Cocaine is an addictive stimulant with a high abuse potential. For example, in 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that over 900,000 Americans had a cocaine dependence or abuse problem in the last year. Also, the National Center for Health Statistics reported over 5,000 cocaine overdose deaths. Cocaine use ranges from occasional to repeated use/addiction. Snorting, injecting, or smoking excessive amounts of cocaine can lead to heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and sudden death (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Because cocaine is commonly injected, users are at higher risk of contracting a contagious blood disease like HIV or Hepatitis C. Additionally, prolonged cocaine abuse can alter brain chemistry and create tolerance and dependence.
At any rate, the first step in overcoming a cocaine addiction is detox. While it is possible for individuals to detox from cocaine on an outpatient level, certain circumstances require medical detox. For example, if a person has tried to detox on their own before and relapsed, it is recommended that they sign themselves into a medical detox. Cocaine increases the flow of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain. Regular cocaine use causes the brain to adapt to the increase in dopamine levels, requiring more and more dopamine (cocaine) to excite the reward circuit. Consequently, if a person abruptly stops using cocaine, they can experience severe bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts or ideation. With this in mind, psychological symptoms can be properly managed in a medical detox facility, but not at home.
Short-term effects of cocaine use may include (NIDA):
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Violent behavior
Long-term effects of cocaine use may include (NIDA):
- Nasal irritation
- Lung damage
- Risk of HIV/Hepatitis C
- Heart inflammation
- Cognitive dysfunction
Should I seek treatment for cocaine addiction?
Signs of a cocaine problem may include:
- Planning activities around cocaine use
- Engaging in other high-risk behaviors
- Loss of interest in activities
- Prioritizing cocaine use
- Continuing to use despite negative effects
- Withdrawal symptoms and/or cravings
If you recognize any of these signs in yourself or others, you may have a cocaine problem and require medical help to safely detox.
Due to the short half-life of the drug, cocaine withdrawal symptoms begin as soon as an hour and a half after the last dose. In spite of a relatively fast onset, these symptoms can persist for seven to ten days. As with other drugs, there are a variety of factors that contribute to the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. For example, the age of the user and the length of time cocaine was used can affect the withdrawal process. While the majority of these symptoms are psychological rather than physical, it is still recommended that people go to a reputable detox facility. Here, medications treating anxiety and depression are available. If left unchecked, these symptoms can add complications to the withdrawal process that make it more difficult for users to quit. For this reason, continued treatment in a residential inpatient program improves the odds that a person will not relapse.
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
- Tremors and muscle pain
- Increased appetite
- Vivid dreams
What happens after medical detox?
The battle against addiction is not won after completing detox. Detox rids the body of the substance a person is dependent on, but it does not teach the person how to prevent relapse. For this reason, the risk of relapse is substantially greater if a person stops addiction treatment after detox than if they were to continue on to a residential inpatient program. Active addiction takes over nearly every aspect of a person’s life. Therefore, a large part of rehabilitation is teaching guests a new way of life, sans mind-altering substances. This, in particular, requires intensive emotional and behavioral therapy. In our residential inpatient program and nine-week aftercare program, Royal Life Centers staff works diligently to teach guests the necessary life skills to lead positive, healthy lives.
If you or a loved one has a cocaine addiction, or any substance use disorder, please reach out to us about your detox and treatment options. Royal Life Centers admissions staff are available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns Because We Care.