcohol testing.
Recovery support services such as personal monitoring, employment and education assistance, and peer-guided sober living programming can also be combined with outpatient programs and outside AA or NA meetings to increase the person’s likelihood of achieving long-term success in their sobriety.
Structured sober living homes for men and women provide the perfect level of support and accountability for individuals in recovery who need some extra guidance and time before returning to mainstream living.
The cost for transitional housing programs may vary based on the home type, location of the program, and recovery support services offered. Payment is usually collected on a monthly basis and will vary for each client.
Individuals in recovery from cocaine addiction may also choose to enroll in Aftercare once they have completed their sober living program. Aftercare programs are formatted as weekly check-ins and are designed for rehab graduates who would like continued support in their sobriety.
Group meetings are facilitated by licensed counselors and are designed to help clients overcome the ongoing obstacles of early sobriety. Recovery from cocaine addiction is a lifelong process and will require daily effort to maintain continued sobriety.
- Gender-specific treatment
- Evidenced-based treatment
- 12-Step immersion
- 90-day residential treatment
- Family program
- Full continuum of care
- Insurance and private pay
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