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.
Recent statistics on cocaine abuse paint a concerning picture of the amount of drug abuse happening in the United States regarding cocaine. The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 1.3 million people in the United States had a diagnosable cocaine use disorder in the previous 12 months. The same survey also found that 5.2 million people reported engaging in cocaine substance abuse in general.
Equally concerning, in the same year, 19,447 people died from a cocaine overdose, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you are struggling with a cocaine addiction, we can help you overcome the hold the drug has on your life. We understand how this drug affects people and work to compassionately treat those suffering from this serious disease.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is usually sold as a powder substance. Another version of the drug, called “crack cocaine,” is composed of rocks or crystals which are usually smoked.
The drug cocaine is originally derived from the coca plant, which is native to Latin America. However, the cocaine sold for recreational use on the street is far from being a natural product. Some other names for cocaine include:
- Crack (shortened version of crack cocaine)
Cocaine use generally takes the form of snorting, injecting, or smoking. The drug produces brief feelings of euphoria and exhilaration that last from minutes to hours, followed by a comedown. Cocaine produces these effects by increasing activity in the body’s central nervous system and sympathetic peripheral nervous system. This leads to feelings of improved performance, increased energy, and high levels of activity.
While many people engage in cocaine abuse to reap what they consider benefits, this is short-lived though. The high that cocaine and crack cocaine produce is fleeting. This is what causes cocaine dependence, which eventually leads to cocaine addiction. By taking repeat doses of cocaine to feel its effects, chronic cocaine users will develop cocaine use disorders.
Signs of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine-dependent individuals will usually exhibit signs that point towards drug addiction. You might recognize some of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one if cocaine use is happening regularly. The following signs will be apparent in a person who is engaging in 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
One of the clearest indicators that someone is experiencing cocaine dependence and potentially cocaine addiction is his or her inability to stop abusing drugs despite major health consequences. As the effects of cocaine wear off and cocaine withdrawal symptoms present themselves, many cocaine users will continue to abuse the drug to maintain what they think is equilibrium. The presence of such symptoms and behavior will indicate if you or someone you love needs treatment for cocaine addiction to reach cocaine abstinence.
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.
In fact, one of the main concerns with this type of substance abuse is how it affects the human heart. Long-term cocaine abuse in particular can alter the cardiac function of the human heart. Chronic cocaine users were found, in one study by the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, to have weaker hearts than people of the same age who did not engage in cocaine abuse.
Overall, the effects of this type of drug abuse are not worth the effects (such as a cocaine induced dopamine release) that are seen as desirable by people who participate in cocaine abuse. Some of the short and longer-term effects of cocaine abuse include the following:
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
- Exaggerated sensitivity to touch, sound, and light
- Extreme happiness or euphoria
- Anger, irritability, or aggressive behavior
- Decreased appetite
- Mental alertness and extended wakefulness
- Dilated pupils
- Constricted blood vessels
- Heightened blood pressure and heart rate
- Tremors and muscle twitches
- A fast or irregular heartbeat
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
- 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
The Dangers of Cocaine Use
Drug abuse and substance use disorders increase the risk for serious health issues in many ways. The same is true for people who engage in cocaine use. Many cocaine abusers experience a negative impact to nearly every single one of the human body’s major functions. This is especially true for people who abuse cocaine and other drugs.
How Cocaine Use Harms Overall Health
As with other types of substance abuse, cocaine abuse can cause a person to neglect his or her health. Some people with a cocaine addiction become malnourished. A combination of bad eating habits and stomach ulcers caused by restricted blood flow contribute to this. Cocaine addiction and abuse can also cause serious medical issues such as renal failure due to how cocaine harms the liver and kidneys.
The cardiovascular system in particular is greatly impacted by cocaine abuse. Disturbances in heart rhythm, heart attacks, inflammation of the heart muscle, deterioration of the heart’s ability to contract, and aortic ruptures have all been seen in patients with cocaine dependence. In addition to the aforementioned health impacts, these life-threatening health risks can result from cocaine abuse:
- Impaired cognitive function
- Severely high blood pressure
- Acute coronary syndrome
The use of cocaine itself also poses health risks for those who suffer from cocaine dependence. Snorting cocaine repeatedly leads to damage to the nasal cavity. This causes nosebleeds, chronic runny nose, and a loss of one’s sense of smell.
Further, intravenous cocaine use is linked to complications with certain infectious diseases and other complications. Lastly, smoking cocaine also poses health risks that are associated with the respiratory system. “Crack lung,” from smoked cocaine can lead to fever, difficulty breathing, a bloody cough, and respiratory failure.
How Cocaine Use Increases Risk of Diseases
Cocaine increases the risk for other serious health issues in many ways. First, cocaine abuse may ruin your ability to make good decisions. Sharing needles during intravenous cocaine use or engaging in other risky behaviors are linked with serious consequences for partake in cocaine substance abuse. This lack of good judgment can lead to risky behaviors that increase a cocaine user’s risk of becoming infected with diseases such as:
- 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. This is why intravenous cocaine use is highly discouraged.
