The way this drug impacts both lifestyle and decision making means that it can be extremely hard to stop using once an addiction has developed.
Addiction can be mental or physical, and you sometimes won’t know if you are dependent on a drug until it’s too late.
If you are worried about your cocaine use, here is a quick guide to reduce your use and make some positive changes to your life.
Although the use of cocaine initiates a feeling of euphoria and improved mood, continued use causes lasting changes in brain physiology and chemistry.
These changes make it significantly more difficult for an individual to experience pleasure .
Eventually, a tolerance is developed, and users require higher and higher quantities of the drug to bring about the desired effect.
At this stage, the brain’s ability to produce adequate levels of dopamine is seriously impaired, and people eventually become dependent on cocaine to feel good.
There are some subtle tell-tale signs to watch out for if you suspect that you or someone you know might have developed an addiction to cocaine:
Cocaine, also known as ‘crack’, is a stimulant that causes feelings of euphoria and makes the user more alert. It can be snorted/sniffed as a powder, injected, or swallowed.
The most common effects of cocaine use are:
It is also incredibly easy to overdose on cocaine.
Signs of overdose are:
Whilst these warning signs are easy to spot in oneself, spotting cocaine use in others is slightly different. Although not universal, it will generally involve:
Cocaine is also usually the catalyst for criminal tendencies, due to its effect on financial behaviour and erratic behaviours.
It is likely you will be subconsciously in a cycle of addiction, where you will find it increasingly difficult to reach your goal of sobriety.
The more you use, the greater your tolerance and so the larger a dose you will need to reach your desired high
Cocaine is psychoactive, directly affecting the central nervous system and brain functioning.
Following the initial feelings of euphoria, repeated exposure builds up a tolerance and introduces cravings.
Your brain becomes accustomed to the effects of cocaine, so it begins to demand higher and more frequent doses.
Once the cocaine penetrates the brain and nervous system, you have exposed yourself to addiction.
Repeated use causes alterations in the brain, which is the main cause of tolerance development. This high potential for addiction leads to three stages:
Cocaine will persist within the body long after it is taken. In general, it will stay in your urine for around three days, in your sweat and blood for around half a day, and in your saliva for up to 4 days.
If cocaine is damaging your own or someone else’s health, lifestyle, or any situation, you can get help now.
The most common tool used to categorise and comprehend behaviours of cocaine addiction is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM.
There are 4 main categories or classes, assessing criteria of symptoms present in a user with a substance disorder.
From these 4 main categories, we can then deduce levels of substance abuse severity.
The higher a person ranks on this scale, the more tailored treatment or help is required.
This is negatively associated with shame and judgement, even though it shouldn’t be.
The social stereotype of addicts is due to subjective beliefs and experiences, which should never stop you from getting the help you need.
Below, we outline the three stages of cocaine withdrawal:
In the immediate aftermath of a cocaine binge, people experience an unpleasant crash that negatively impacts energy levels and causes a lowering of general mood.
The crash usually lasts a few hours and usually involves feelings of intense craving, restlessness, and anxiety.
Soon after the crash, feelings of tiredness and lethargy emerge like those synonymous with a hangover.
Importantly, a cocaine crash is not to be confused with withdrawal. Withdrawal does not set in for approximately 1-4 days after a person has stopped using cocaine.
Whereas a cocaine crash is what extends the duration of a singular cocaine binge, withdrawal is what causes cocaine addiction.
When people develop an addiction to cocaine, they start using more and more amounts, and for a longer duration.
Memories formed during lengthy cocaine binges like this are later re-produced during subsequent periods of low mood, and a comparison is made between memory mood.
The difference between the two is often responsible for intense cocaine cravings.
Typically, symptoms of cocaine withdrawal are not as serious as those associated with withdrawal from other drugs of abuse like benzodiazepines or alcohol.
However, due to cocaine’s very high addiction potential, withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly challenging and may cause considerable suffering.
Although cocaine addiction is primarily psychological, you can also become physically dependent. As a consequence, both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms are experienced.
Physical withdrawal symptoms include:
Psychological withdrawal symptoms may include:
In general, symptoms are most intense during the first week.
Over the next 10 weeks, people continue to experience intermittent periods of low mood, restlessness and agitation, although symptom intensity gradually decreases.
Find out how long cocaine stays in your system.
For most people, withdrawal symptoms are largely diminished at the 10-week mark.
However, due to how powerful cocaine is as a reinforcer, people may continue to experience occasional cravings depending on environmental factors.
The severity of cocaine withdrawal depends on several factors. These include:
Research suggests that people with a history of depression are significantly more likely to experience cocaine withdrawal syndrome.
Cocaine withdrawal syndrome is characterised by two serious withdrawal symptoms in addition to dysphoria.
People who simultaneously suffer from depression and cocaine addiction experience more intense cravings, and have less faith in themselves to stop using cocaine.
Cocaine addicts are more likely to experience suicidal ideation and behaviour during withdrawal if they have been a victim of childhood trauma, if there is a history of suicidal behaviour in the family, or if they also have a physical disorder.
The duration of cocaine withdrawal is dependent on the same factors that influence the severity of symptoms (Intensity of abuse, drug purity, co-use of other drugs, how it is taken, underlying health issues etc.), among others.
Environmental factors can also influence the speed of recovery. Visiting certain settings and socializing with people who have been associated with cocaine use in the past can act as craving triggers.
