Substance Use

Cocaine Use Disorder Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Natalie Lindemann, Psy.D on 10/20/2022
Dr. Natalie Lindemann, Psy.D, holds a doctorate in Forensic Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

Dr. Natalie Lindemann
Medically Reviewed InfoBox

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

Zinnia Healing

Cocaine Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug that comes from the leaves of the coca plant in South America. It is usually found as a white powder that is commonly snorted, smoked, and injected. The drug has some medical uses, including as a local anesthesia for surgery. Aside from medical use, cocaine is an illegal drug that people use recreationally. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cocaine as a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S. It is a dangerous narcotic and using it illegally has many negative repercussions, including adverse health effects, overdose, and even death. Keep reading to learn more about cocaine addiction and how to get help. 

Cocaine Abuse Overview

Cocaine is classified by the DEA as a Schedule II drug, which means that it has limited medical use and a strong risk of abuse and addiction. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cocaine has been used at approximately the same rates since 2009. It is estimated that the drug has about 1.5 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older, which equates to about .6% of the population. Adults aged 18 to 25 years have the highest rates of cocaine abuse. 

Cocaine abuse can lead to addiction and other devastating consequences. Many people who try cocaine only a few times end up becoming dependent on it. The Drug Abuse Warning Network reports that cocaine is involved in around 500,000 visits to emergency departments for drug abuse. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it is advised that you seek professional assistance where you can receive adequate care. A Zinnia Healing facility can help you get started on your path to recovery.  

Can You Get Addicted to Cocaine?

Cocaine generally doesn’t produce visible withdrawal symptoms like other drugs, such as heroin or alcohol. Stopping the use of cocaine often causes sleep disturbances and fatigue, but for the most part, the dangerous part of dependency isn’t physical. It can still affect the body in a variety of other harmful ways, though. 

The worrisome part of cocaine addiction is how it affects a person’s brain, moods, and emotions. Cocaine abuse interferes with the brain’s reward pathway, the area that also processes naturally pleasurable things such as food, sex, exercise, etc. This part of the brain also regulates emotions and motivation. When things make us feel good, the brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which binds to dopamine receptors. For those moments, we feel good. Then, the brain carries the chemicals elsewhere to be recycled repeatedly later. 

When a person uses cocaine, however, it blocks the dopamine from moving on naturally. This causes more and more dopamine to accumulate in the brain, which produces intense euphoria. This high only lasts for a short period of time, though. After 5 to 30 minutes, there is a comedown or crash, which leads people to want to use more and more to maintain the desired effects. Repeating this causes serious malfunctions in the brain. 

Using cocaine repeatedly, even over a short period of time, makes the brain less able to process natural rewards. The things in life that used to feel good, such as food, sex, and spending time with friends, don’t feel as good anymore because the brain is used to getting the intense synthetic rush. This leads people to seek out the drug just to feel “okay” again. This kind of inability to cope with life after using cocaine illustrates how addictive the drug really is. 

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an extremely potent and addictive stimulant drug. It comes from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows in South America. South Americans discovered that chewing and ingesting the leaves gave them pleasurable stimulant effects. In the early 1900s, cocaine hydrochloride was then isolated from the plant as a purified chemical. This was the active ingredient in many elixirs and tonics used back then in the medical profession. They used it to treat all kinds of illnesses, from toothaches to respiratory ailments. It worked well as a pain blocker before synthetic local anesthetics were discovered. Back then, no one was aware of how prolonged cocaine use could make permanent changes to brain structure. 

Cocaine is a Schedule II narcotic often sold on the street as a fine, white powder. It has a very high potential for abuse and is extremely addictive. Dealers often mix cocaine powder with other household powders that look like it, such as baby powder, baking soda, or cornstarch, to sell it at more of a profit. Thus, the user can’t really know exactly what chemicals they are ingesting. It’s also common to mix it with other drugs that cost less, such as procaine, heroin, methadone, or fentanyl. All of these increase the chance of adverse physical consequences and overdose. 

Cocaine comes in two different forms: hydrochloride salt and a cocaine base. The hydrochloride salt can be snorted or mixed with water and injected. Drug producers make cocaine base through a process that mixes cocaine with ammonia or baking soda and water and then heats it to remove the hydrochloride. The result is a thick, non-water-soluble substance that can be smoked in a pipe.  

How Is Cocaine Consumed or Used?

Cocaine is usually ingested by snorting it through the nostrils, injecting it intravenously, or inhaling it as smoke. Snorting the drug through the nostrils allows it to get absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissue. Cocaine can also be rubbed onto the gums, where it dissolves and enters the bloodstream. Dissolving cocaine powder into water and injecting it into a vein is the most direct way of getting it into the bloodstream, causing the most heightened effects. 

Smoking cocaine involves burning processed cocaine that has formed a rock crystal. This is also called freebase cocaine. The crystal heats up in a pipe or other tool and creates vapors that a user inhales into the lungs. This kind of cocaine is called crack, named after the crackling sound of the rock when it heats up. Smoking crack also allows the drug to enter the bloodstream very quickly. The fast, pleasurable effect is why crack rose to such great popularity in the mid-1980s. 

Any form of cocaine and manner of ingestion is highly dangerous and can result in the body absorbing lethal amounts of cocaine. This can cause heart attacks, strokes, and seizures, which can all result in overdose and death. 

What Are the Risks and Causes of Cocaine Abuse?

People are more likely to be drawn to cocaine abuse if they have low self-esteem or mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. People who have family members with a substance use disorder or those who have a history of abusing other substances are also at higher risk for cocaine addiction. 

