Cocaine is the most powerful addictive stimulant drug derived and made from coca plants, grown in South America. Known to most as a street drug, cocaine has an appearance of white, crystal-like powder. Cocaine use for recreational purposes is completely illegal in the US. Illicit drug traffickers often mix cocaine with other drugs such as stimulant amphetamine, synthetic opioids, and fentanyl. Cocaine as a drug, when used by itself, is addictive and dangerous, but when mixed with other drugs it becomes risky and may lead to overdose and death. Cocaine directly affects the brain function by increasing dopamine levels in brain circuits associated with reward and movement control. The process of dopamine flowing into the brain’s reward system develops drug dependence, that eventually causes a person to use more drugs to reach desired effects.
Cocaine and Addiction
Similar to other stimulant drugs or opioids, if cocaine is abused repeatedly, it may cause permanent changes in a person’s brain function, which may lead to addiction. These changes in the brain reward system will drive an addict to seek and use more drugs, in higher dosages and more frequently. A person addicted to cocaine may demonstrate acute signs ranging from physical to behavioral changes. The signs may include severe mood changes, compulsive drug use, agitation, depression, euphoria, insomnia, panic attacks, psychosis, rapid heartbeat, and increased body fever, high blood pressure, anxiety, agitation, risky behaviors.
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Cocaine withdrawal symptoms
When a person with cocaine addiction stops using drugs abruptly, or tries to taper cocaine use, it may produce powerful withdrawal effects. Cocaine produces a sensation known as euphoria, inducing higher than normal chemical production in the brain, that leads to crushing. During this period a person may develop strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms, that may have detrimental health effects, and may be life-threatening. Cocaine withdrawal usually does not manifest into any visible physical symptoms that often associated with heroin or alcohol abuse.
Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- mood swings
- extreme suspicion
- anhedonia (lack of motivation)
- increased hunger
- nightmares and suicidal thoughts
- loss of concentration
Cocaine overdose may lead to seizures, trouble breathing, delirium, hallucinations, stroke and heart attack.
Cocaine Detox and Treatment
Treatment for cocaine addiction may begin with the cocaine detox procedure that involves eliminating harmful toxins from the body and ease the discomfort of cravings and physical effects of withdrawal. The length of detox time heavily depends on many important factors: type of drugs, the amount and frequency of drugs taken, and the presence of any co-existing mental health disorders.
Before undergoing a cocaine detoxification procedure, the patient must be examined by a medical professional specializing in recovery. Physical exam and cocaine history use are critical for diagnosing the present condition and develop a treatment plan. The treatment plan is based on the personal and individual needs of the patient. Basic testing may include blood and urine tests, toxicology screening, chest x-rays, cardiac enzymes, and ECG.
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Any co-existing mental health disorders must be addressed during rehab treatment.
Cocaine detox performed in the medical setting and is supervised by medical professionals. There are three phases of detox: crash phase, craving phase, and extinction phase. During this time the patient may be given medications to help suppress drug cravings, curb uncomfortable physical symptoms, and prescription aid to block opioid receptors in the brain to reverse to a normal brain function. Vital signs checks may be performed round the clock.
After completing a cocaine detox program the patient transitions to a residential recovery program to undergo behavioral therapy, the most important component of successful rehab treatment. During this phase of treatment, recovery specialists monitor the patient’s progress and make necessary modifications.
Behavioral therapy used to treat cocaine addiction may include:
- cognitive-behavioral therapy
The program includes understanding the cause of addiction and drug use, learning to cope with life’s stress without using drugs, obtaining skills to manage triggers and avoid relapse.
- motivational incentives program.
The program provides rewards for patient’s based on their progress and maintaining a drug-free life.
- Individual counseling and group support.
These programs intended to match individuals with similar substance use disorders to share and understand how to change their drug use behaviors.
Family support is critical during the whole recovery process.