Those who use cocaine report feelings of euphoria, which often leads to repeated use. The brain will adapt resulting in the reward pathway becomes less sensitive to natural reinforcers such as relationships, food and other natural rewards. At the same time, circuits involved in stress (cortisol levels) become increasingly sensitive, causing increased displeasure and negative moods for users when not on the drug. Short-term side effects from cocaine use include:
• Constricted blood vessels
• Dilated pupils
• Increased body temperature
• Increased heart rate
• Increased blood pressure
Although rare, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019). Consequently, there is no safe way to use cocaine. The user will develop a tolerance for cocaine, instigating higher, more frequent doses in order to produce the same level of pleasure or “high”. While it is possible to reverse some of the damage done to the body as a result of long-term cocaine abuse, some effects are irreversible. Long-term side effects include:
• Brain damage
• Heart disease
• Damage to the cardiovascular system
• Reduction of blood flow in the gastrointestinal tract
• Extreme weight loss
• Chest pain
• Loss of smell
• Auditory hallucinations
• Higher risk for contracting HIV or Hepatitis
Long-term cocaine abuse substantially increases the potential of an overdose. Did you know there is no specific medication that can reverse a cocaine overdose? Furthermore, did you know that there are no government-approved medicines are currently available to treat cocaine addiction? So, if you or a loved one wants to discontinue using cocaine, it’s in the person’s best interest to receive substance abuse treatment in the safety of a licensed medical facility.
Signs of cocaine addiction
Habitual users of cocaine become quite good at hiding their addiction. It would surprise many to know that the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 14% of all Americans over the age of 12 have used cocaine at some point in their lives (Gans, 2019). Many users of the drug use cocaine under the false pretenses that the drug improves their performance. Essentially, the drug gives the user a feeling of power and confidence. A user may think he/she is functioning on a higher level than they actually are – a clear indication of an altered mental state. Due to its ability to give its users a sense of happiness and a boost of energy, many cocaine users refuse to admit they have a problem. Signs that someone you know might be using cocaine include:
• Avoidance of social situations
• Changes in personal hygiene
• Needle marks on the body
• Unplanned weight loss
• Presence of drug paraphernalia such as syringes, razor blades, pipes and small plastic baggies
• Financial problems
• Extreme mood swings/behavioral changes
• Lying or stealing
Just like other addictive drugs and alcohol, cocaine users are at risk for creating a dependency, resulting in debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Repeat cocaine abuse results in long-term changes within the brain’s reward circuit. Continually using cocaine causes the reward circuit to become accustomed to the extra dopamine levels. When the brain stops receiving the same levels of dopamine (user cuts back or discontinues cocaine), the body will react with signs of withdrawal including:
• Difficulty concentrating
• Increased appetite
• Craving cocaine
• Chills, nerve pain, muscle aches
Polydrug (polysubstance) abuse, when a person consumes drugs and alcohol or more than one drug at once, is incredibly dangerous; especially when one of the drugs is cocaine. Countless celebrities have lost their lives to “speedballs”; a mixture of heroin and cocaine. Considering these drugs can be lethal when taken alone, when combined, a “speedball” or “powerball” is a cocktail of fatal proportions. While some users will snort the combo, it’s most often injected to enhance the “rush” by introducing it directly in the bloodstream (Serena, 2018). John Belushi, Chris Farley and Philip Seymour are just a few beloved celebrities that lost their lives by mixing a stimulant (cocaine) with a depressant (heroine) to make this highly dangerous polydrug.
Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline
Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine can vary depending on a variety of factors. Those who used for a longer period and at greater dosages will likely experience a longer withdrawal than users that have used for only a few months. Due to its relatively short half-life, heavy abusers of the drug may experience withdrawal symptoms shortly after the last dose:
Phase 1: 90 Minutes
This is known as the initial “crash”. Heavy cocaine users can experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as 90 minutes after their last dose. Common withdrawal symptoms include depression, anxiety, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. It’s important to note that cocaine withdrawal symptoms are primarily psychological, though some physical withdrawal symptoms may occur.
Phase 2: 7 – 10 Days
The average person detoxing from cocaine can expect the worst withdrawal symptoms to last for about 7 – 10 days. Physical symptoms may include chills, nerve pain and muscle aches. Psychological withdrawal symptoms continue. Individuals will likely experience nightmares, cravings and increased appetite. It’s important to note that while this is the peak of withdrawal symptoms for most cases, severe cases may experience lingering withdrawal symptoms for up to 10 weeks in duration.
Phase 3: Extinction
After a user has passed the 10-week mark, he/she is in the “extinction phase”. Cravings may appear from time to time but are significantly less severe than the previous phases. It’s important to control your environment and eliminate any triggers that may pose a risk for relapse.
As with any drug addiction, there is always a risk of relapse. Those who have successfully completed treatment, should be aware of any potential triggers, and eliminate them. Surrounding yourself with healthy social relationships, exercising and maintaining a healthy diet significantly reduces chances of relapse.
Treatment for cocaine addiction
Treatment for cocaine addiction begins with acknowledgment. Cocaine addiction is a disease, not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of strength to acknowledge a flaw and it takes strength to commit to making a positive change. Harmony Ridge Recovery Center understands how difficult it is to ask for help, and we welcome those asking with open arms.
Since there is no medication available to treat cocaine addiction, it’s imperative that a user wishing to cease cocaine use in the safety of medical professionals. The first step in the recovery process is detox. Detoxification is the process of removing all drugs, alcohol and other toxins from the body. Although this process can cause discomfort, it’s a necessary step in the treatment process. Should a patient experience any withdrawal symptoms while undergoing detox for cocaine addiction, our caring team of medical professionals may administer medications to alleviate any temporary pain or discomfort a patient may experience. Our team will be by you or your loved one’s side 24/7 during the entire process, providing an industry renowned medically managed detox method that is both safe and effective. After completing the detox process, Harmony Ridge Recovery Center provides each patient with the tools, training and rehabilitation needed to make a full recovery of the mind, body and soul. The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) says that 70 percent of people who go into treatment for powder cocaine problems either stop completely or significantly reduce their consumption within 6 months. With statistics like that in your favor, choose Harmony Ridge Recovery Center to regain control over your life today! 888-771-8372
As a nationally recognized substance abuse treatment center, our team of licensed medical professionals are here to help you navigate through the challenging road of recovery. Keep in mind that the healing process is not one to be rushed. Each patient undergoing drug rehabilitation therapy will receive an individualized drug treatment program tailored towards his/her specific needs. Upon successful completion of detox, patients typically transition to our inpatient treatment program and partial hospitalization program (PHP) levels of care. These highly structured and supervised settings combined with our supportive and serene environment make a perfect blend to help those who have overcome the worst withdrawal symptoms focus on overcoming their addiction in a longer-term holistic treatment setting. Patients respond well to the intense and highly structured programs designed to help them overcome obstacles and triggers that have fueled their addiction. Residential treatment includes a combination of group and individual therapy, counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and relapse prevention.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation (2019, June 27) What is cocaine? Retrieved from https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/cocaine/
Gans, S. (2019, September 2) What to Know About Cocaine Use. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/cocaine-frequently-asked-questions-66710
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2019) What are the short-term effects of cocaine use? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use
Serena, K. (2018, June 27) Speedball: The Deadly Drug Cocktail That’s Claimed Too Many Lives. Retrieved from https://allthatsinteresting.com/speedball-drugs