Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that increases dopamine among other receptors in the brain. Due to the feelings of euphoria users gain from cocaine, it is also highly addictive and commonly abused. Individuals often feel temporary relief from symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia, increasing the desirability of this drug. Unfortunately, cocaine is also one of the leading causes of deaths due to cocaine overdose. In addition, after long-term use of cocaine, the brain quits being able to create feelings of pleasure naturally. Due to the impact it has on the brain, it is extremely difficult for one to discontinue using without the help of a mental health professional. In this article, the signs of cocaine abuse, when to seek help, and treatment for cocaine addiction will be outlined.

Signs of cocaine abuse

  • High energy, runny nose, dilated pupils, weight loss, high-risk behavior, an increase in confidence, racing thoughts, financial strain, loss of interest in daily activities, poor hygiene, insomnia, mood swings, agitation, confusion, seizures, tremors, poor decision-making ability
  • Long-term use may lead to depression, suicidal ideation, delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, and inability to concentrate

When to seek help

The difficulty with recreational cocaine use is that one must continuously increase their usage to achieve the same effects. Individuals who utilize cocaine often feel an overwhelming urge to continue using, and in turn, choose the substance over food, sleep, and hydration. One can imagine how that combination can impact one’s physical health.

Cocaine impacts one’s thought processes, leading to an inability to even recognize the severity of the addiction. This described lack in insight makes it more difficult to know when the substance use is too much. When one begins sacrificing relationships and making important financial decisions based on cocaine use, it is a sign that recreational use has turned into an addiction. Many people try to quit abusing cocaine on their own. However, due to the lack of enjoyment people gain from once loved activities, they often return to using cocaine to experience the highs again that they no longer are able to achieve without said use. If you begin to feel you are unable to enjoy activities you once enjoyed and no longer want to spend time with those that you love and trust without cocaine, it is time to seek help!

After using cocaine, if you begin to feel disoriented, paranoid, nauseated, delirious, faint, you may be overdosing and it is crucial to call 911 immediately.

Treatment options

There are many treatment options if you are struggling with cocaine addiction. Due to the high co-morbidity rate of substance abuse with other psychiatric diagnoses, a treatment that focuses on mental health, as well as addiction, is crucial. Many individuals utilize cocaine when feeling depressed in order to feel pleasure in life again. Often, they lack coping skills to tackle barriers in life and therefore understandably turn to substances that increase feelings of confidence. In addition, cocaine can be extremely difficult to treat because many users lack social-support or their circle of friends also utilize substances. It is very challenging to quit abusing drugs if the environment around is triggering in itself.

Recommended treatment includes a focus on teaching and practicing coping skills, shifting and challenging unhelpful thinking patterns, and increasing activities in one’s life that naturally create the release in dopamine so that substances no longer feel needed. Finally, increasing one’s feelings of self-worth and connection with others is imperative in preventing relapse. Evidence-based therapeutic interventions such as Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are beneficial in teaching relevant coping skills that can be used any time and any place to help a client regulate their own emotions, feel more confident, and maintain sobriety in the long-term.

Treatment also includes increasing one’s social network and support system because it has been proven that connection with others and the world is crucial for long-term sobriety. Family therapy can be utilized to regain the trust that may have been lost through substance use. In addition, group therapy and support meetings help individuals meet others struggling with the same difficulties and therefore feel less alone in the world.

What to Expect During Treatment/Detox

Would you ever heal a broken arm without the help of a medical professional? Probably not. Drug-abuse must be treated just like any physical ailment because as described above, the overuse of cocaine may lead to both physical and psychological consequences. Studies have indicated that up to 22% of suicides may be due to feelings of sadness during cocaine withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms of cocaine lead to tremors, psychomotor agitation or retardation, anxiety, tremors, increase in appetite, anger, severe depression, and agitation. While some individuals feel hyperactive and restlessness, others feel overwhelmingly exhausted. Sleep is often impacted, leading to night terrors or erratic sleep. Of course, no one wants to feel tired and moody, leading to many individuals turning back to the substance to feel joy again. Usually, withdrawal symptoms last a few to 14 days depending on the duration of use.

Due to the severity of cocaine detox symptoms, it is recommended that one remain in a peaceful, nurturing environment, far from potential triggers. The first week of withdrawal tends to be the worst. For this reason, if you plan to discontinue cocaine use, ensure that you are either with trusted family members or friends or go to a professional facility. The last thing one needs when withdrawing is to be around conflict.

Apex Recovery offers a serene environment where individuals are placed in a quiet home, away from triggers and with mental health professionals to assist and ease the psychological symptoms. In addition, psychotropic medication may also be offered to help the individual through this uncomfortable process, relieving the central nervous system and preventing potential seizers.

Seeking treatment may be terrifying for some and requires motivation. For this reason, the process is explained clearly to allow autonomy in decision-making and to prevent surprises while also increasing clients’ feelings of control. At Apex, treatment is collaborative and client-centered.  This collaboration starts with the intake process, with an assessment of client needs, concerns, and previous experiences, to help create an environment that is conducive to recovery. Clients initially are placed in the detoxification facility described above, based on their current need. Once the withdrawal symptoms are managed, one usually begins residential treatment. Residential treatment is encouraged due to the safety and constant support provided by the facility. During residential treatment at Apex Recovery, clients are provided with supportive engagement, distraction techniques, empathy, and understanding on an ongoing basis.  However, residential is not always feasible with work and childcare. Other options include intensive therapeutic treatment three to five days a week.

Clients at Apex are assigned a therapist based on expertise who specializes in evidence-based practices and treatment for addiction. Group therapy is offered throughout the day as well as yoga and gym-time. Our staff works directly with the individual overcoming cocaine addiction, to help find joy and pleasure in daily activities without the use of cocaine.  If the individual is struggling with another mental health disorder, treatment will also be tailored towards that disorder, as research has proven that addiction cannot be the only focus in treatment without the underlying issue being resolved.

Clients are also taught how to identify and manage triggers for substance abuse. Often, individuals are unaware of potential triggers such as celebrations, physical pain, conflict, anxiety, social situations, grocery shopping, isolation, negative emotions, and extremely positive emotions. Once triggers are identified, one is able to learn specific skills to manage them.

Family and couples therapy is also encouraged due to the importance of increasing family support with long-term sobriety. Of course, the individual in treatment has complete control over the decision to be provided with family therapy.

In conclusion, there is never a need to struggle with addiction alone, especially when trained mental health professionals are available to assist you with a healthy recovery. Finding the right treatment program for you is crucial, one that is individualized and caters to your specific needs. Apex Recovery focuses on the prolonged increase in quality of life with a decrease in suffering, promoting long-term sobriety.