People often end up abusing cocaine when they are looking for a quick, intense high. All forms of ingesting it produce pleasing, euphoric effects in under a few minutes. Pure cocaine is one of the strongest stimulants ever discovered, and it is incredibly dangerous. 

Using cocaine can have a multitude of negative physical consequences. Even using it occasionally can lead to health complications like high blood pressure, hardened arteries, bowel issues, and loss of grey matter around the reward center parts of the brain. Cocaine is also known for causing malnourishment because it causes loss of appetite. 

Other risks associated with cocaine use are:

  • Insomnia
  • Ischemic heart conditions
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Convulsions
  • Strokes respiratory failure 
  • Death

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse?

Although cocaine can produce a pleasant high, it is also very unpredictable. Many people end up with batches of cocaine that contain a multitude of other products or drugs. Cocaine also affects every person a little differently. It can cause over-stimulation, erratic social behavior, a variety of mental and physical health issues, and more. 

When a person is high on cocaine, they usually feel euphoric, full of energy, talkative, mentally alert, and jittery. Cocaine can also drastically reduce a person’s need for food and sleep. The high only lasts from 5 to 30 minutes. 

Short-term effects of cocaine abuse include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Rapid breathing
  • Constant runny nose or sniffling
  • Nosebleeds
  • Frequent sore throats
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Bizarre, sometimes violent behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Muscle twitches

A person might also exhibit unusual enthusiasm followed by depressed moods and lethargy, disinhibition that leads them to partake in dangerous activities, muscle tics or lack of coordination, and changes in concentration and focus. 

Drug paraphernalia, such as small plastic bags, razor blades, and rolled-up dollar bills, can also be indications of cocaine abuse. A person might have red, irritated skin around their nostrils from snorting the drug. 

If you are worried that someone you love is struggling with a cocaine addiction, Zinnia Healing can help. Contact us today to find out more about our drug detox and rehab programs. 

In addition to these common symptoms, there are many other signs and symptoms that can result from cocaine abuse. Many drug addicts will display behavior that seems markedly out of character for them, such as skipping work or school or suffering in performance. They might exhibit secretive behavior, such as isolating themselves, lying about where they are going, keeping doors closed and locked, and sneaking out of the house. 

During active addiction, it’s common for people to shift social groups or adopt new friends who also abuse substances. Some people distance themselves from their current friends and family. Financial troubles are a possible sign of drug abuse.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse?

Cocaine abuse can produce long-lasting changes in the user’s brain. With repeated exposure, the brain gets used to higher levels of dopamine and becomes less sensitive to natural reinforcers. This occurs while stress circuits in the brain become more sensitive. The combination leads to negative moods and feelings of unhappiness when not taking the drug. 

As a person uses cocaine over time, their tolerance rises and they need higher doses of the drug to get relief from withdrawal. The body can also become more sensitive to the physical effects of cocaine, with little amounts producing anxiety, muscle spasms, and other toxic effects. Tolerance also increases the risk of overdose. 

Cocaine binges can lead to panic attacks and paranoia that, in some users, can turn into full-blown psychosis. In these cases, a person experiences hallucinations and delusions, losing touch with reality. 

Regularly snorting cocaine can create problems like consistent nosebleeds, problems with swallowing, hoarseness, and irritation of the lining of the nose. Smoking crack cocaine can cause damage to the lungs. Cocaine also reduces blood flow in the GI tract, which can lead to digestive issues and ulcers. Cocaine significantly damages the cardiovascular system, causing an increased risk of stroke, inflammation of the heart muscle, aortic ruptures, and heart attacks. 

Cocaine use has been tied to neurological problems, as well. It can cause bleeding in the brain and bulging in the walls of cerebral blood vessels. Long-term cocaine use has been linked to Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. It can also have lasting effects on a person’s attention, impulse inhibition, memory, decision-making abilities, and motor skills. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal?

As a person’s brain adjusts to the rushes of dopamine that cocaine produces in the brain, they become desensitized to it. This can lead people to use more of the drug and to use it more frequently to stave off uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depressed moods
  • Insomnia or disruptions in sleep
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Delayed thinking
  • Constipation

Our cocaine abuse treatment center has a team of addiction specialists that can help you through the withdrawal process. 

What Are Treatment Options for Cocaine Abuse?

Because cocaine is so much about psychological dependence, it can be hard to reach out and ask for help when one is in a “crash” period. If you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine abuse, our addiction specialists at Zinnia Healing can help you find a path to recovery and back to the life you used to love. We can help manage your withdrawal symptoms to keep you safe and comfortable and reduce the risk of relapse. 

Treatment for cocaine addiction focuses on a variety of therapies that teach new coping mechanisms and life skills. Our treatment approach offers new ways to deal with cravings and temptation and to identify which people, things, and places might be potential triggers in your life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is especially helpful for changing the way a person thinks about themselves and the reasons they need to use drugs. Group therapy, 12-step programs, and individual counseling are also very helpful in creating a happy, fulfilling life without drugs. 

At Zinnia Healing treatment facilities, we work to evaluate individuals to learn about their history of substance use. This helps us understand how long a person has been using a drug, what amount they typically consume, and other critical information.

We offer a variety of rehabilitation tools to help address the origins of a client’s substance use. The goal is to get a sense of a person’s concerns, struggles, and goals, and to help develop healthy alternatives to using cocaine. 

If you or someone you know needs help addressing cocaine addiction, we can help. Zinnia Healing has a team of qualified addiction specialists who are experts in treating addiction to cocaine as well as other drugs, alcohol, and prescription medications. Contact our admissions staff today at (888) 528-5903 to find out more about our approach to substance abuse recovery.