What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant which first came to the United States as an anesthetic for surgery in the late 19th Century. It gained popularity by having the backing of the “father of Psychology” Sigmund Freud and as the chemical additive o the widely popular soda, Coca-Cola After cocaine was found to be highly addictive, it was subsequently stopped as a commercial substance.
Cocaine is created by a series of processes of the coca leaf, from plants indigenous to South America. There are workers who harvest the leaves in large quantities and transport them to a “lab” in the jungle where they deposit them into metal drums. The plants are then covered with gasoline, or acid, which extracts coca from the leaves. After a period of time, the containers are drained of gasoline and the remaining liquid is a cocaine alkaloid which is mixed with acid. Ammonia is added to make a base and is then filtered through a cloth. This substance is dried and subsequently dissolved in another toxic solvent like acetate, and then boiled. Hydrochloric acid is also added, which causes the crystallization of the substance. Once cocaine has been crystallized, lab workers will remove excess chemicals and then run it through a press. After the press, the compound enters a microwave to remove additional solvents and the base becomes dry and formed into “bricks” to be shipped and sold.
Before this elaborate chemical processing to obtain a highly addictive substance, native Peruvians have used coca leaves for natural medicine and ceremonial purposes for thousands of years.
Short-term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant which enters the bloodstream and affects brain receptors at an alarming rate. A dose can last from 5 minutes to a few hours, depending on the amount and means of use (snorting, smoking, or injecting). Cocaine acts as a stimulant and causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure by the restriction of blood vessels. In some cases, the heart rate is so rapid that it will stop, and the user will go into cardiac arrest. This has nothing to do with the amount or length of time a person has used the drug. Some people have died after their first use, others have used for years and then suddenly die, having changed nothing in the amount used.
The short-term effects of using are:
- Increase in energy
- Increased or decreased mental alertness (depends on the user)
- Decrease in appetite
- Decrease in sleep
The short-term physical effects may include:
- Blood vessel constriction
- Raised blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Heart irregularities
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature
- Muscle twitches
- Balance issues
Short-term behavioral effects can consist of:
- Erratic behavior
- Hallucinations (audio and visual)
- Panic attacks
Cocaine use creates an immediate effect in the brain by the dopamine build-up and creates an overactivity of the neurochemical, which causes the “high.”
Long-term Effects of Cocaine Use
As cocaine immediately affects the brain cells, some of the damage it causes can become persistent and at other times, irreversible. When a person uses cocaine in large amounts for an extended period of times, their brain will adapt to needing the drug to obtain a steady positive feeling, as dependence forces the user to increase the amount for similar effects. When withdrawal sets in, the user can become highly agitated. Increased tolerance to cocaine can lead to overdose.
In a short period of time, users will increase the intake by taking higher doses with more frequent intervals. By doing so, long-term effects such as frequent panic attacks, loss of reality, psychosis, and behavior changes can set in.
Physical symptoms may include from users who snort the drug:
- Frequent nosebleeds
- A runny nose
- Deviated septum
- Loss of smell
- Swallowing problems
- Hoarse throat
- Gastrointestinal damage
- Heart problems
- Accidental overdose/death
People who abuse cocaine by smoking (crack) can have long-term effects with:
- Severe lung damage
- Brain damage
- Heart damage
- Accidental overdose/death
Injecting cocaine may lead to:
- Risk of infectious diseases (HIV/Hep C., etc.)
- Accidental overdose/death
- Heart problems
Long-term cocaine use causes a myriad of organ problems. A common effect both short and long-term is severe chest pain. This could be a sign of panic attacks, heart inflammation, heart attack, aortic rupturing, and heart deterioration. Use of cocaine also puts the user at risk of strokes and seizures.
Long-term use may also create bleeding on the brain, called intracerebral hemorrhaging. Cocaine use can also lead to Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders. Cognitive functioning is impaired by using cocaine long-term and effects attention span, decision making, motor task functioning, and impulsivity control.
How do Treatment Centers Help Cocaine Addiction?
Treatment centers, such as Vogue Recovery can help get a person off cocaine whether it is a short or long-time user. As with other addictive substances, people who use cocaine are affected psychologically, emotionally, and physically.
As with all drugs, the most important consequences of cocaine addiction are psychological, social, and emotional. But with cocaine, they happen faster and harder than with other drugs. If you are a cocaine addict, you don’t have to wonder if you’ve hurt your friends and family. You can be sure that you have.
