Perhaps you or someone you know uses cocaine merely as an aid in their school studies. Or only to enhance their work performance. It could be just to work some overtime. No one gets addicted, right?
Cocaine addiction is a complicated issue and involves biological changes in the brain along with social, family, and environmental factors. Due to this, the treatment of cocaine addiction must include the range of problems that cocaine addiction produces. It’s important to match the best treatment program to the individual’s needs. Cocaine addiction treatment may include:
- Behavioral Therapies
- 12-Step or Self-help programs
Here are some signs of cocaine abuse. You might recognize some symptoms in your friend or yourself. And yes, you can become addicted.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse
- Weight loss
- Frequent nightmares or insomnia
- Psychosis and hallucinations
- A change for the worse in the quality of life, relationships, and employment
- Nosebleeds or runny nose (from snorting the powder form of cocaine)
- Nagging cough (from smoking the crack form of cocaine)
- Inability to stop using
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using
- Desire to keep using despite health complications
What Causes Cocaine Addiction?
Cocaine addiction happens because cocaine increases the natural reward messenger in the circuits of the brain. This chemical messenger is dopamine and it is influential in the control of movement and feelings of reward. When your brain functions normally, dopamine recycles back into the cell that released it. This then shuts off the messaging between the nerve cells.
However, when you introduce cocaine to the system the dopamine is prevented from being recycled. This results in large amounts of dopamine building up in the space between the cells, which then stops their communication. This flood of dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain reinforces the drug-using behavior.
Eventually, the brain’s reward circuit adapts to the extra dopamine which makes it lose its sensitivity to it. Because of this meddling in the reward circuit, you need to use stronger and more frequent doses to get the same feeling they got the first time. Plus, a regular user will feel symptoms of withdrawal if they have to go without, or without enough. This is tolerance which leads to dependence and addiction.
Short-and Long-term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine use ranges from the occasional user to the repeated or compulsive user with different patterns in between. Whatever the level of use, it has the potential to lead to ingesting toxic amounts of cocaine. This can cause heart attacks, strokes, or seizures, all of which can result in sudden death.
- Exaggerated sensitivity to touch, sound, and light
- Extreme happiness
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of sense of smell
- Difficulties with swallowing
- Rupture in the intestinal tract
- Higher risk for stroke and seizures
- Memory problems
- Bleeding in the brain
- Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
How Cocaine Increases Risk for Other Diseases
Cocaine increases the risk for other serious health issues by ruining your ability to make good decisions. This lack of good judgment can lead to risky sexual behavior including trading sex for drugs and sharing needles. This behavior increases a cocaine user’s risk of becoming infected with diseases such as:
- HIV and
- Hepatitis C (HCV)
Sadly, there are no vaccines to prevent infections from HIV and HCV.
Research that examined patterns of HIV infection and progress has discovered that cocaine use speeds up HIV infection. Along with this, it obstructs immune cell function and promotes the spread of HIV. This multiplies the damaging effects on different types of cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Researchers have also seen that infection with HIV also increases the risk for a co-infection with HCV which affects the liver. Liver complications are common and frequently co-infected individuals die of cancer and chronic liver disease.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Medical detox or detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of the drug’s toxins by stopping its use. The resulting withdrawal symptoms may last for days or even months in long-term heavy users. Withdrawal symptoms may also begin before the user is completely free of cocaine and still has some left in their blood. Typically, cocaine withdrawal doesn’t have the visible symptoms like vomiting and shaking as seen in heroin and alcohol users, but it may cause these symptoms:
- Appetite increase
- Slowed thinking
- Sleep problems
- Paranoia and suspicion
- Extreme cravings for the drug
Cocaine withdrawal is usually safe but there are no approved medications to help ease the symptoms. People who have extreme withdrawal symptoms need inpatient treatment in a hospital or detox center to help them successfully detox. Even though some people detox at home, it is not advised to do this because if the symptoms become severe they may result in depression, psychosis, or suicidal thoughts.
Partial Care (PC) or Partial Hospitalization Program (PCP)
This program is similar to a residential or inpatient program except that you don’t live at the treatment facility. This level of care provides several hours of therapy and skill-building groups each day. Days are structured and there will be a daily routine to keep you involved in your recovery.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Frequently, people don’t take advantage of treatment because it would mean being away from work or school and family for extended periods. An intensive outpatient program is the second level of care that is a great option for people who have either completed a PC program and need continued treatment or don’t need detox or inpatient treatment services. In an IOP you will be provided a safe structured environment as in PC, but you will attend treatment 3-5 times a week. In addition, you will receive therapy for about 9 hours per week.
