Cocaine Addiction Treatment

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Of all of the substances that can cause addiction, cocaine is perhaps the most glorified in popular media. The reality of the drug is far more sinister than portrayed by popular images of rock stars and Hollywood elite indulging as a sign of wealth and glamour. The impact of cocaine trafficking extends far beyond movie stars, wreaking havoc on the streets of cities all across the country.

Cocaine, in its different forms, is used by more people than you may realize. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), 15% of Americans have tried cocaine at least once in their lifetimeWhile trying the drug once doesn’t necessarily mean that these people developed an addiction, this statistic helps paint a picture of the widespread availability of the drug.Use of the drug remains prevalent in Massachusetts, with an average of over 7% of people aged 18 to 25 reportedly having used the drug from 2014-2015. In fact in 2014, according to the NSDUH, about 913,000 Americans met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for dependence or misuse of cocaine during that 12-month period. Further, data from the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report showed that cocaine was involved in 505,224 of the nearly 1.3 million visits to emergency departments for drug misuse. This means that over one third of drug-related emergency room visits involved cocaine.

To better help us understand the addictive characteristics of cocaine, it’s important to understand where the drug comes from.

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The History of Cocaine as a Drug

At its core, cocaine is an incredibly powerful and addictive stimulant drug. For generations, the indigenous people of South America have chewed and ingested the leaves of the coca plant for its stimulant effects. Cocaine, as we know it, is processed from the leaves of the coca plant. The isolated version of cocaine hydrochloride was produced over 100 years ago.

It was mainly used for various tonics and medical elixirs and even had some legitimate medical use as a local anesthetic due to its numbing effect on the skin. Despite the absurdity of the claim, the original recipe of Coca-Cola® did in fact contain cocaine as a stimulant ingredient.

Today, cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug by the United States government. This means that it is a highly regulated substance that has a very high potential for misuse.

As a modern street drug, cocaine typically appears as a fine white powder. It is referred to by many street names such as: blow, coke, snow, white girl, and powder. Street dealers often mix the powdered cocaine with other inert substances in a process known as “cutting.” Dealers do this to increase the volume of product and use substances such as corn starch, talcum powder, baking soda, as well as other stimulants such as amphetamines.

ECR Streets with heavy ice and snow

As a modern street drug, cocaine typically appears as a fine white powder. It is referred to by many street names such as: blow, coke, snow, white girl, and powder. Street dealers often mix the powdered cocaine with other inert substances in a process known as “cutting.” Dealers do this to increase the volume of product and use substances such as corn starch, talcum powder, baking soda, as well as other stimulants such as amphetamines.

In the 1980s, we started to see a huge influx of cocaine from South America. This led to the development of a second chemical form of cocaine, known as “crack” cocaine. Crack cocaine is created by processing powdered cocaine with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to remove the hydrochloride, producing a smokeable substance. The name “crack” refers to the crackling sound that the substance makes when it is smoked.

How Cocaine Addiction Occurs

Ingestion Methods

One of the major factors that makes cocaine such an addictive substance is the way that it is typically taken by the user. In its powder form, cocaine is most often taken intranasally or “snorted.” Through this ingestion method, the drug is absorbed directly into the blood stream of the user through the nasal tissues. This floods the brain with cocaine and leads to nearly instantaneous effects.

Some cocaine users also dissolve the powder in water and inject the drug intravenously. This further heightens the effects—and dangers—associated with cocaine use. In the form of crack cocaine, the drug is smoked and absorbed into the lungs at a rate that is similar to intravenous use. The fast and short-lived euphoric effects of crack cocaine are a big reason why the drug became an epidemic in the 1980s.

Short-Term Effects

As mentioned above, the effects of cocaine are felt almost immediately and are short-lived, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour with a single dose. When taken in small amounts, cocaine will make the user feel alert, talkative, energetic, and euphoric. It will also make the user hypersensitive to touch, sight, and sound.

The short term and desired effects of cocaine use all stem from how the drug interacts with the brain. No matter what the method of ingestion is, the drug will eventually enter the blood stream. The natural progression of the circulatory system will lead to the drug entering and interacting with the brain at some point.

Cocaine interacts with the brain by triggering an unnatural release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine does occur naturally in the brain, although in small amounts, and triggers feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. When a person is actively using cocaine, dopamine floods the cells of the brain, but then it has nowhere to go. This excess of dopamine can block your brain cells from communicating with one another, leading to memory loss and other issues.

The effects of the drug can also temporarily supersede the need for food and sleep, leading to long-term complications. Many users feel as though the drug helps them perform simple intellectual and physical tasks more quickly, while other users report feeling the opposite effect.

How long the drug lasts is directly related to the method of administration. The quicker the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, the more intense the resulting high. This also shortens the duration of the drug’s effects. Taking cocaine intranasally leads to a relatively slow onset of its effects, but they can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes from a single dose. In contrast, when cocaine is smoked, the effects are felt almost immediately but only approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Cocaine use has some profound short-term effects on the body and brain. When under the influence of cocaine, users will experience constricted blood vessels, increased body temperature and sweating, dilated pupils, elevated heart rate, and increased blood pressure.

