Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

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About Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a stimulant that results in nervous system excitation which brings feelings of euphoria throughout the body. Cocaine is often known as a white collar drug because in pure form it is very expensive however when cut and mixed with impure ingredients, this illegal stimulant can be affordable to anyone resulting in its widespread use and even more dangerous side effects. Cocaine overdose can be lethal and long-term use can wreak havoc on the body causing complications affecting nearly every organ.

In 2008, the national Drug Abuse Warning Network reported that 482,188 out of the approximately 2 million visits to emergency rooms for drug-related medical emergencies involved cocaine.

Physical signs and symptoms of cocaine toxicity

Acute cocaine toxicity can range from dilated pupils and a racing heart to generalized seizures and cardiac arrest. Depending on the purity and the dosage, death can occur within two to three minutes to 30 minutes. The following are signs and symptoms of acute cocaine toxicity:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Profuse sweating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle twitching
  • Pseudohallucinations (cocaine bugs)
  • Euphoria
  • Restlessness
  • Bruxism (grinding of the teeth)
  • Emotionally labile
  • An impending sense of doom
  • Generalized seizures
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Severe hyperthermia

Behavioral symptoms of cocaine addiction

  • Social withdrawal
  • A rapid change in sleep patterns
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased energy
  • Financial strain
  • Violent behavior
  • Potential illegal activity
  • Increase in sexual arousal
  • Sexual promiscuity

Withdrawing from cocaine

When cocaine use is stopped or when a binge ends, a crash follows almost immediately. The cocaine user has a strong craving for more cocaine during a crash. Other symptoms include fatigue, lack of pleasure, anxiety, irritability, sleepiness, and sometimes agitation or extreme suspicion or paranoia. Cocaine withdrawal often has no visible physical symptoms, such as the vomiting and shaking that accompany withdrawal from heroin or alcohol and is generally not life-threatening.

Signs and symptoms of cocaine withdrawal

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
  • Inability to experience sexual arousal
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Physical symptoms, such as chills, tremors, muscle aches, and nerve pain
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Increased craving for cocaine
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams or nightmares
  • Slowed activity, or physical fatigue after activity
  • Slower thinking
  • Restlessness

Medical complications associated with cocaine use

Cocaine can affect many organs in the body including the brain and the heart. Since cocaine is usually snorted through the nose, nosebleeds and a deviated nasal septum are common physical findings associated with cocaine use. The following are additional complications associated with cocaine use:

  • Altered mental status
  • Weight loss
  • New-onset seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Intracranial hemorrhage (brain bleed)
  • Myocardial infarctions (heart attacks)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • An increased likelihood of violence
  • Cocaine can also be injected into the bloodstream resulting in blood-borne complications such as hepatitis and HIV.
  • Crack lung: a term used by medical professionals to describe lung findings in individuals who smoke cocaine. Crack lung syndrome is characterized by diffuse inflammation of the lung and areas of a hemorrhage resulting in pneumonia, coughing up blood (hemoptysis) or respiratory failure.

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Cocaine detoxification and treatment

Treatment for cocaine withdrawal should take place under strict supervision in a professional detox treatment program where the individual can be monitored and psychotherapy can be initiated. Despite the fact that cocaine addiction is a widespread public health problem, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any cocaine withdrawal medications. However, researchers are investigating several different types of drugs to help treat cocaine abuse. Detoxification is the initial stage of treatment and works to eliminate cocaine from the body over time. On average detoxification takes 48-72 hours but can be longer for some individuals. Once detoxification is complete, the client will enter into a treatment center where they will learn positive coping skills through psychotherapy approaches, will understand what triggers their addiction and will be involved in group and family therapy meetings. Depending on the level of care and the seriousness of the cocaine abuse disorder, clients usually spend on average 30-90 days in treatment. Once the client has successfully completed treatment for their cocaine addiction, they are strongly encouraged to actively participate in outpatient therapy, community, and support groups as a way to maintain sobriety. When seeking a treatment center for cocaine abuse, the following questions should be asked:

  • Will insurance cover treatment?
  • What methods of funding can I use for treatment?
  • How long the program will last?
  • Will my treatment program accommodate any special needs?
  • Will my insurance cover some or all of my treatment?
  • What quality of aftercare (a program of post-treatment activities or lifestyle modifications that may enhance abstinence and recovery) will be available upon completion of a program.