1. The Mechanics of Cocaine on the Human Brain
2. Why Is Cocaine Addictive?
3. How Is Cocaine Ingested?
4. Short-Term Effects
5. Long-Term Effects
6. Going to Treatment
7. Benefits of an Outpatient Program
8. Inpatient Therapy Benefits
Cocaine addiction is one of the most common drug addictions in the United States today. It is a powerfully addictive hydrochloride powder that acts as a central nervous system stimulant, creating a euphoric burst of energy. Like other addictions, the condition is marked by certain behaviors, including:
- Continued cocaine abuse despite damaging results
- Inability to stop using cocaine once use has begun
- Withdrawal symptoms when cocaine is no longer available
- Constant cravings for it
Modern cocaine use reached its peak in the 1980s; however, a rock crystal form of cocaine, commonly referred to as “crack,” was developed in the 1990s. Both the powder and rock form of the drug are still in use today with 4.8 million Americans reporting abusing cocaine according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The Mechanics of Cocaine on the Human Brain
When cocaine enters the brain, it creates a blockage in certain neurotransmitters. Those neurotransmitters release dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for many aspects of the human condition but the specific action that cocaine will affect is the punishment and reward function. The more dopamine that is released, the more pleasure and reward an individual will experience. Once the dopamine has completed this task, it is reabsorbed into the brain. Cocaine blocks this part of the process; therefore, the individual who ingests cocaine will continue to feel “good” for much longer periods of time.
Why Is Cocaine Addictive?
Anytime a drug is placed into the human body, the process of tolerance begins. As the body adjusts to the specific drug at a certain dose, more of the drug will be required to have the same effects. In most cases, for instance with prescription drugs, tolerance is a good thing. If an individual is prescribed a depressant to control anxiety, for instance, the slight euphoric effects that prevent the patient from safely operating a vehicle will diminish in a few days and they can return to their normal routine.
In the case of an individual who is addicted to cocaine or other drugs for recreational use, tolerance means that they will need to ingest higher doses of the drug to obtain the euphoric effects. As they use more and more cocaine, the neurotransmitters in the brain will become physically dependent upon the drug in order to feel normal.
When the drugs are no longer introduced, the body “fights back” in an attempt to obtain more cocaine by creating withdrawal symptoms. The addiction is the result of the body’s dependence upon the drugs to feel “normal.”
How Is Cocaine Ingested?
Cocaine is usually a powder which can be ingested in one of two ways. The powder can be inhaled via “snorting” or it can be dissolved in water and injected directly into the veins of the drug addict. The rock cocaine, crack, is superheated to create a vapor which is then smoked. Each of these ingestion techniques has its own set of dangers and negative long-term effects.
Drug addiction can have immediate effects on an individual’s life quality and relationships. Perhaps some of the most profound effects of cocaine addiction come in this regard. In the past, cocaine was an exclusive drug that cost a great deal of money, resulting in financial ruin for many families. In recent years, the price of cocaine has dropped, making it easier to obtain. The destructive influence on families has remained constant.
Possession of cocaine is illegal and many individuals find themselves serving time in jail, away from their children who may or may not be subjected to foster care or adoption as a result of their parents’ addiction.
The physical cocaine addiction signs can be just as severe. An individual who uses cocaine often feels empowered and can put themselves and others into risky situations, including driving under the influence of cocaine or making poor decisions concerning personal behaviors.
A single episode of cocaine abuse can lead to heart attack and other sudden or related death at a later date.
The long-term effects of cocaine addiction, in addition to the social and family-related effects, can be quite costly for the addicted individual. Depending upon the method of ingestion and the frequency, a cocaine addict may experience:
- Lung cancer
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of the sense of smell
- Increased risk of HIV/AIDS
Cocaine addiction, like other addictions, is a treatable condition. When an individual who is addicted to cocaine makes the decision to stop using drugs and get help for a drug addiction, he or she is making a choice to improve their life and the lives of their families. The first stage of the best treatment for cocaine addiction is the detox phase.
Detoxification is the process of removing the toxins from the drugs from the body. The process can take several days or weeks, depending upon the kinds of drugs used (cocaine is seldom the only drug an individual will abuse) and the severity of the addiction. During the cocaine detox process, the individual may experience several symptoms, including:
- Extreme fatigue (a “crash”)
Unlike other drugs, such as heroin, there are often no physical symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal other than fatigue. However, in many cases, the individual who is addicted to cocaine may also have abuse issues with other drugs which may be detoxifying from the system at the same time. These drugs may cause other withdrawal symptoms that will need to be managed in association with the cocaine withdrawal period.
Once the detoxification process has been finished, the recovering cocaine addict will begin the next phase of treatment. This can include either an inpatient or outpatient treatment program consisting of therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a treatment model based upon cooperation between the recovering addict and their counselor. It often consists of self-assessments and practical scenarios to teach the recovering addict better modes of thought processes and reactions to various situations. An individual will have private, personalized sessions with their counselor as well as participate in group sessions several times per week.
Benefits of an Outpatient Program
In many cases, a recovering addict may be the sole provider for their family. Some addicts are the sole caregivers to their children. In cases such as these, outpatient treatment may be the best option. This type of recovery program allows the individual to continue working and residing in their home while they undergo substance abuse counseling on a daily basis. It takes discipline to work properly and a deep commitment to the recovery process as daily temptations to relapse will continue relatively unchecked.
Inpatient Therapy Benefits
If a recovering cocaine addict chooses, he or she can choose to treat their addiction on an inpatient basis. An inpatient facility offers some advantages. The most significant advantage is the total immersion into a new, sober lifestyle. Many inpatient facilities offer luxurious surroundings and accommodations that remove temptation from the recovery equation. With consistent access to counselors and a variety of alternative treatment models, including yoga, martial arts, equine-assisted therapy and wilderness therapy, the recovering addict can concentrate on their healing process without distractions from everyday life.
The final phase of recovery is the support or maintenance phase. After the individual has completed their residential or outpatient program, they will return to living on their own without the constant reminder of their choice to be sober. Aftercare is incredibly important to prevent relapse.
Some individuals will choose to reside in a sober living home for a time after they leave cocaine addiction rehab. This is a private residence where all of the household members are in recovery for various addictions. The individuals must agree to certain rules, such as paying rent and attending meetings regularly, in order to remain in the home.
Recovering from cocaine addiction is possible with the right support, commitment and professional intervention. If you’d like more information on choosing a sober lifestyle, contact us today.