Cocaine (also known as coke, snow, blow, basa, base, crack, and more) is what’s called an ‘upper.’ It is known as a party drug, and often consumed alongside alcohol. A stimulant, it gives the user energy and a sense of euphoria.
Cocaine Timeline: Use and Abuse
Cocaine comes from the coca leaf, which has been consumed since 3000 BC in South America. The coca leaf was usually chewed, and used to boost energy, relieve fatigue, and alleviate hunger.
In 1860, German chemist Albert Niemann isolated cocaine from the leaf, and it began to be used as an anesthetic and to limit bleeding during eye, nose, and throat surgeries. Cocaine’s popularity rose in the 1880s and 1890s, and soon the drug’s harm became apparent. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotic Act was passed, making it illegal to import cocaine and coca leaves (except for pharmaceutical purposes).
The advent of crack cocaine in the 1980s brought cocaine to the forefront of illicit drug use in the United States. The crack epidemic devastated inner cities across the country, and remains a major issue.
The Cocaine Addiction Cycle and Withdrawal
Cocaine exists in both powdered and crack rock form. Powdered cocaine is consumed by snorting, or making the powder into a liquid and injecting it with a needle. Crack cocaine is taken by heating the rock in a pipe, then inhaling the smoke.
The high from cocaine only lasts a short time, which causes a binge and crash pattern in addicts. At first, the person experiences a rush of good feelings; these disappear relatively quickly, at which point the addict often feels depressed and exhausted. To avoid this crash, individuals will often take more cocaine.
Because cocaine affects the central nervous system, it increases the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with pleasure. Abusing cocaine can lead to the body stopping the natural process of dopamine production in the brain, which means the person will need more and more cocaine in order to get the good feelings they first had on the drug. Treatment is necessary to come back into balance.
How do you know you need treatment for cocaine addiction?
- Some signs and symptoms of cocaine use include:
- Being overly enthusiastic (i.e. hyperactive)
- Reduced inhibitions
- Cold-like symptoms
- Involuntary movements (i.e. muscle tics)
- Inability to focus or hyper-focus
- Chills and body aches
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Intense craving for cocaine
Ongoing cocaine use can lead to very dangerous effects, the most serious of which is damage to the heart muscles. Cell death in the heart muscles (cardiomyopathy), and intravenous cocaine use (shooting up with a needle) can generate inflammation of the inner tissues of the organ (endocarditis). This can lead to heart attacks or cardiac arrhythmias, which can be fatal. Heart failure or damage can also increase the risk of stroke or brain damage.
In addition to the physical impact on the body, cocaine addiction can lead to major financial problems. Powdered cocaine in particular can be expensive to obtain, and addiction can lead to financial issues or even ruin.
Cocaine addiction is dangerous and treatment is necessary to recover.
What is a cocaine treatment center?
Cocaine rehab facilities are sites with programs specifically designed to help those dependent on or addicted to cocaine. The staff at such facilities are skilled at helping individuals detox from the drug itself, treat the symptoms associated with addiction, and address the root causes of addiction, which are often trauma and anxiety.
Why go to a cocaine treatment center?
According to research, nearly 2 million people use cocaine each month. The highest rates of cocaine use are by adults aged 18-25, and more men abuse cocaine than women.
One reason to go to a cocaine-specific program is to be surrounded by those who are going through the same challenge at a similar stage of life. In other words, being around those who are similar to you can help you recover, because you can relate to them and them to you. You will build connections with others recovering from addiction and committing to sobriety, a path that is far more sustainable when walked with others.
Similarly, the staff and therapists at cocaine treatment centers are experienced in dealing with the issues facing cocaine addicts, including the combination of cocaine addiction with other addictions. Those who abuse cocaine often have accompanying anxiety disorders or depression, and sometimes struggle with other substance abuse (i.e. alcoholism). The mental health professionals at cocaine rehab facilities are aware of this, and can support it both in both individual therapy sessions as well as group therapy.
What else does a cocaine-specific program offer?
An effective cocaine program is responsive to the effects on the body specific to cocaine abuse, as well as its psychological impact. For example, there are several new medications that have been shown to reduce cocaine use in clinical trials. One of these is disulfiram, a drug that’s also used to treat alcoholism. Scientists don’t know exactly why disulfiram works to help a person stop using cocaine, but it’s believed to be because it inhibits an enzyme that converts dopamine to norepinephrine.
Medications like disulfiram don’t work for everyone -- in fact, studies show that it seems to be more effective for those with a certain genetic makeup. Part of the utility of attending a cocaine treatment center is to be exposed to medical and mental health professionals aware of the latest research and effective methods of treating this kind of addiction.
Certain behavioral therapies are also demonstrated to be effective in those with cocaine addiction. This includes something called contingency management (CM), also known as “motivational incentives.” CM programs give vouchers or prizes system to reward patients who stay away from cocaine or other drugs. In passing drug-free urine tests, participants earn points (or chips) that can then be exchanged for things that support a healthy lifestyle, such as gift certificates to local restaurants, gyms, or movie theaters. CM has been shown to be particularly effective in community treatment programs.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is also known to be effective in supporting sobriety and preventing relapse. CBT helps participants identify which situations are most likely to prompt them to use cocaine, avoid these, and develop better coping mechanisms to handle the underlying issues (i.e. do something healthy that feels good instead of using).
The purpose of a good treatment program is to combine all the most effective therapeutic modalities (medical as well as behavioral) to set you up for success.
What happens during treatment?
If you attend an inpatient cocaine rehab treatment center, you stay on site for the whole program (usually 30, 60, or 90 days). You undergo medical testing, then enter the detox process, when the drug is slowly and safely weaned out of your body.
After detox, the rest of the program start. Many cocaine rehab centers will have participants attend both individual and group therapy sessions. Depending on the therapeutic modality, you will learn to identify the root causes of addiction, and/or learn how to engage your mind and body to avoid using in the future. You develop new life strategies, form bonds with other participants facing the same issues, and start to build a new future.
After treatment is complete, most facilities will inform you of aftercare programs to help you integrate into the “real” world. This can include 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), finding a halfway house, attending outpatient programs or one-on-one therapy, and more.