Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that provides users with a feeling of intense euphoria. Cocaine addiction is a serious problem leading to significant health issues and has a high potential for overdose and death.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a potent, addictive drug made from the South American coca plant. As a Schedule II controlled substance, cocaine can lead to physical dependence and tolerance, making it difficult for users to control their use. Long-term treatment may be necessary for recovery.
Cocaine is illegal to use recreationally in the United States. Illegal cocaine is commonly taken in two ways: by snorting or injecting it with a needle. Other intake methods include smoking or oral use. It is usually available in powder form, but can also be found as crack cocaine.
Cocaine Side Effects
Cocaine affects the neurological, chemical, and physiological systems of the human body. It has both short- and long-term effects.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
These short-term effects appear within a few minutes of cocaine use and can take up to 30 minutes to wear off.
- Extreme happiness
- Renewed energy
- Being mentally alert
- Heightened sensitivity to touch, sound, or sight
- Muscle twitches
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
These long-term effects have a serious impact on your health and are also influenced by the methods of cocaine use. They include:
- Injection: Bloodborne diseases including HIV, Hepatitis C
- Snorting: Runny nose, nosebleeds, reduced sensitivity to smell; damage to the blood vessels in the nose
- Smoking: Respiratory issues such as asthma, coughing
- Oral use: Reduced blood flow leading to bowel decay
Using cocaine in any form can lead to cocaine dependence, substance use disorder, and addiction to cocaine. Lifelong cocaine use can also lead to negative physical and mental health effects, including depression, anxiety, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. Adverse effects of cocaine abuse include heart attack, stroke, hypertension, psychosis, and sudden death.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also indicates that long-term cocaine abuse can increase the risks for HIV infection because “cocaine impairs immune cell function and promotes reproduction of the HIV virus.”
Cocaine Abuse and Addiction
Cocaine is highly addictive due to how it works on certain neurotransmitters in the brain. It targets receptors that process dopamine, which also controls our movements, memory, and emotions.
As cocaine blocks these receptors, the brain compensates by producing more dopamine. When an individual no longer has access to this drug their body craves more to keep functioning, which is known as dependence.
Once addicted, cocaine addicts continue to take higher amounts of the drug, causing severe health problems and destroying their lives. However, with the right treatment and support, cocaine addicts can put an end to their addiction and reclaim their lives.
How to Know When You Are Addicted to Cocaine
Symptoms of cocaine addiction may include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Anxiety and depression
- Erratic behavior
If your body stops getting the cocaine it has become dependant upon, you will likely begin to experience symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms spread out over the three phases of cocaine withdrawal: the crash period (abrupt cessation of cocaine use), acute withdrawal, and the extinction period (intermittent craving).
Unlike heroin and alcohol, however, there are no visible physical symptoms with cocaine withdrawal such as shaking or vomiting.
Here are some of the cocaine withdrawal symptoms you may experience:
- Acute dysphoria
- Anxiety and depression
- Increased appetite
- Fatigue and sleepiness
- Lack of pleasure
- Extreme suspicion/paranoia
- Unpleasant dreams
- Suicidal thoughts
Because some of these withdrawal symptoms are serious and even dangerous, medical detox is often recommended rather than quitting “cold turkey.”
An overdose of cocaine occurs when a person uses more cocaine than they can metabolize, resulting in severe adverse effects and even death.
Signs and symptoms of cocaine overdose may include:
- Heart attack
- Irregular heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- High body temperature
- Excessive sweating
Can Cocaine Overdose Be Treated?
It is possible for a cocaine overdose to be treated but there are different factors involved. The management of cocaine overdose depends on the rate at which it has been taken, the amount consumed, and the general health of the individual. There is not a specific antidote for reversing a cocaine overdose.
In the event of an overdose:
- Immediately call 911 and report the overdose
- Turn the person to the side to encourage proper breathing
- Stay with the victim until help arrives
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Cocaine addiction is a serious condition that affects not only the person abusing the drug but everyone around them as well. The first step to overcoming your drug addiction is accepting that you have a problem. It is important to start treatment as soon as possible to get back to living a healthy life with your loved ones.
Here are treatment options for cocaine addiction to help you regain control of your life.