The Dangers of Cocaine and Alcohol Dependence
At times, a person who participates in drug abuse will use more than one substance at a time. For example, someone who is engaging in alcohol abuse may find themselves feeling less inhibited and try drugs like cocaine. Unfortunately, mixing a drug, alcohol, and other substances such as nicotine is harmful for anyone’s health.
Many people mix cocaine and alcohol. This is highly dangerous due to how both of these substances affect a person’s heart. Mixing cocaine and alcohol causes a heart rate to increase more than it would if only one of the substances was taken alone. There is also an increased risk for violent actions or risky behavior when a person is on cocaine and alcohol at the same time. Since both substances can lower inhibitions, dual substance abuse of this kind can result in very serious outcomes.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
When facing a substance abuse problem, help is available. Addiction treatment can restore your health, including your mental and physical stability. Cocaine dependence is not a life sentence. Many treatment options such as residential treatment programs and outpatient treatment programs exist to help you with recovery and cocaine abstinence.
Many people continue on to outpatient treatment for cocaine addiction after completing detox or a residential treatment program. The level of care that cocaine dependent patients need will depend on a variety of factors, which include:
- How often do they use cocaine
- The presence of other types of substance abuse such as alcohol abuse
- How long the cocaine dependence has been present
- The amount of cocaine used when abusing cocaine
- A family history of cocaine addiction
While some rehab patients choose to move through the levels of care, many choose to begin with outpatient treatment for cocaine addiction. This is because outpatient treatment offers patients with cocaine dependence the ability to maintain their life schedules. The levels of care offered to cocaine-dependent patients include:
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 her 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.
This is where drug abuse treatment programs come in. Treatment facilities are equipped to help individuals with cocaine dependence to overcome their substance abuse issues. These programs offer mental health services, FDA-approved medications for symptom management, drug counseling, and various types of therapy. Patients receiving treatment for cocaine addiction at a rehab center are also taught relapse prevention skills to aid with their cocaine abstinence.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
A partial hospitalization program, also known as a PHP, is a program that is similar to a residential or inpatient program except that you don’t live at the treatment facility while receiving care. This level of care provides several hours of therapy and skill-building groups each day. Days in a PHP 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 for cocaine addiction because it would mean being away from work or school and family for extended periods. An intensive outpatient program, or IOP, is the second level of care that is a great option for people who have either completed a PHP 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.
An outpatient program is similar to an IOP but it requires fewer hours and fewer days of commitment. Many times, a rehab center will allow for treatment and therapy sessions to be scheduled during the day or evening.
Outpatient addiction treatment is often 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 recovery.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
It’s already been mentioned that there are no pharmaceuticals that 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 or any depression that is co-occurring with one’s cocaine addiction. This is especially helpful for patients who are experiencing a mental illness that contributes to their cocaine addiction.
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.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Therapies
While going through the treatment for cocaine addiction, therapy restores and improves a patient’s psychological condition. There are many different options when it comes to cocaine addiction treatment therapy.
Not only do patients need to stop using cocaine, but they also need to heal from the damage caused by prior cocaine use. Therapy teaches rehab patients about their addiction and how to prevent it from taking over their life in the future.
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.
Some individuals are often reluctant to speak in front of others. Thus, individual therapy is a way for someone to really feel comfortable to open up about his or her issues.
During individual therapy sessions, the patient and mental health counselor explore the emotions of the patient and any problems in his or her life. By exploring why a patient engages in cocaine abuse, a therapist can help a patient uncover what he or she needs to cease the use of this illicit drug.
Addiction can feel like a lonely disease. Many people that suffer from addiction feel that no one understands what they are going through. However, group therapy can aid with easing feelings of being alone in your cocaine addiction.
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. This type of therapy also 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.
When you understand substance abuse and how it affects humans, it becomes easier to overcome it. This therapy approach focuses on educating patients about their disorder and their ways of coping. Further, psycho-educational groups are often based on the fundamentals of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as 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 negatively influence their behaviors.
Patients who engage in CBT learn what emotions led to their drug use. CBT patients are also provided with different techniques to use when faced with negative thoughts or actions.
It has been said that when one person in a family suffers from an addiction, it affects all members of the family. This is why we offer family therapy to patients who attend our outpatient programs. 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 either the body, mind, or spirit 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 that 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 of time. 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, relapse is possible. Knowing the signs of relapse can ensure that you or someone in your life gets the help that you need when you need it. Hopefully, it may keep one from occurring. Some warning signs of cocaine relapse 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 to receive treatment for cocaine addiction when you know some of the stops along the way. Cocaine treatment may sound daunting, but it is an evidence-based solution to a substance abuse problem.
Whether the rehab is for yourself or someone close to you, Kingsway Recovery in South New Jersey has experienced professionals and the knowledge to guide you along the way. We will provide you with a cocaine 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.