Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant drug derived from coca, prepared synthetically. It sometimes used medicinally as a local anaesthetic, or as a recreational substance due to the effects it has on mood, motivation, and energy. Cocaine can be smoked, snorted, or taken intravenously (via injection).
Cocaine functions in order to increase the availability of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with the generation of ‘euphoric’ emotions, the regulation of movement, and the processing of reward cues. However, it is also associated with a considerable potential for dependence and abuse.
Cocaine creates the greatest psychological dependence of any drug. It stimulates key pleasure centres within the brain and causes extremely heightened euphoria.
If you find that you are taking more cocaine in order to experience the same high, then it’s likely you have developed a tolerance and are using cocaine more often and in larger doses. At this point you may have developed a cocaine addiction, and your body now ‘expects’ the drug on a regular basis.
If you have found that your use of cocaine is interfering with everyday life and is impacting your ability to take care of responsibilities, then you are more than likely have a problem. You might have tried to quit or cut back on your use without success. If so, you should know that this is one of the most common signs of addiction.
There are many symptoms that can occur when cocaine is abused. Below are a few examples:
There is a difference between abuse and addiction though. An addiction means that you spend your time obsessed about your next hit, and when you will get it. Once it begins to interfere with daily life and it can have an impact on your relationship with those around you. As your illness progresses, you will have little time for other people and may begin isolating yourself from them as you try to hide what you are doing. You might also lose interest in hobbies or activities that you once found pleasure in.
If you continue to use cocaine, despite it having negative consequences for you and those you love, it is highly likely that you have developed an addiction.
Cocaine use releases excess amounts of happiness-inducing biochemicals known as dopamine. After a cocaine binge, the brain isn’t able to produce natural amounts of dopamine on its own. This is why those who are addicted need the drug to simply feel normal.
Once cocaine is buried deep within the brain, it interferes with neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers used by nerves to communicate with each other. Cocaine successfully blocks the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and other neurotransmitters from being reabsorbed. This leads to a chemical buildup between the nerves, resulting in the user feeling high. Cocaine users describe the sensation that cocaine use brings them as an extremely elevated mood, with feelings of supremacy and an increasing sensation of energy and mental alertness. On the downside, cocaine abusers often report that they also feel paranoid, irritable, anxious, and restless. These effects of cocaine tend to last between 30 minutes and two hours.
These behavioural anomalies associated with its effects may include:
Cocaine withdrawal doesn’t typically produce physical symptoms, but psychological symptoms can range from depression to fatigue.
Unlike other substance, cocaine detox is generally never life-threatening and rarely requires medical detox. However, it is important to get treatment for the psychological dependence. Finding treatment, whether it be rehab, therapy or a 12-step program, can increase the chances of successfully quitting and maintaining a life free from addiction. These treatments help people cope with withdrawal and cravings.
The emotional withdrawal symptoms of cocaine include:
While post-acute withdrawal symptoms for cocaine are similar to those of other drugs:
It is important to remember that it is possible to break free from the cycle of addiction, and there are many forms of help available. The NHS can provide help in the first instance, especially if you require urgent medical care. You can visit your local GP, who will refer you to your local drug treatment centre. You can also refer yourself if you wish. Unfortunately, though, the demands placed on NHS-run programmes are high and you may face a long wait before your first appointment.
Private clinics offer residential programmes, and many people prefer the idea of getting away from their everyday life to focus fully on treatment. The downside with private clinics is that they are privately funded and can be expensive. Nevertheless, most of those who make the decision to get treatment in a private clinic see it as an investment in their future.
The intensive schedule of treatment, condensed over a period of around four to twelve weeks, increases the chance of getting better in the quickest time possible. Moreover, overcoming the addiction means no longer spending every penny on drugs such as cocaine. This would allow you to begin saving, meaning the cost of treatment quickly pays for itself.
Charity programmes are also helping with the treatment of various addictions, so you may find a suitable outpatient programme provided by a local charity. Another option is a private clinic, the advantage of which is accessing treatment in short order, sometimes even within hours of initial enquiry.
Treatment options for cocaine addiction will differ depending on the individual. This means that you will have a plan of care that has been designed specifically around your requirements. Your treatment provider will utilise a range of treatment options and choose the ones that are expected to work most effectively for you and your situation.
It is likely that your plan will combine individual counselling with group therapy sessions, holistic treatments, seminars, and workshops to help you learn more about your addiction and why you developed it in the first place. Depending upon your specific needs and goals, your path to recovery from cocaine addiction may include a combination of the following:
Cocaine detox programme – a medically monitored environment in which you can rid your body of cocaine with maximum safety and minimal discomfort
Residential rehabilitation – intensive treatment services from multidisciplinary teams of consultant psychiatrists and psychologists, therapists and nurses, with 24-hour care and support
Day therapy – structured and supportive care to promote continued recovery, with flexible treatment hours to accommodate your personal and professional responsibilities
Outpatient therapy – ideal as a step-down from day therapy, providing limited ongoing support as you transition out of care and re-establish a healthy independent lifestyle
One-to-one therapy – provides a confidential environment in which you can process successes and setbacks, address issues that you may be hesitant to bring up in a group session and receive personalised feedback from an experienced professional
Group therapy – allows you to share your insights, learn from the experiences of others, and practice healthy interpersonal communication skills under the guidance and supervision of one or more trained and experienced professionals
The types of treatment that you receive as you recover from your cocaine addiction at Priory, will depend upon a variety of factors, including your needs and goals, your progress to date, the presence of any co-occurring mental health issues, and the level at which you are currently receiving care.