Outpatient Program (OP)
An outpatient program is similar to the IOP but it requires fewer hours and fewer days of commitment. Many times, the treatment center will allow for treatment and therapy sessions to be scheduled during the day or evening. OP is a good step-down from one of the higher levels of care. The longer a person stays in some type of treatment, the better their chances of long-term success in their recovery.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
It’s already been mentioned that there are no pharmaceuticals available to specifically treat cocaine addiction. Still, medications with other purposes can be helpful, such as antidepressants for the depression that you might struggle with during detox.
Besides depression, a previously undiagnosed mental condition may need medical treatment. With addiction, there is commonly an underlying mental issue that may be driving the addiction. When a person has a substance use disorder and a mental disorder it is called a dual diagnosis and it is critical that both conditions be treated at the same time.
Individual therapy consists of one-on-one counseling sessions with your therapist. It’s also sometimes called “talk therapy.” These sessions are completely confidential and are aimed at getting to the deeper reasons for your cocaine abuse. Individuals are often reluctant to speak in front of others so this is a way to really open up to someone about your issues.
Group therapy is another form of talk therapy that involves one or more therapists working with several people (typically around 8 to 12) at the same time. Group therapy helps people learn socialization and communication skills. It also allows patients to learn how to take criticism and to see issues from the perspectives of other people.
This therapy approach focuses on educating patients about their disorder and their ways of coping. A psycho-educational group is often based on the fundamentals of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is effective for long-term abstinence and preventing relapse. It is a type of talk therapy that helps individuals recognize and change destructive and distorted thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior.
It has been said that when one person in the family has an addiction, it affects all members of the family. When family members attend therapy together, they become educated about the disease, learn better communication skills, and can reclaim their positions in the family dynamic.
Many treatment centers are now offering alternative or holistic therapies. Such therapies are meant to address the body, mind, and spirit. The belief is that if one is out of balance, they are all out of balance. Some alternative therapies are:
- Art Therapy
- Equine Therapy
What About Relapse?
Since cocaine use causes lasting changes in the brain, addiction is not only hard to treat, but relapses are likely to happen. Relapse refers to returning to drug use after a period of abstinence. It doesn’t mean you failed at recovery. According to many addiction specialists, a relapse could be considered a part of recovery.
Cocaine relapse rates are similar to those for chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. Keep in mind that addiction is also a chronic disease that is often reoccurring. And like other disease relapses, cocaine relapse doesn’t mean the treatment failed, but it needs to be examined, reevaluated, and adjusted.
However, the relapse rate for cocaine addiction is high. Studies have shown that about 24% of people relapse back to weekly cocaine use within a year of treatment. For crack cocaine users, the first 90 days of recovery is when relapse is most likely. Relapse rates are also higher among people with more serious addictive problems and who attend treatment for a shorter period. Furthermore, a study of over 300 people who completed treatment showed that 44% of them were readmitted into treatment within 2-6 years after completing treatment.
Warning Signs Of Cocaine Relapse
After completing addiction treatment, people need to remember the warning signs of relapse. Hopefully, it may keep one from occurring. Some warning signs are:
- Not continuing aftercare programs such as counseling, support groups, or 12-step groups.
- Feeling over-stressed and not dealing with it using the healthy coping skills learned in treatment.
- Participating in other compulsive behaviors such as gambling, overeating, and overworking.
- Being with drug-using friends or in a drug-using environment.
- Sensing a lack of support from family and friends.
- Returning to addictive thinking and negative thoughts.
- Hiding emotions and isolating yourself.
- Glamorizing your past use and playing down the negative consequences.
- Lying to others and being secretive.
- Believing you can control your use.
- Looking for an opportunity to relapse.
Where Can You Get Treatment in New Jersey?
Now that you have the information, are you ready to make that first crucial step? It’s much easier to make the journey when you know some of the stops along the way. And now you know the dangers of not going.
Whether it is for yourself or someone close to you, Kingsway Recovery in South New Jersey has the experienced professionals and the knowledge to guide you along the way. We will provide you with a treatment program that is uniquely yours. You don’t have to be stuck where you are. Contact us now and we will start the process to get you on your way back to a healthy, productive life.