Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that produces intense feelings of euphoria. As with any addiction, an addiction to cocaine can wreak havoc on your life and those around you. It is an expensive habit, one that can lead to severe mental and physical health consequences. However, unlike opiates, withdrawal symptoms are minimal, although still unpleasant. Treatment for cocaine addiction is possible. If you or someone you know is suffering from cocaine addiction, it’s important to understand that you are not alone, and help is available. Call our admissions team for treatment advice and your next steps towards recovery.
What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a strong stimulant drug derived from the coca plant and is typically used recreationally. It is an illicit substance that is usually provided in a white powder form, but can also be found as a liquid or rock form known as ‘crack’. Crack cocaine has the same properties as powdered cocaine, but can be found in rock form. Various street names for cocaine include:
- Snow White
- Nose candy
Effects of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine enhances the effects of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Users are likely to experience instant feelings of pleasure and ecstasy, contributing to why this drug is so addictive and difficult to give up.
Other effects of cocaine abuse include:
- Increased alertness
- lack of sleep
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- White stains on clothes, belongings or skin
- Running nose
- Bloody nose
- Enhanced performance
- Extreme weight loss
- Short attention span
Risks of Cocaine Abuse
Your body has to work hard to keep up with what cocaine does to the system, and long-term cocaine abuse can do serious damage to your mental and physical health. Using cocaine frequently can lead to psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks. On days following heavy cocaine use, you may experience flu-like symptoms. This is referred to as a ‘comedown’ or ‘coke flu’.
Cocaine overdose is another major risk and doesn’t just occur after heavy use. Some people have experienced an overdose after their first time trying the drug. This is because each person’s body is different, and you won’t really know how your system will react to the presence of toxic chemicals like cocaine. A cocaine overdose can result in heart attacks, convulsions and even sudden death. As your use of cocaine continues, its physical effects can cause long-term damage to some of your vital organs.
While there are many dangerous side effects of cocaine abuse, one of the most serious is heart damage. Regular cocaine use can result in various cardiovascular issues. These can occur gradually over time, or after first use. Some of the most common heart issues include ischemic heart disease, aberrant heart rhythms, hypertension, and cardiomyopathy. The effects of cocaine abuse may also depend on the method of use. For example, injecting cocaine can result in an infection and inflammation of the heart valves and lining of the heart chambers.
Other symptoms of cocaine-induced heart damage include:
- Inflammation of heart muscle (myocarditis).
- Aortic rupture.
- Severe declines in health and life quality due to chronic reductions in cardiac function.
Cocaine-induced heart failure or damage may also increase the risk of stroke, or brain damage resulting from interruptions in the blood supply available to the brain.
Signs and Symptoms
As the user’s habit escalates, behavioural and physical changes are likely to increase in conjunction. A heavy user of cocaine may stay awake for days on end, resulting in dark circles around their eyes and poor judgement in decision making and even malnutrition. The most common tell of a heavy cocaine user is their irrationality and unpredictability. They may be distant and unrecognisable one minute and full of energy and excitement the next.
Other behavioural signs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Evading responsibilities, work, school or family
- Increased impulsivity
- Risky behaviour, sexual or otherwise
- Financial issues
- Emotional and mood swings
- Withdrawing from close relationships
Physical symptoms include:
- Frequent runny or bloody nose
- Dark circles around the eyes
- High body temperature
- Headaches and migraines
- Dilated pupils
- Stomach pain
- Constant sniffing
- Twitching and shaking
- Bitten nails from anxiety or peeled skin
As with any drug addiction, the signs and symptoms will vary based on the amount and frequency of use.
Detox and Withdrawal
The detox from cocaine is primarily psychological, and going through this stage usually results in intense mental cravings for cocaine, interrupted sleep and anxiety but will generally not experience physical side effects as you would from heroin withdrawal.
Other withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Mood swings
Depending on your physical and psychological state during the detox period, you may be offered medication to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. Detoxing from cocaine should not be done alone or at home. During this process, a safe and stable environment is highly recommended, which is why residential rehab is always considered the best place for cocaine addiction treatment.
Cocaine addiction is often impossible to stop without professional help. Addiction takes its toll both physically and mentally; so it’s important to address both sides of this illness during treatment. There are a variety of different treatment programmes that vary in length around the world. If you are in the grips of cocaine addiction, or you think your loved one might be suffering, speak in confidence to a trained professional who can assess and recommend the best treatment plan for your situation.
Behavioural therapies are treatments used to address the psychological aspects of addiction. They aim to understand the reasons behind substance abuse and identify any underlying causes for this behaviour. Many of the techniques used have proven to be effective in treating cocaine addiction.
Contingency management is an example of behavioural therapy often used in the treatment of cocaine addiction. This therapy uses incentives and other positive reinforcements for abstinence.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is also used during cocaine addiction treatment, and focuses on addressing problematic ways of thinking that lead to negative emotional reactions, thus resulting in substance abuse.
Getting help for cocaine addiction
If you’re concerned about the effects your cocaine addiction is having on your health and wellbeing, get in touch with CATCH Recovery to find out how we can help you begin your journey to sobriety.
You can call our admissions team for your free addiction assessment, and they will be able to advise you on the next steps.
Our clinic is based in South West London, which is accessible from anywhere in the UK. However, if you need additional support but don’t live in the South East of England, you may benefit from some of the outpatient services we offer. If you require residential rehab and are unable to travel to London, we also provide referrals to rehabs in other areas in the UK and Ireland.