What is Cocaine?
Normally when we think of drug abuse, the immediate thing that comes to mind is when someone takes drugs every day, several times. But with cocaine addiction, signs can be ambiguous. You do not have to be taking cocaine, or crack cocaine, every day to be addicted to it. A sign of addiction is that you’ve tried to cut down or stop but are unable to. Any use of cocaine is considered abuse because it is an illegal substance.
Even when cocaine is a highly addictive drug, one of its main issues is that it may be hard to recognize an addiction to it. For example, craving cocaine, even if the use or need appears every few days, and ignoring the consequences that come with it are signs of an addiction.
The psychological addiction is often the hardest part to overcome, although there are undeniable physical symptoms of addiction as well. Someone who uses cocaine frequently will develop a dependence on it, meaning they need to have it to feel normal.
Once dependence has developed, a tolerance will develop and withdrawal symptoms will occur when stopping use. Once someone becomes addicted to cocaine, it can be very hard to stop. This is because cocaine abnormally increases the level of dopamine in the brain, eventually reprogramming the brain reward system.
Cocaine is a stimulant, meaning it increases alertness and energy. It affects the neural pathways in your brain, leading you to feel talkative, energetic, and euphoric. Cocaine addiction can develop quickly, even after trying it only a few times. An addiction can be physical, meaning your body craves the drug. It can also be mental, meaning you strongly desire the drug’s effects. Moreover, Cocaine can be consumed in a variety of ways.
Cocaine Side Effects
For a short time, cocaine has stimulating effects on the body. It causes a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called dopamine to increase its concentration in the brain. This causes feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Cocaine causes your dopamine levels to rise to cause the user to feel euphoric.
Cocaine prevents dopamine, and other neurotransmitters, norepinephrine, and serotonin, from being taken up into the nerve cells. This allows large amounts of neurotransmitters to accumulate and stimulate the surrounding nerve cells. This heightens the pleasurable sense of euphoria. Cocaine side effects can also minimize your desire for sleep and food. Some people report that cocaine helps them think and perform tasks more quickly. Many users begin to crave the feelings that cocaine creates.
Frequent use of cocaine can cause you to develop a higher tolerance to the drug. A high tolerance means it takes more of the drug for you to feel its effects. This may lead to using greater amounts of it, which can impact your mental and physical health.
Psychological cocaine side Effects include:
- Impaired judgment
- Repetitive or abnormal behaviors
Physical cocaine side Effects include:
- Unhealthy weight loss
- Increased heart rate
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Heart arrhythmia
- Heart attack
Cocaine side effects are also associated with medical conditions that include:
- Respiratory diseases
- Weakened immune system
- Gangrene of the bowels
Causes of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine affects neurological systems in your brain. Cocaine use, especially repetitive use, can alter systems associated with pleasure, memory, and decision making. When someone is addicted, their ability to resist urges becomes impaired, making it harder to quit. All stimulants act to enhance the extracellular concentrations of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Stimulant drugs can block the transport of these neurotransmitters.
Repeated exposure to cocaine results in neuroadaptation. This includes sensitization (increased drug response) and tolerance (decreased drug response). Physical tolerance to the effects of cocaine can occur after just a few uses. This results in needing more and more of the drug to get the same effect.
Short-Term Cocaine Side Effects
Addicted users who stop using cocaine will undergo an initial crash, known as withdrawal. Withdrawal can be intense and difficult due to cravings and uncomfortable side effects. Effects of cocaine withdrawal include:
- Sleep disturbances
Withdrawal from cocaine can cause intense discomfort. And this can cause a strong desire to use the drug again. Even when withdrawal symptoms have subsided, sudden cravings are common. Support systems such as friends, family, treatment facilities, and other people recovering from addiction, can help you push through this phase.
Other common, short-term cocaine side effects include:
- Decreased appetite
- A temporary feeling of intense happiness or pleasure
- A feeling of “jitters” or restlessness
Long-Term cocaine side Effects
Cocaine can have long-term side effects, too, especially after prolonged, habitual use. Long-term ways cocaine can affect the brain include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Loss of smell/olfactory function
- Mood swings
- Movement Disorders, including Parkinson’s disease
- Severe paranoia
- Auditory hallucinations
- Irregular heartbeat
- Death by overdose
Most short-term cocaine side effects wear off within a day or two. But long-term side effects can be permanent. Sometimes, the long-term side effects of cocaine use are a sign of brain damage.
