According to various sources, approximately 15 percent of Americans have used cocaine recreationally. Cocaine is an extremely addictive drug made from Coca plant extract. This drug is generally processed in a lab and consumed in powder form. It often resembles a white, crystalline powder and can be mixed or “cut” with other, similar substances (baking soda, sugars, or anesthetics) that make it less efficient and more dangerous. The majority of cocaine found in America is produced in South America and imported through Mexico.
Cocaine goes by several different names, including coke, blow, crack, or snow. Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that is illegal for recreational use in the United States. Stimulants, like cocaine, affect the neuro-pathways of your brain, leading you to feel euphoric, extremely active, overly excited, or even manic. Cocaine is a highly addictive substance and users can become addicted after only one or two uses.
Addiction to cocaine can happen extremely easily and treatment is absolutely necessary to overcome the addiction. Cocaine addiction can affect both the mind and the body and lead to physical withdrawal as well as extreme cravings.
Cocaine is a versatile drug that can be ingested in multiple ways. It can be “snorted” (or inhaled)
or can be melted down and injected. It can even be ingested rectally or vaginally. One of the most common ways of use is to smoke it as “crack cocaine”. This easy method brought cocaine use to the forefront of the national consciousness and brought cocaine addiction into the limelight.
The Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine has powerful, albeit short-term stimulant effects on the user. The use of cocaine causes the release of Dopamine, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter, that can cause the user to feel intense pleasure or euphoria.
Cocaine also prevents the dopamine (and other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin) from being ingested into the nerve cells. This blockage allows large amounts of euphoria-causing neurotransmitters to accumulate, causing intense, short-lived highs. Cocaine can also result in a reduced desire to carry out normal daily tasks, such as eating, sleeping, or socializing. The energy one feels during cocaine can lead very quickly to addiction and physical dependency.
Using cocaine frequently can lead to physical dependency. The use of cocaine to achieve a high, especially when it has been “cut” with other substances, can lead to seeking more and more to fill a need. This can lead to intense physical withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, intense sweating, and uncontrollable behavior.
The physical and psychological effects of cocaine use are numerous, with many of them being extremely dangerous. Some negative effects you can expect to feel from cocaine use are as follows:
• Extreme weight loss
• Increased heart rate
• Chest pain
• Loss of appetite
Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction can develop very quickly after starting usage and can be extremely difficult to kick. One of the keys is recognizing the signs of addiction early and seeking help as soon as possible. Some of the most common signs of cocaine addiction are:
• Increased tolerance for the drug that requires larger amounts to get high
• An inability to stop on command
• Physical pain/withdrawal symptoms upon stopping usage
• Continued desire to use even when faced with negative consequences
• Inability to perform normal tasks such as working, sleeping or socializing
• Constantly seeking the next “high”
Why is Cocaine so Addictive?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine is extremely addictive because of the ease and speed with which it rewires the brain. Cocaine acts as an extreme stimulant, triggering the production of the naturally-occurring chemical dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure. Brain pathways communicate using dopamine when they experience pleasurable sensations. Because cocaine can overload the neurons, it can cause a build-up of dopamine that leads to extreme highs and lows.
Cocaine use throws a wrench in the communication between neurons, causing excessive build-up. When cocaine enters the bloodstream, an abnormal amount of dopamine is released, causing the body to crave more. The more frequently this dopamine release occurs, the more likely someone’s brain is to be permanently “rewired”, resulting in addiction and tolerance.
General Cocaine Use and Addiction Statistics
According to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, approximately 2% of teenagers reported cocaine use. In contrast, young adults ages 18 to 25 reportedly used cocaine at a rate of 6%. Approximately 5% of those studied between 25 and 35 reported using cocaine. These statistics reveal that the availability and affordability of cocaine can increase with age. Some other statistics of note are as follow:
• Geographically, cocaine use is reportedly higher in the Northeast, as well as in New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. This corresponds with statistics for opioid use/abuse as well.
• Men are significantly more likely to use cocaine than women, particularly in the 18-25 age demographic, where they are almost twice as likely to use.
• Statistically, cocaine users are more likely to come from moderate to high-income brackets.
• Surprisingly, the third most likely age demographic to use cocaine are seniors aged 50 and over (2.3%).
• While they use at a lower rate, females are more likely to experience psychological effects from cocaine use.
• Caucasians represent the largest ethnic group of cocaine users (2%), followed by Hispanic (1.7%) and African-American (1.5%).
Cocaine Overdose and Relapse
Hospitalization and deaths due to cocaine use/overdose have increased every year since 2017. This could be attributed to increased availability as well as the increased likelihood that cocaine may be mixed with harmful impurities, such as bleach. Since there is no regulation of cocaine, dealers often mix it with household substances to stretch the product.
The rate of cocaine overdose has also increased every year since 2017. The ethnic demographics of overdose are the same as reported above, with Caucasians presenting the highest reported likelihood of overdose.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the chance of relapse considering all types of substance abuse is between 40%-60%. Sadly, it is extremely common for cocaine users who enter treatment to relapse, especially in the first year. In order to prevent cocaine relapse, individuals should focus on: Maintaining healthy support systems, continuing therapy, and avoiding situations involving cocaine use. Thankfully, there are many different types of treatments that can prove effective in treating cocaine addiction.
Treatments for Cocaine Addiction
From 2013-2018, cocaine accounted for nearly 7 percent of admissions to treatment facilities. The majority of these (as much as 68% in 2013) admissions admitted to using more than just cocaine. Any treatment for cocaine needs to be able to address the addictive tendencies as well as treat the physical signs of addiction.
Pharmacological Approach to Cocaine Addiction Treatment
While there are some ways to ease the difficulties of withdrawal, there are currently no USDA approved drug treatments for cocaine addiction. However, while in treatment, addicts may receive medication that helps with some of the more severe psychological side-effects of cocaine addiction, such as depression and severe anxiety. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Lexapro or Celexa may be prescribed to “take the edge off”.
While not universally successful, Disulfiram, which is used to treat alcoholism, has shown some success in treating cocaine addiction. There are also clinical tests being undertaken on a “vaccine” for cocaine addiction that would aim to prevent relapse.
Most of these pharmacological treatments are not widely used and should be secondary to in-person therapeutic options.
BHC's Options for Cocaine Addiction
At Behavioral Health Centers, we have several proven options for cocaine addiction at our disposal. These can include but are not limited to:
• Supervised detox - This option can be effective with the support of friends and family and the close supervision of a trained therapist. The purpose of detox is to rid the body of the chemicals that cause addiction.
• Outpatient treatment is only recommended in cases where the physical symptoms of withdrawal are not too severe.
• Inpatient detox - In most cases, it is recommended to enroll in an on-campus program. This program takes advantage of around-the-clock supervision as well as the incredible amenities at our disposal.
• Residential Treatment- This form of treatment allows for an individual to live on-campus at our state-of-the-art facility. Due to the close supervision offered, those in residential treatment often have a lower rate of relapse and a higher rate of success.
If you or a loved one are enrolled in our residential treatment program, you will receive customized, around the clock care that includes:
• Group therapy sessions
• Individual therapy sessions
• Medically supervised detoxification
• Holistic therapies
The Road to Recovery from Cocaine Addiction
Defeating a cocaine addiction can be a difficult task, and it is extremely important to have trusted professionals by your side. Behavioral Health Centers is here to offer you a customized plan that will help you beat cocaine addiction. Our clinical detox programs are consistently rated as some of the best in Florida, and we are ready to add you to our list of success stories.
If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse or alcohol abuse, don’t wait, get help today. To learn more about what treatment options are available, contact us today!