Cocaine Addiction | Effects, Signs, & Treatment
Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant. It’s a fine, white powder that can be cooked into smokeable rocks called crack.
While some doctors use cocaine for anesthesia and other medical purposes, the drug is otherwise illegal. That’s because it’s highly addictive. Cocaine addiction also called cocaine use disorder, is a serious disease that requires professional treatment.
How Does Cocaine Work?
Some people use cocaine by snorting the powder or dissolving it in water and injecting it into their veins. Others smoke crack cocaine, usually in a glass pipe.
No matter how you use it, cocaine increases the amount of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) associated with reward, attention, motivation, movement, and memory.
Effects Of Cocaine Use
By increasing dopamine, cocaine causes a rush of happiness, alertness, energy, and excitement. It can also cause anxiety, anger, restlessness, and paranoia. These effects appear almost instantly and can last up to an hour.
Other effects of cocaine may include:
- increased talkativeness
- hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
- loss of appetite
- enlarged pupils
- increased body temperature
- increased blood pressure
- chest pain
- fast or irregular heart rate
In addition, regular cocaine use can lead to health problems such as:
- heart attack
- extreme weight loss and malnourishment
- frequent runny nose, nosebleeds, or loss of smell from snorting cocaine
- lung problems, such as pneumonia and worsened asthma, from smoking cocaine
- infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, from sharing injection needles (or other drug paraphernalia) or having unprotected sex while high
- psychosis, which is a feeling of disconnection from reality that can cause delusions and hallucinations
If you use a lot of cocaine, you may overdose. Common symptoms of overdose include:
- high blood pressure
- extreme anxiety and/or irritability
- loss of urine control
- bluish skin
- trouble breathing
- heart attacks
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. When left untreated, a cocaine overdose can lead to seizures, stroke, or heart attack.
You’re more likely to overdose on cocaine if you mix it with other substances, such as alcohol or heroin. Some people unknowingly buy cocaine that’s been mixed with dangerous drugs, including fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opioid linked to numerous overdose deaths.
Signs Of Cocaine Abuse & Addiction
The two main signs of cocaine addiction (and crack addiction) are tolerance and dependence.
Cocaine tolerance means your body becomes less sensitive to the drug. Over time, you’ll need larger and more frequent doses to feel the desired effects.
Cocaine dependence means your body relies on the drug to function normally. If you stop using it, you may experience cocaine withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- intense cravings for cocaine
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- slowed thinking
- increased appetite
- vivid nightmares
- suicidal thoughts
To avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms, don’t try to quit cocaine on your own.
Instead, attend a medical detox program, where health care professionals can help you slowly and safely stop using the drug. They’ll closely monitor your health and may prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms.
Other common signs of cocaine addiction include:
- experiencing mood swings
- feeling unable to function without cocaine
- withdrawing from friends and family to spend more time getting and using cocaine
- neglecting responsibilities at work or school to spend more time getting and using cocaine
- feeling unable to quit cocaine despite wanting to
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options
If you or a loved one struggles with cocaine, seek help at a substance abuse treatment facility. These facilities offer inpatient care for people with moderate-to-severe addictions and outpatient care for people with milder addictions and strong support systems at home.
Whether inpatient or outpatient, cocaine addiction treatment programs provide services such as:
If you’re addicted to cocaine (or any other drug), it may feel impossible to ignore cravings. During cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a mental health professional can help you develop healthy coping skills to manage cravings.
Other popular forms of therapy for cocaine addiction include:
- group therapy, where you can share your triumphs and challenges with other people who are recovering from drug addiction
- motivational interviewing, where you can improve your motivation to stop using cocaine
- contingency management, where you can receive rewards, such as gift cards, for not using cocaine
When you take care of your physical and mental health, you’re less likely to relapse (start using cocaine again). That’s why many treatment programs offer wellness activities such as meditation, yoga, journaling, exercise, and art. These activities can boost your mood, decrease stress, and make it easier to handle cravings.
For many people, cocaine addiction recovery is a lifelong journey. To support your journey, your doctors can help you create an aftercare plan. Depending on your needs, your plan may include strategies such as ongoing therapy, support groups, housing assistance, and employment assistance.
To learn more about treatment programs for cocaine addiction, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist today.
Recovering Champions Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.