Cocaine is typically used in one of three ways: smoking, snorting or injecting. It affects the brain by increasing the levels of dopamine (a chemical in the brain associated with pleasure), causing a sense of euphoria. Over time, the excess dopamine can cause long-term changes in the brain, which can lead to cocaine addiction. Tolerance develops, making it harder and harder to feel “high,” and the user begins to use more of the drug.
Addicted to Coke?
A drug that produces intense feelings of energy and alertness, cocaine is highly addictive. Some of the signs of coke addiction are:
- Needing to use cocaine to function
- Thinking obsessively about getting the next coke high
- Missing work or experiencing other negative consequences because of cocaine use
- Giving up previous interests or hobbies to use cocaine
As much as individuals get hooked on the feeling of the drug, they are also captivated by the cocaine-abusing lifestyle. Cocaine use has been glamorized for decades as a drug of choice for celebrities, wealthy businessmen and others who party until late in the night with boundless energy.
But the glamour wears off quickly, leaving the user with drug cravings and the need for larger amounts of the drug in order to feel normal. Relapse is particularly common for coke addicts as stressful life events occur and memories of the drug-abusing lifestyle return, sometimes even after years of staying clean.
The Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Depending on the way it is used, cocaine can have a number of negative health effects, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds or problems with swallowing
- Anxiety and irritability
- Severe paranoia
- Heart attack or stroke, potentially resulting in sudden death
Those who use cocaine with alcohol amplify the effects of cocaine and put themselves at risk of serious harm.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Intense withdrawal symptoms make coke addiction difficult to overcome. These symptoms may include depression, irritability, insomnia and drug cravings that can last for months or more. In most cases, treatment is required for lasting recovery.
There are a variety of approaches to treating coke addiction, but one of the most effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a practical, short-term approach that helps patients identify negative thought patterns and learn healthier ways to cope.
Many outpatient and residential cocaine addiction treatment programs utilize CBT in combination with 12-Step principles, individual and group counseling, family programs, lectures, and life skills training. Individuals who struggle with a co-occurring mental illness such as anxiety or depression may also receive dual diagnosis treatment.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous utilizes the 12 Steps and is based on the concept of fellowship through support groups and 12-Step meetings. The group focuses specifically on staying free from cocaine as well as other mind-altering substances.