An individual treatment plan, paying close attention to the detox and withdrawal process, will be put in place. Cocaine withdrawal is comparatively not as severe as alcohol or heroin in the detox process, but it has different biophysical attachments. Ridding the body of toxins can take longer than a stay in rehab, as cocaine has a “dormant” quality to stay in the physical system for months, even years. It is imperative that the addict works on their psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual challenges to ensure when cravings occur, they can refrain from using. People withdrawing from cocaine often experience a “crash” and often become depressed or anxious.
As physical cravings may occur, symptoms of cocaine addiction are mostly behavioral. To determine if a person is addicted, they may show some or all of these signs:
- Financial issues
- Work or school challenges
- Feelings of guilt after use
- Inability to stop
- Obsessive thoughts
- Increase in use
- Paranoid thinking
- Cognitive impairment
- Rapid speech
- Criminal activity
- Poor judgment and decision making
- Mood fluctuations; commonly anger and irritability
During the detox process in treatments centers, withdrawal symptoms from cocaine make it challenging for some addicts to stay in treatment. Studies have shown that people who have a severe addiction to cocaine have a high drop -out rate in treatment, as do when people enter the intensive outpatient program (IOP) without first spending time in residential treatment. This is speculated that the cause is not so much a difficulty of physical symptoms in detox, but rather that the euphoric effect is no longer present, causing a user to leave.
Some treatment centers may administer propranolol which is a beta-blocker medication designed for angina which has shown results in helping anxiety and stress. Propranolol may reduce the cravings of euphoria associated with a rewarding property in the brain.
Behavioral Interventions in Treatment
Most treatment centers will use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy as their go-to intervention for treating addictions. Along with other modalities, these approaches are beneficial to those seeking treatment from drug and alcohol abuse. CBT is also an evidence-based therapy which has been effective for the prevention of relapsing. With CBT, clients learn coping skills, how to identify situations that trigger them and coping mechanisms. DBT is an off-shoot of CBT which has an added component of “mindfulness.”
Other interventions such as contingency management (CM) or also called “token economy” which is a reward-based system to help motivate clients into staying clean. Points can be earned which are exchanged for items in a positive prize system such as movie tickets, restaurant vouchers, memberships, more outings etc. The token economy approach has proven successful with many clients who suffer from addiction, especially in treatment centers.
Peer-assisted groups and attending meetings are an important part to anyone who needs help with addiction. Family therapy and community support helps people who suffer from addiction stay sober for long periods of time. Groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and CA (Caine Anonymous), both built of the principles of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) are beneficial aftercare or additional part of a treatment program proving to be effective.
Dual and Polyaddiction
Dually addicted is being dependent on two substances. Poly -addictive people are those who suffer from dependence on three or more substances Poly addictive or Poly abusive can also mean that the user transfers from one addictive substance to another, as the main focus is to get high, and the specific drug isn’t the focus. Adolescents have a high rate of polyabuse because of experimenting with a variety of substances. Cocaine is a drug which is often abused by others, including alcohol. Because cocaine is a stimulant and alcohol a depressant, they are often used together as one helps “even out” the effect.
These two substances are thought to be commonly abused together because of the popularity within the nightlife culture as readily available. However, a serious consequence of mixing the substances is when the liver has to metabolize them. When alcohol and cocaine are used simultaneously, the liver produces a chemical cocaethylene which as it temporarily may increase the euphoric feeling, it also raises blood pressure and puts major stress on the heart. This increase has been associated to be the cause of sudden death as the heart can go into cardiac arrest.
An additional challenge of dual or polydrug users is to have them complete withdraw from all the substances, and this can be particularly challenging at the same time, though treatment centers are equipped to help those in need. Coming off of cocaine also means stopping alcohol, marijuana, pills, or any other substance abuse for it to be effective and to prevent relapse.
Recovery from cocaine means total abstinence from addictive, mind and behavior altering substances.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Cocaine addiction treatment at Vogue Recovery Center in Las Vegas and Pheonix includes expert psychotherapy and a multidisciplinary approach designed to give you a customized goal-oriented experience. Utilizing the science of addiction medicine in a comfortable, exclusive environment – Vogue provides an abundance of comfort and path to restoration.
Using a solution-focused approach, our team will address the many reasons you began abusing cocaine. Taking into consideration your family history, traumatic life events, unique stress factors, relationship challenges and individual patterns – our experts will assess your strengths and weaknesses and design a customized treatment plan that meets your personal needs.