Cocaine Addiction Treatment

in Orange County, CA

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

in Orange County, CA

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant plant that is used in rare instances for medical purposes. When used, the drug causes an intense and short-acting high due to a rush of neurotransmitter dopamine. As a result, a person may want to use more of the drug to achieve the same effect of using cocaine for the first time. The result can be addiction, and the health problems and concerns that comes with it. Cocaine addiction can also affect a person’s relationship with their friends and family. It causes them to lose control over their use, which impacts their abilities to navigate through their daily lives. As a result, many rehabilitation experts suggest seeking professional cocaine use disorder treatment for people who struggles with it.

Background on Cocaine

Workers harvest cocaine from the leaves of the coca plant, a plant that naturally grows in the South American rainforests. 5 People native to these areas have chewed on the coca leaves for centuries as a means to achieve a high and greater mental alertness. When scientists observed people doing this, they started to perform experiments to try and isolate the compounds that gave people using the coca leaves their high. In the 1850s, scientists in Europe were able to isolate the cocaine compound from the coca leaves, calling it cocaine.5

At the time, scientists perceived cocaine as a potential “wonder drug.” Chemists observed that cocaine had local anesthetic properties because when applied to the skin or tasted on the tongue, cocaine could cause numbness.5 As a result, the medical community started to use cocaine as a topical local anesthetic, such as for eye surgeries.

While people did experience overdoses related to abuse of the substance, some of the leading medical minds of the era used and experimented with cocaine. An example is neurologist Sigmund Freud who wrote papers about his cocaine habit and addiction.5

Another well-known item has its roots in cocaine: Coca-Cola.5 The drink used to be a combination of cocaine and a sugar-rich syrup sold in soda fountains as early as 1886. 5 However, the company stopped selling Coca-Cola that contained cocaine in 1903.

Cocaine in the 20th Century

Regulations regarding cocaine started to tighten in the early 20th century, and cocaine didn’t increase in popularity until the 1980s. In the late 1970s, cocaine growers and producers dropped the prices of cocaine dramatically (about 80 percent), which resulted in a flood of the substance to the market. Drug dealers started taking the cheaply obtained cocaine and making it into crack for further sale. 5 Crack cocaine could be sold cheaply and in large quantities. The first major cities reporting confiscation of crack included Miami and New York.

These reports were what began the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. According to History.com, the number of cocaine users in 1985 were 4.2 million. By 1989, the number had increased to 5.8 million people. 5 The increase in cocaine users was linked with an increase in crime, particularly homicides. As a result, the U.S. Government passed legislation called the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. 5 This act increased criminal penalties for crack cocaine possession.

Cocaine use started to decrease by the end of the 1980s, but cocaine remains a drug of abuse today. According to 2014 results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 1.5 million people have used cocaine in the past month. 4 Of these individuals, the greatest age group that abuses cocaine at a higher rate are 18 to 25 year olds. 4 Of known cocaine users, an estimated 913,000 Americans are addicted to the drug. 4

Cocaine's Names on the Street

Street names for cocaine include:

  • Blow
  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Rock
  • Snow

When sold on the street, cocaine usually appears as a white powdered substance. Drug dealers may mix other similar white powders with cocaine in an attempt to have more product to sell. Examples of these powders include cornstarch, flour, or talcum powder. 1 Sometimes, dealers will mix cocaine with other drugs in an attempt to increase the high from their product. Examples include amphetamine or painkilling medications, such as fentanyl. As a result, a person may not know what they are truly using when they use cocaine.

How is Cocaine Abused?

People abuse cocaine in a variety of ways to get high. One of the most common is to snort cocaine through their nose. However, there are other methods of cocaine abuse, which include:

Dissolving cocaine and injecting it into a vein

Injecting a dissolved mixture of heroin and cocaine, called a “speedball”

Rubbing cocaine onto their gums

Some drug dealers also sell cocaine in a rock crystal form known as “crack.” A person abusing crack will heat the crystals on a spoon and inhale them to get high.

The duration of time to achieve a high and the time to when cocaine wears off depends largely upon how a person is using the drug. For example, smoking or injecting cocaine causes a high that usually lasts about 5 to 10 minutes. 1 Snorting the drug causes a high that lasts about 15 to 30 minutes.

Acute Effects of Cocaine

When a person uses cocaine, the drug sends a flood of the neurotransmitter dopamine into the brain. 1 Dopamine is a feel-good chemical the brain usually absorbs quickly. Cocaine alters dopamine’s absorption, causing it to remain in the brain for longer time period.

Some of the acute or short-term effects associated with cocaine use include:

  • Euphoria
  • Enhanced energy
  • Hypersensitivity to sound, touch, and vision
  • Increased mental alertness
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

Once these effects wear off, a person can experience a powerful “crash” sensation due to the lack of cocaine in the brain and body. These effects can linger for several days, making a person feel tired and depressed. 2

The brain and body can become addicted to the higher presence of dopamine. Soon, traditional ways of increasing dopamine (like eating a piece of chocolate cake or achieving a runner’s high) don’t make a person feel as good anymore. As a result, a person may start to crave cocaine as a means to increase their dopamine levels. They also start to become sensitized to cocaine, meaning they may have to take larger doses to achieve the same high they once had at smaller doses. This effect creates a vicious cycle that can lead to addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 404,224 of the 1.3 million emergency department visits in 2011 for drug use and misuse including the use of cocaine. Overdose deaths due to cocaine abuse peaked in 2006 at more than 7,000 people. 4 According to 2014’s cocaine overdose death numbers, slightly more than 5,000 people overdosed and died due to their cocaine use disorder.