Behavioural modifications and lifestyle changes may help prevent further use. For example:
Talking to friends or family is the easiest and fastest first point of call. Talking to someone who knows you and that you trust is imperative to feel comfortable.
You are more likely to succeed if you feel you are in a safe space, where you can be honest.
There is nothing embarrassing about using or addiction: everyone is here to help you, not to judge you.
If you feel more comfortable confiding in people with knowledge, with an assured safety of confidentiality, a GP or local doctor is good for this.
They can give you some simple starting tips, and possibly refer you to a cocaine addiction rehab centre that will give you the tailored help you require.
If you aren’t comfortable with a doctor or GP, you can go straight to a rehab centre, or just call for a chat to see what is involved.
Compared to other drugs of abuse, cocaine has a relatively short half-life of 60-90 minutes.
As a consequence, complete cessation of use, or going “cold turkey” as it is known, is the best way to rid yourself of addiction.
Detoxing on your own can be quite dangerous, however, particularly if withdrawal symptoms are severe.
Two treatment options are recommended to combat the effects of cocaine withdrawal and improve one’s chances of making a full recovery:
Inpatient treatment gives people the best possible chance of making a full recovery from cocaine addiction.
Patients live in a residential facility for the duration of treatment, where they can avail of highly structured 24-hour medical care and assistance.
Upon admission, patients are medically screened, and risk assessments are completed to determine the level of care required for each individual.
Patients undergo a medically-assisted detoxification process and receive an individualised treatment programme tailored to meet their needs.
A variety of evidence-based therapeutic interventions are incorporated in treatment programmes, depending on each person’s requirements.
Therapy treatments may be especially effective for people with co-occurring mental health issues, particularly those who may be at risk of suicide.
Therapeutic techniques can successfully treat psychological withdrawal symptoms, and effectively address underlying issues that often precipitate addiction.
Patients also learn psychological tools that help to keep cravings at bay.
Therapy treatments offered at inpatient treatment facilities include:
Inpatient treatment is especially recommended for people who may have failed in past recovery attempts.
The absence of any craving-inducing triggers, together with 24-hour care significantly increases the likelihood of successful rehabilitation.
Individuals can also opt for less intensive and less expensive outpatient treatment.
Opting for outpatient treatment means that individuals can continue to live at home for the duration of treatment. Rather than living at an inpatient facility, patients commute several days a week to receive treatment.
Research supports outpatient treatment as an effective alternative to inpatient rehab.
People with less severe withdrawal symptoms or people who need to live at home to meet familial or professional responsibilities may benefit tremendously from outpatient treatment.
However, there are a number of drawbacks associated with outpatient treatment to be considered.
The absence of medical supervision and assistance makes the experience of cocaine withdrawal considerably more challenging. Detoxing from cocaine on your own is very risky due to the intensity of cravings experienced.
Furthermore, returning home after each treatment session means that people may be exposed to craving-causing environmental stimuli outside the rehab centre.
Exposure to environmental triggers serves to reinforce the addiction in a phenomenon addiction experts have termed ‘cue-induced wanting’.
To encourage and discuss rehabilitation, appropriate intervention may be required.
The genesis of intervention usually involves a third party, where family or friends speak to the user about addiction and dependency.
This is comforting to users as it takes place in a safe space of comfort, usually in their home.
Intervention is a motivation for users to seek the help they need for addictive behaviours.
Sometimes people need a gentle nudge to seek aid for using.
Intervention reassures those with addiction, with the advocation of promising approaches and healthy practices, this is the first step.
Addiction is a disease, something that rehab facilitates understand. There are several types of rehabilitation available:
When should you look to start rehab or therapy?
People suffering from addiction should seek treatment as soon as they are able to do so. It should be sought immediately if drug use is directly affecting your life.
If you aren’t sure which rehabilitation or therapy programme you require or which would work best, call our 24-hour hotline.
Upon calling, you will be assessed for free, asking you some questions about your use. In this sense, honesty really is the best policy.
In order to get the most out of what we have to offer, it is best to be completely honest about your habits, behaviours and use.
We are all here to help you, and even if you aren’t sure if you need help, reaching out is always the best first step.
Rehab 4 Addiction work in conjunction with local communities to develop aftercare plans once treatment concludes.
Several effective aftercare options come highly recommended to help you to maintain abstinence and continue to flourish:
12-step programmes like Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are strongly recommended to help people once they have completed treatment.
12-step groups provide a safe space for recovering addicts to share their experiences and support each other through challenging periods of recovery.
The empathy and encouragement offered by understanding group members motivate people to maintain abstinence.
12-step programmes are designed to address physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of recovery. There is ample scientific evidence to support this holistic approach employed.
In addition, 12-step groups are offered free of charge making them accessible to people who might otherwise be unable to avail of this support.
Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) offers evidence-based mutual support meetings for recovering addicts.
SMART Recovery encourages participants to focus on their inherent power as a means of controlling their addiction and achieving sustained abstinence.
SMART recovery is rooted in evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy and motivational enhancement therapy techniques.
These therapeutic approaches have been shown to successfully prevent drug abuse by focusing on people’s intrinsic motivation to change.
Regularly attending appointments with mental health professionals can help to solidify helpful thought patterns and behaviours worked on during rehab.
Rehab 4 Addiction drug rehabs provide aftercare options free of charge for up to one-year post-treatment.
Nestler EJ. The neurobiology of cocaine addiction. Sci Pract Perspect. 2005 Dec;3(1):4-10. doi: 10.1151/spp05314. PMID: 18552739; PMCID: PMC2851032.