Using large amounts of cocaine will lead to some very significant behavioral side effects. Along with the intensification of the above physiological effects, users of large amounts of cocaine may also exhibit violent, erratic, or bizarre behaviors. Many cocaine users report feelings of anxiety, panic, paranoia, irritability, restlessness, and insomnia. Other effects may also include tremors, vertigo, and uncontrollable muscle twitches or tics.

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Short-Term Dangers of Cocaine Use

Cocaine use can bring about some very severe medical complications after minimal use. Most of these complications come in the form of cardiovascular issues such as disturbances in heart rhythm or heart attack, as well as neurological issues including headaches, seizures, strokes, and coma. It can also cause gastrointestinal issues such as abdominal pain and nausea.

There have been cases of sudden death occurring after a single use of cocaine or shortly thereafter. The majority of cocaine-related deaths are due to cardiac arrest or seizures.

The risks of serious complications are increased dramatically when cocaine is consumed alongside other intoxicants, in a phenomenon known as “polysubstance use.” The majority of overdose deaths that involve cocaine occur when the user is also using another substance. People who use cocaine frequently use alcohol in an effort to combat any uncomfortable come-down effects of the drug. The use of these two drugs in conjunction forms a compound called cocaethylene in the liver, and it can have severe effects on the heart of its users.

Another very popular drug combination is cocaine used alongside heroin and other opioid drugs in a substance cocktail known as a “speedball.” Speedballs are particularly dangerous because the stimulant effects of cocaine are offset by the sedative effects of heroin. This can lead to the user unintentionally taking a fatal amount of heroin causing overdose and death. Once the effects of cocaine wear off, the user’s respiration may slow or stop completely, causing death.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Addiction

With repeated exposure to cocaine, over time the reward system of the brain starts to become less sensitive to natural reward reinforcement. In other words, over time, the brain has trouble releasing chemicals that are responsible for feelings of joy and contentment on its own, without the presence of cocaine. At the same time that this is occurring, the neural pathways that are responsible for feelings of anxiety and stress are becoming increasingly sensitive. This leads to increased discontent and displeasure when not taking the drug, a sure-fire sign of cocaine withdrawal.

As with many drugs, the user builds up a tolerance to cocaine after extended use. This means that the user will have to take the substance more often, and in larger amounts, in order to achieve the same desired effects as they initially felt. While this tolerance is building, the sensitization to cocaine is increasing, meaning it takes less of the substance to produce some of the negative effects such as convulsions, anxiety, and even full-blown psychosis.

The impact of cocaine use on brain cells can also become more significant as you age. One study conducted by the University of Cambridge aimed to observe aging of the brain in people who used cocaine versus people who with no history of substance use. The study found that while the average brain typically loses 1.69 milliliters of gray matter per year, people who were currently cocaine-dependant or had used cocaine heavily in the past, doubled the amount of grey matter lost yearly to 3.08 milliliters per year.

Cocaine causes significant damage to the systems and organs of the body. Users are at a very high risk of cardiovascular issues due to the toxicity of cocaine. Intense chest pains that may feel like a heart attack are very common in users as well as an increased risk of stroke. Specifically, cocaine causes inflammation of the heart muscles, leading to the deterioration of the ability of the heart to contract, and ruptures in the aorta.

This stress that cocaine causes on the circulatory system can also damage the linings of veins and arteries of the brain, leading to permanent chronic headaches. In many cases, the stress on blood vessels in the brain can lead to clotting and a greatly increased risk of stroke in cocaine users.

Cocaine use can be a difficult habit to break on your own. At East Coast Recovery Center, we have multiple levels of care that will meet you wherever you are in your path to recovery. We’ll work together to determine which approach to treatment for cocaine use disorder is right for you and your situation.

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Walk the Path With Us at East Coast Recovery

At East Coast Recovery Center, we realize and celebrate that there are many paths to recovery. That’s why we offer many different treatment modalities in an effort to find the approach that is most effective for you and your unique situation. Your journey may differ from the journey of others, but we’ll be there every step of the way, guiding you toward the path that is most effective in helping you achieve your goals in recovery.

Call us today today at 781-400-8018to get started on your journey toward success in recovery.

There are many questions that you may have when deciding to seek treatment for issues with cocaine addiction.

  • How to stop cocaine addiction?

Cocaine can form a powerful psychological addiction in its users. Because of this, it can be a very difficult habit to overcome on your own. On top of the physical symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, the psychological symptoms can include severe anxiety and depression. It is highly recommended that anyone who is trying to overcome an addiction to cocaine do so under the supervision of a licensed substance use treatment facility.

  • How to help someone with a cocaine addiction?

Regular cocaine use can damage chemical pathways in the brain, and those changes can make mental clarity and decision-making difficult. People with a cocaine addiction may not even be aware that they have a problem. Families can bring issues to the user’s attention through interventions, and when treatment begins, they can provide love and support, to ensure that the person stays in treatment. When the program is complete, families can also watch for signs of relapse, and they can encourage secondary treatment as needed.

  • What does cocaine addiction look like?

It isn’t always easy to determine whether a loved one is struggling with a cocaine addiction but there are some signs to look out for. Some of these signs include extreme mood swings, financial problems, changes in physical appearance such as extreme weight loss, paranoia, and anxiety.

 

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