Cocaine Addiction – Some Helpful Facts
Cocaine is a powerfully stimulating drug made from the leaves of a specific plant most commonly found in South America.
It is a class A drug, a recreational substance most commonly known for its strong effects and common appearances at social events.
This is highly dangerous and adds to the risk of consuming cocaine, especially if the true source is not known.
Originally, cocaine was prescribed in some areas of America as an anaesthetic and as a treatment for depression in some cases, but it was soon adopted as a euphoric substance in the 1960s for all-night parties and raves.
In the short-term, cocaine has many positive factors associated with it, but in the long-term it can cause serious physical and mental health issues, especially when consumed frequently and in high doses.
Other names for cocaine include Charlie, coke, blow, snow, and flake, though these are only to name a few and are likely to differ across countries, demographic, and dialects.
Is cocaine addictive?
Cocaine is known as a psychological substance, meaning that individuals consume it for the effects that it has on their behaviour and feelings.
In the short-term, these are mostly positive but can quickly change depending on the individual’s dosage.
Despite this, individuals are highly likely to become addicted to cocaine if they consume it frequently and in high doses, even if these are spread over a night’s party.
Because of this, they will then begin to seek more and more of the substance as their brain will begin to rewire. This encompasses the first stages of a cocaine addiction, as individuals will begin to need more of the substance to gain the same effects.
They will subsequently increase their dosage to match this and become more likely to become addicted.
Once an individual is addicted to cocaine, it is often very challenging to stop. Without taking cocaine, individuals are likely to begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, making it harder to resist cocaine and therefore delaying the chances of maintaining abstinence.
How is cocaine consumed?
As mentioned previously, cocaine is most often found in the form of a white powder. Whilst cocaine is in this form, it is most commonly snorted or inhaled.
In some cases, individuals may rub the powder into their gums, swallow it whilst it is contained, or dissolve it into a liquid and inject it directly into the bloodstream.
Each of these methods comes with its own risks, most often relating to the physical health effects that these methods of consumption can have.
For example, snorting the substance may lead to respiratory issues or damage to the nose tissue. Injecting the substance may involve the usage of unsafe needles, increasing the risk of blood-transmitted diseases – some of which there is no cure.
In its other forms, such as crack cocaine, it is usually smoked. This can also have serious physical health issues including damage to the lungs, teeth, and mouth.
In all cases, consuming cocaine is not often a safe activity, meaning that the risks to the individual’s physical and mental health should be carefully considered at the beginning of their rehab journey. These can then be focussed on later during the rehabilitation process.
The effects of cocaine
In general, there are two main categories of the effects of cocaine. These are the way that cocaine influences how the individual feels and how it influences how they may behave – the emotional and behavioural effects.
The most common of these are outlined below across the following subheadings:
- Very alert
- Risky behaviour
- Increased confidence
- Chattier (engaging in more conversation)
- More animated
As the lists show, both the categories contain both positive and negative effects and these can also vary between individuals e.g., feeling very confident but coming across to others as arrogant and aggressive.
Cocaine’s effect on the brain
As seen above, the consumption of cocaine can have both positive and negative effects across both emotional and behavioural categories. However, both of these categories of effects stem from the changes that are occurring within the individual’s brain.
Cocaine is a psychological substance, also known as a powerful stimulant. This is especially true when it comes to how it affects the brain.
Primarily, cocaine affects the limbic system in the brain (1). This is the system associated with the regulation of motivation and pleasure – too stimulated and it will result in negative effects.
In the short-term, cocaine can cause a build-up of the chemical dopamine – the neurochemical associated with memory, movement, and pleasurable rewards – which initially leads to feelings of euphoria and wanting to take more of the substance.
This explains the addictive qualities of this substance, as it directly influences its own reception within the body.
Research is continuing into how this can cause continuous and long-term triggers and cravings as well as how it may influence the individual’s risk of relapse after leaving rehab.
If used in the long term and in high doses, individuals risk long-lasting brain damage and the risk of a psychological crash. This is something which can take a long time to recover from and may have lifetime consequences in the most serious of cases.
The use of cocaine with other substances
It is common for individuals struggling with addiction to be struggling with addiction to two or more substances.
This is known as polysubstance use (PSU) as is ubiquitous with addictions to cocaine (2).
This is due to a number of reasons, but it is generally thought that it is commonly consumed in environments where there may be multiple substances available.
For example, if an individual is at a recreational event e.g., a party or nightclub, then they may be exposed to multiple substances such as cocaine, alcohol, ecstasy, and other common recreational substances.
Because of this, individuals may consume many substances at once, leading to an addiction to more than one substance due to the environment in which they were both consumed simultaneously.