Physicians can diagnose cocaine addiction. If you reach out to your doctor about your cocaine use, they will start by asking you questions about your lifestyle, habits, usage, and dosage. It’s important to be straightforward and honest so you can get the right treatment.
Sometimes a health event, such as a seizure or stroke, will prompt a doctor to bring up the possibility of cocaine addiction to you if you also have other symptoms. Your doctor may use a drug test to confirm cocaine use. A urine drug test may only test positive for cocaine for about 4 days after last use. But the longer you’ve been using cocaine, the more it can accumulate in your body, and the longer it takes to metabolize.
Cocaine Side Effects Treatments
Unlike some drugs, such as opioids, there are no FDA-approved medications that specifically treat cocaine withdrawal. However, some promising medications may help individuals overcome cocaine addiction and work through withdrawal symptoms.
A study suggested that propranolol might have a beneficial, stabilizing effect for those suffering from cocaine withdrawal. This beta-blocker has been approved to treat hypertension and angina, and it is often prescribed to treat anxiety and related psychological problems. One of the major concerns with cocaine withdrawal is the risk of a person developing serious anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. If anxiety and restlessness are reduced, other symptoms of withdrawal may be easier to manage and the entire withdrawal experience will be less unpleasant.
Other medications to treat depression and anxiety could be useful for people undergoing cocaine withdrawal, as they could stabilize their moods and reduce depression. They could be particularly helpful for people whose withdrawal symptoms last longer than 7-10 days. However, medical professionals should consider these cases individually and carefully monitor patients for side effects, further addictive behaviors, and psychological changes that are detrimental to the overall goal of managing the addiction.
Psychoanalytic-developmental treatment model
According to the scientific piece ‘Cocaine dependence treatment on an inpatient detoxification unit’, published by the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, a psychoanalytic-developmental treatment model includes individual and group psychotherapy which enables compulsive freebase cocaine addicts to articulate explanations for their drug dependence. Relapse prevention education includes recommendations for aftercare treatment.
Psychosocial history and DSM-III diagnostic data reveal histories of dysfunctional family dynamics, high rates of depressive disorders, and personality disorders. Residential therapeutic communities (TCs) need to offer variable program lengths and specialized crack residences in therapeutic milieus with trained clinical staff. TC programs should offer inpatient psychotherapy, and family therapy, and provide direct entrance into program-affiliated outpatient services. Recommendations for outpatient services include adjuncts to established anonymous self-help group networks to reduce the chances of relapse.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Cocaine addiction treatment must address the context of polydrug users to be effective. As stated by The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the piece ‘Cocaine Research Report. How is cocaine addiction treated?’, “In 2013, cocaine accounted for almost 6 percent of all admissions to drug abuse treatment programs. The majority of individuals (68 percent in 2013) who seek treatment for cocaine use smoke crack and are likely to be polydrug users, meaning they use more than one substance.
Those who provide treatment for cocaine use should recognize that drug addiction is a complex disease involving changes in the brain as well as a wide range of social, familial, and other environmental factors; therefore, treatment of Cocaine Addiction must address this broad context as well as any other co-occurring mental disorders that require additional behavioral or pharmacological interventions”.
Treatment for cocaine addiction is focused on behavioral interventions that can be used to manage this substance dependence effectively. There are no medicines that work as substitutes for powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and other stimulants of this kind. However, currently, there are some pharmacological advances.
Currently, there is no US. Approved medications, drug administration, or a specific diet to treat Cocaine Addiction. However, researchers are exploring a variety of neurobiological targets.
According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, several medications marketed for other diseases show promise in reducing cocaine use within controlled clinical trials. Among these, disulfiram, which is used to treat alcoholism, has shown the most promise. Scientists do not yet know exactly how disulfiram reduces cocaine use, though its effects may be related to its ability to inhibit an enzyme that converts dopamine to norepinephrine. However, disulfiram does not work for everyone.
Pharmacogenetic studies are revealing variants in the gene that encodes the DBH enzyme and seems to influence disulfiram’s effectiveness in reducing cocaine use. Knowing a patient’s DBH genotype could help predict whether disulfiram would be an effective pharmacotherapy for cocaine dependence in that person.
Cocaine Addiction Vaccine
Researchers have developed and conducted early tests on a cocaine vaccine that could help reduce the risk of relapse. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to create cocaine-specific antibodies that bind to cocaine, preventing it from getting into the brain. In addition to showing the vaccine’s safety, a clinical trial found that patients who attained high antibody levels significantly reduced cocaine use. However, only 38 percent of the vaccinated subjects attained sufficient antibody levels for only 2 months.