Cocaine withdrawal happens when a drug user stops using cocaine, also known as detox. Withdrawal occurs when the body no longer receives the cocaine that it is used to and can result in negative side effects. Working with a physician or healthcare professional to taper your usage under their supervision can help you quit and avoid withdrawal symptoms. They will also monitor your vitals during this process to help you avoid any of the more serious side effects of cocaine withdrawal.
Cocaine Treatment Programs
A cocaine treatment program can be started right away once you have finished detoxing and will offer combinations of therapeutic approaches so you receive the most effective treatment for your addiction.
The individualized treatment plans are tailored to your particular type of drug use and level of addiction to provide you with the highest likelihood for success. An aftercare program can also help you to continue with recovery therapy on an outpatient basis after the initial treatment period is over.
There are many substance abuse treatment facilities available throughout the US to help you quit your addiction.
Inpatient Rehab Program
An inpatient rehab program is an on-site treatment center where you will receive care 24/7. The inpatient rehab program is designed to pair psychiatry along with around-the-clock care and support to help you get through both the mental and physical effects of cocaine addiction. This program provides group counseling and one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy sessions to help you become and remain sober.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
The Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) represents a unique service that addresses both medical and behavioral health issues of patients by providing intensive treatment during part of the day. The patient’s progress is closely monitored, with staff available to monitor blood pressure, administer medications, and monitor other needs. While the patient is at the center for treatment, they still have the freedom to attend work or errands during off-hours.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is often used for individuals with a mild addiction. The individual attends the IOP daily and maintains employment, school, or work during the day.
This program is also typically recommended for people who are struggling to remain sober after an addiction treatment program. The length of an IOP varies; it may range anywhere from 90 days to 16 weeks, taking 15-20 hours per week. An IOP must be paired with other options to be effective.
The Matrix Model
Because Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is not yet an FDA-approved option for cocaine addiction, the Matrix Model (designed in the 1980s for the cocaine epidemic) is used as an effective treatment method.
The Matrix Model has shown great success in treating cocaine use disorders, and it has been used with other stimulant drugs as well.
This highly structured program includes:
- A 16-week intensive outpatient program
- Group and individual therapy sessions
- Development of faster recovery skills and preventing relapse
- 12-week family and patient education session
- Weekly drug test
- A support group during and after treatment
- 12-step programs
One of the most startling and dangerous effects of cocaine addiction is the use of fentanyl or other illegal drugs laced with this synthetic opioid. It has been found that many cocaine users don’t know they are using fentanyl until it’s too late.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of deaths involving both cocaine and opioids accelerated faster from 2009-2019 than the rate of cocaine-only overdose deaths.
More than three-fourths of the cocaine overdose deaths involved opioids in 2019; this proportion was higher in the Northeast region (83%) and lower in the West region (63%).
Hope and Help for a Loved One
If you or someone you love is addicted to or abusing cocaine, now is the time to seek treatment.
And if you’re feeling hopeless about your loved one’s addiction to cocaine, know that help is available. You will be able to navigate the turbulent early stages of drug use, including how to start talking to your loved one, what to do if they refuse to seek help, and where to turn if they are still unwilling to get professional help.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cocaine
What does Cocaine look like?
Cocaine can come in several forms. It may be a fine, white powder, a crystalline solid, or a rock-like substance called crack or “freebase.” Crack cocaine is usually smoked, sometimes mixed with marijuana or tobacco in a joint or blunt. The form it takes depends on how it is made and what people use to prepare it for drug use.
What is the difference between Crack and Coke?
Crack cocaine and powdered cocaine are both used as stimulants. Crack is smoked, while coke is snorted or injected. Crack cocaine is commonly made by converting powdered cocaine into crack rocks. The name ‘crack’ comes from the crackling noises heard while smoking this drug.
How much Cocaine does it take to Overdose?
It is unknown what amount of cocaine it will take to overdose on the drug. Factors such as tolerance, body mass, and other drugs such as opioids taken simultaneously can influence toxicity levels. The concentration of cocaine ingested will also affect toxicity levels as well as the certainty of the product. If you want to avoid an overdose, the best thing you can do is avoid cocaine altogether.