PSU is incredibly risky as it includes all the risks from all the substances combined, as well as the additional risks of the substances mixing together and how this may affect the individual.
This can be life-threatening in some cases, especially when the substances are taken over a long period of time, in high doses, and in unsafe environments.
The signs and symptoms of a cocaine addiction
When an individual is addicted to cocaine, it can be difficult to determine this. In most cases, individuals who are addicted to a substance may become more secretive about their behaviours due to embarrassment or being ashamed of their situation.
For this reason, there are some factors that individuals can look out for, whether they are suspecting an addiction in themselves or in someone they know.
The most common signs and symptoms are outlined below:
- Changes to the individual’s social life – cocaine can have serious effects on the individual’s social life, whether this is due to aggressive behaviour whilst under the influence of the substance or around arguments stemming from the individual’s addiction
- Mood swings – cocaine is a psychological drug, meaning that it has the strongest effect on the individual’s mood. Whether the individual is under the influence of cocaine or not at the time, their mood is highly influenced by their consumption of cocaine
- Issues with the individual’s job/school performance, relationships, and finances – cocaine addictions can affect all these areas in multiple ways
- Tolerance – if the individual is consuming more than they normally would, then this may be a sign of a tolerance building and the beginning of a risk of withdrawal symptoms
- Changes in the individual’s physical appearance – cocaine has many effects on the body such as a loss in appetite and therefore weight, increase in nose bleeds, and frequent runny noses. Smoking and oral consumption also carry additional changes
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms
Cocaine can stay in the system for a variety of different lengths of time depending on the place in which the individual is tested.
For example, in urine it may last from 2-3 days, for hair it is many months, for sweat, it is 1-2 days, for blood it is 12 hours, and for saliva, it is 1-2 days.
However, no matter how cocaine leaves the body, it can still have serious withdrawal symptoms, especially when the individual has been consuming cocaine for a long period of time and in high doses.
As the levels of dopamine in the body return to normal levels, the individual is likely to experience a range of uncomfortable effects to counteract this.
In most examples, this is where the urge to continue consuming the drug is strongest, as it reduces the symptoms, but in the case of a cocaine detoxification session, this is necessary.
Unlike other substances, however, cocaine is not physically addictive meaning that the process is not life-threatening unless combined with other substances.
Below are some of the most common withdrawal symptoms:
Treating an addiction to cocaine
This is the most effective form of treatment, as it allows the individual to work on their mental well-being, often in a flexible, specialised, and tailored manner. From this, the individual has the highest chance of continuing their long-term and successful recovery.
The most common type of therapy suggested for individuals who have struggled with cocaine addiction is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Categorised as talking therapy, the individual will work one-on-one with a therapist in order to discuss their mental health and the effects that their struggle with a cocaine addiction may have had.
This is the best method of treating cocaine addiction, purely because of its flexibility and personalisation.
Individuals will be able to create, practise, and learn more about coping mechanisms and techniques that they can take into the future of their recovery, making long-term abstinence far more likely.
Useful questions to ask when searching for rehabilitation options
When seeking support for cocaine addiction, knowing which type of rehabilitation will be best can be incredibly challenging.
Not only are there hundreds of options available across the country but knowing which of these will be effective in each individual’s case is very difficult, especially for those for whom this may be the first time they have dealt with addiction.
Luckily, there are some questions that individuals can consider and ask to potential rehabilitation support service providers to aid in their decision-making and therefore help to make the process less stressful.
These are as follows:
- How long will the addiction treatment programme last?
- What will a typical day/session of treatment look like?
- Will the addiction treatment programme provider take into account any special needs?
- How can I pay for my treatment?
- Will my health insurance cover my treatment?
- What type of aftercare services are available?
It may be a useful practice to think of any additional questions before calling/speaking to an addiction support service provider in order to get the most useful information for the individual’s benefit and to avoid as much stress as possible during this time.
How Rehab Recovery can help
To learn more about anything you have read in this article today, or to ask any questions relating to addiction, rehabilitation, and associated support for these factors, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Rehab Recovery today.
Our team offers support for all types of addiction, from cocaine and other drugs to lifestyle addictions with years of experience in rehabilitating individuals behind them.
Call our addiction support line on 0800 088 66 86 to get free and confidential advice, receive suggestions for the next stage of your rehabilitation journey, or to begin to process of entering a specialised rehab centre 24/7.
 Nestler, E.J., 2005. The neurobiology of cocaine addiction. Science & practice perspectives, 3(1), p.4.
 Liu, Y., Williamson, V., Setlow, B., Cottler, L.B. and Knackstedt, L.A., 2018. The importance of considering polysubstance use: lessons from cocaine research. Drug and alcohol dependence, 192, pp.16-28.