Researchers are working to improve the cocaine vaccine by enhancing the strength of binding to cocaine and its ability to elicit antibodies. New vaccine technologies, including gene transfer to boost the specificity and level of antibodies produced or enhance the metabolism of cocaine, may also improve the effectiveness of this treatment. A pharmacogenetics study with a small number of patients suggests that individuals with a particular genotype respond well to the cocaine vaccine—an intriguing finding that requires more research.
Many behavioral treatments for Cocaine Addiction have proven to be effective in both residential and outpatient settings. Indeed, behavioral therapies are often the only available and effective treatments for many drug problems, including stimulant addictions. However, the integration of behavioral and pharmacological treatments may ultimately prove to be the most effective approach.
- Contingency Management: One form of behavioral therapy that is showing positive results in people with cocaine use disorders is Contingency Management (CM), also called motivational incentives. Programs use a voucher or prize-based system that rewards patients who abstain from cocaine and other drugs. Based on drug-free urine tests, the patients earn points, or chips, which can be exchanged for items that encourage healthy living, such as a gym membership, movie tickets, or dinner at a local restaurant. CM may be particularly useful for helping patients achieve initial abstinence from cocaine and stay in treatment.
This approach has recently been shown to be practical and effective in community treatment programs. Research indicates that CM benefits diverse populations of cocaine users. For example, studies show that cocaine-dependent pregnant women and women with young children who participated in a CM program as an adjunct to other substance use disorder treatment were able to stay abstinent longer than those who received an equivalent amount of vouchers with no behavioral requirements. Patients participating in CM treatment for cocaine use who also experienced psychiatric symptoms—such as depression, emotional distress, and hostility—showed a significant reduction in these problems, probably related to reductions in cocaine use.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for addiction: is an effective approach to preventing relapse. This approach helps patients develop critical skills that support long-term abstinence—including the ability to recognize the situations in which they are most likely to use cocaine, avoid these situations, and cope more effectively with a range of problems associated with drug use. This therapy can also be used in conjunction with other treatments, maximizing both benefits.
- Therapeutic communities (TCs): Drug-free residences in which people in recovery from substance use disorders help each other to understand and change their behaviors—can be an effective treatment for people who use drugs, including cocaine. TCS may require a 6-to-12-month stay and can include onsite vocational rehabilitation and other supportive services focusing on successfully reintegrating the individual into society. TCS can also provide support in other important areas—improving the legal, employment, and mental health outcomes.
Regardless of the specific type of substance use disorder treatment, patients must receive services that match their treatment needs. For example, an unemployed patient would benefit from vocational rehabilitation, career counseling, and addiction treatment. Patients with marital problems may need couples counseling.
Once inpatient treatment for cocaine ends, ongoing support—also called aftercare—can help people avoid relapse. Research indicates that people who are committed to abstinence, engage in self-help behaviors, and believe they can refrain from using cocaine (self-efficacy) are more likely to abstain. Aftercare reinforces these traits and addresses problems that may increase vulnerability to relapse, including depression and declining self-efficacy.
Scientists have found promising results from telephone-based counseling as a low-cost method to deliver aftercare. For example, people who misused stimulants who participated in seven sessions of telephone counseling showed decreasing drug use during the first 3 months, whereas those who did not receive calls increased their use. According to one study, voucher incentives can boost patients’ willingness to participate in telephone aftercare, doubling the number of sessions received.
Reclaim your life from Cocaine Addiction – Dual Diagnosis Rehab Washington
Cocaine addiction is a severe disease that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up dual diagnosis rehab Washington can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover mental health disorders associated with cocaine addiction and manage cocaine side effects with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
We Level Up Washington Mental Health Center: Primary Mental Health Treatment with Secondary Co-Occurring Treatments
At We Level Up Washington, our primary focus is providing comprehensive mental health treatment for individuals with conditions like cocaine addiction. While we do not directly provide detox services, we offer secondary treatment programs that address co-occurring addiction-related mental health disorders.
Our evidence-based approach to mental health treatments aims to improve your overall well-being and help you overcome the challenges of cocaine addiction. Contact us today for a complimentary mental health evaluation and take the first step towards a transformative recovery journey.
Inpatient medical detox and primary addiction treatment services may be available at affiliated facilities within the We Level Up Treatment Centers network.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (www.drugabuse.gov)
 Barbara C. Wallace, Cocaine dependence treatment on an inpatient detoxification unit, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 4, Issue 2. (www.sciencedirect.com)