Health Risks of Cocaine

For a short-acting drug, cocaine can cause tremendous damage to the body. One of the most serious complications is related to the heart. Cocaine can speed up the heart and also cause irregular heart rhythms. 1 If a person has a history of heart health problems, this effect can be extremely damaging and potentially deadly.

Other health effects associated with using cocaine include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors

In addition to short-term health concerns from cocaine use, the drug has the potential to cause long-term health problems as well. Sometimes, these depend upon how a person is abusing the drug. For example, if people chronically snort cocaine, they may experience side effects that include loss of smell and even collapse of their nasal cavity.

If a person uses cocaine by putting it on their gums, they risk bowel decay because the cocaine can cause the blood vessels flowing to their intestines to get tighter or constrict. This can lead to severe bowel decay.

Those who abuse cocaine by injecting it intravenously are at greater risk for IV-transmitted infections. These include hepatitis and HIV. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the presence of cocaine increases the likelihood a person will get HIV if they use an infected needle. 1 People are also at risk for endocarditis, a severe infection of the heart’s valves that can be due to IV drug use.

Even if a person isn’t using cocaine any more, several individuals who were heavy users of the drug report later sensory experiences, such as hallucinations and paranoia, long after they’ve stopped using.

Some Misconceptions About Cocaine

Small Doses Enhance Concentration

A common misconception about cocaine is that a person can use “just a little” of the substance as a means to enhance concentration and get more things done. People have reported using cocaine to finish a report or to get through tasks faster. However, the problem is there is no controlled dosage of cocaine when used illegally. A person doesn’t know the purity or contents of the drug they are using. If they use too much, their desire for greater concentration or alertness can quickly turn into bizarre and even violent behavior. 1

You Can't Overdose on Cocaine

Another common misconception is that a person cannot overdose on cocaine. The opposite is true. A person can use enough cocaine to produce life-threatening health effects, such as heart attacks, seizures, or stroke. Also, a person who mixes cocaine with other substances such as alcohol or heroin, may be at increased risks for overdose due to the combination of substances. 1

Cocaine Overdose Symptoms

Some of the symptoms a person may have experienced a cocaine overdose include:

  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • High body temperatures that make a person feel very hot to the touch
  • Problems breathing

Unfortunately, medications do not currently exist that reverse or block the acute effects of cocaine overdose. As a result, treatments at a medical facility are more supportive, such as administering medications to stop a seizure or using procedures to restore blood flow to the heart after a heart attack.

Does a Person Go Through Cocaine Withdrawal?

While cocaine is a fast-acting drug, a person will still go through withdrawal symptoms when they are using it. The withdrawal stems from the brain’s addiction to the substance and the need to repeat the high it achieved through using the drug.

Examples of cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle ache
  • Nerve pain
  • Strong hunger
  • Unpleasant dreams

While these symptoms are unpleasant, they are rarely deadly. 3 A person must navigate these symptoms as a means to start their recovery from cocaine addiction.

Treating Cocaine Withdrawal and Addiction

Sometimes, when a person struggles with addiction, doctors will use a combination of medications used to deter or reduce a person’s drug use. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine withdrawals or to deter a person’s addiction. However, they are conducting research on a number of medications that have shown promise in helping those addicted to cocaine.

Instead, doctors usually recommend supportive therapy through the withdrawal period. This may include administering medications to combat nausea or to enhance sleep while a person’s brain becomes accustomed to the lack of cocaine in the system. 1

Doctors may also recommend psychotherapy and counseling. These methods help a person recognize their harmful behaviors and make adjustments so that they can resist the urge to return to cocaine abuse. According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, some of the most common treatment methods to help those addicted to cocaine include the following:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapeutic approach involves helping a person recognize addictive behavioral patterns, such as “it’s only for one night” or “just a little won’t hurt.” A person then addresses and changes these thoughts through behavior, such as telling themselves that any amount of cocaine use is unacceptable and that they need to call a friend or family member to help them move past these thoughts.

Contingency Management

Doctors have found this therapeutic approach of rewarding drug-free behaviors works well in those who are addicted to cocaine. For example, a person may receive a voucher for a movie ticket or restaurant meal in exchange for a cocaine-free drug test. 1

Recovery and Support Groups

People who continue to seek help with their sobriety through 12-step programs or other recovery groups can find a network of people who support them in their journey to remain cocaine-free.

Conclusions and Considerations

If a person struggles with cocaine abuse, there are treatment methods and support that can help them stop using the drug. Because the drug is associated with severe health side effects due to short and long-term use, the sooner a person can stop using, the better off their health can be. If a person has multiple substance use disorder including cocaine, they may wish to seek treatment at an inpatient facility so they can receive round-the-clock care as they withdraw from cocaine and other substances.

Resources

  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/cocaine.html
  3. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/cocaine-use-and-its-effects#1
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states
  5. https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-cocaine