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Cocaine Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 1, 2019

Cocaine is one of the most potent stimulants. Abusing this substance can be dangerous and may lead to extensive abuse and addiction that can produce many additional health concerns.

Cocaine is one of the most potent central nervous system stimulants, and abusing this substance can quickly lead to addiction. Although people know the risks of cocaine abuse, they are still willing to take the drug.

Roughly 1,800 Americans experiment with cocaine for the first time each day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Individuals who want to stop using cocaine will likely need the assistance of a formal drug addiction treatment program.

Signs, Symptoms, and Effects Of Cocaine Addiction and Abuse

Cocaine is a white powder substance that interacts with the central nervous system to cause increased energy and euphoria. Any cocaine use is considered abuse because the drug is illegal. Cocaine increases the “feel-good” hormones, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain, which is what causes feelings of excitement and overstimulation. Although everyone is different, the signs of cocaine abuse tend to be similar and become more noticeable as use becomes more frequent.

Other signs that someone may be under the influence of cocaine include:

  • talkativeness
  • excitement
  • alertness
  • anxiety
  • overconfidence

Depending on how someone takes the drug, whether they snort, smoke, or inject it, they may experience a different duration of effects. When someone snorts cocaine, the effects of the drug are short-lived, lasting between 15 to 30 minutes.

Smoking or injecting cocaine causes more intense effects that last for shorter amounts of time, typically five to 10 minutes. Individuals commonly continue to use cocaine to maintain the desired outcomes. It is also important to note that injecting cocaine carries a higher risk of overdose than snorting or smoking the drug.

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Dangers Of Cocaine Abuse on Your Health

Extended cocaine abuse can be dangerous, as continued misuse can cause strain on various internal organs such as the brain and heart. A stroke or cardiac arrest (heart attack) are the most common cause of death in individuals who frequently abuse cocaine.

Individuals who abuse cocaine may do so in conjunction with other substances, also known as polydrug abuse. Many people may be taking cocaine in an environment that supports taking more than one substance at once.

Substances commonly mixed with cocaine include heroin and alcohol because they counteract the effects of cocaine, which can make individuals feel safe taking more cocaine. This can be particularly dangerous because it dramatically increases the risks of overdose.

Cocaine is a highly abused drug, but it can be hard to tell when someone is addicted to it. Intense cravings for the drug and ignoring the adverse consequences that come with cocaine addiction are the most telling signs.

Psychological addiction to cocaine is often the most challenging part to overcome, although the physical manifestation of the drug can be difficult to handle as well. Once someone is addicted to cocaine, it can be challenging to stop taking more of the drug.

Effects of Cocaine Withdrawal And Detox on Your Body and Brain

The strong influence of cocaine on the body and mind can leave lasting effects. Even after one use, the individual’s brain can become dependent on the drug to feel normal. When someone stops using cocaine or misses a dose, they will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Many people continue to abuse cocaine, deepening their addiction to the substance, to avoid uncomfortable and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Possible symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • increased appetite
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • agitation
  • restless behavior
  • night terrors
  • anxiety
  • suicidal thoughts

Withdrawal symptoms may vary but are usually the opposite of the effects of the drug. They may also differ on an individual basis depending on if the individual has combined cocaine with other substances.

Typically, withdrawal symptoms from cocaine will appear within hours of stopping use. The worst cravings and withdrawal symptoms appear during the first month of quitting, while the drug is being eliminated from the body.

Treatment Options For People Suffering from Cocaine Abuse And Addiction

Although there are currently no government-approved medical treatments for cocaine abuse, behavioral therapies have been shown to be effective in addressing the psychological components of cocaine use disorders.

Individual or group counseling can teach people the skills they need to live and maintain a sober lifestyle. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one widely used method for cocaine addiction treatment. In combination with a sober inpatient treatment environment, individuals are more practiced in identifying their triggers and understanding their addictive behaviors.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Cocaine

University of Maryland: Center for Substance Abuse Research - Cocaine (Powder)

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