Cocaine addiction has not gone away. Cocaine overdose deaths in the US from 2012 to 2019 have tripled.1 “Coke” is an exceptionally strong stimulant drug commonly abused as a recreational drug. Though snorting is the most common way of using the drug, cocaine can also be smoked or injected.
Cocaine is an addictive drug and is illegal. It is classified as a schedule II drug — as it does have some medical uses, with severe restrictions.2
This article covers cocaine addiction, withdrawal & recovery at Alternative to Meds Center.
Where Does Cocaine Come From?
Cocaine comes from the coca leaves of one of four plants in the Erythroxylaceae family, native to South America (Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru). A natural stimulant in the plant, coca is synthesized into cocaine and used for recreational purposes around the world.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, which works by targeting (stimulating) the natural reward system of the CNS and brain. Using cocaine results in highly pleasurable effects. Repeated use of the drug over time eventually alters the way the brain works. Cocaine addiction results in the compulsive drive to seek such drug effects, despite other negative consequences.
After a while, the effects of cocaine “die down,” so the person will feel compelled to use again. However the person will need to take higher quantities, and more frequently to get the same pleasurable sensation. In the depths of addiction to cocaine, the amount of pleasure declines, and the person becomes single-focused on acquiring more cocaine, to the detriment of every other part of their life.3
Crack cocaine increases the risk of near-immediate addiction because the drug gets into the brain nearly instantly. Both cocaine and crack cocaine typically lead to binge use, meaning consuming large quantities over a relatively short period of time before stopping. After stopping, the person will feel high levels of anxiety and irritability. These commonly present as part of the withdrawal effects. Other cocaine withdrawal effects can include mania, depression, agitation, paranoia, and complete exhaustion.
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Cocaine users often suffer from scabs that develop on the interior of the nose, damaging the fragile mucous membranes. Sometimes the nasal septum, which is the thin wall that separates the left and right nostrils), can completely collapse. The heart can give out completely due to the overstimulating effects of cocaine/crack. Breathing can stop, causing death by respiratory failure. Fatal stroke is another common liability from cocaine abuse.4,5
Cocaine is definitely a drug that is not worth dying for!
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use:
Chronic headaches and migraines
Twitching, shaking, and jerky motions
Recurrent runny nose or nosebleeds
Hoarseness of the throat/voice
Dark circles under/around the eyes
Increased heart rate, rapid heartbeat
Long-Term Side Effects and Health Risks from Cocaine Use:
Rupturing of the aorta (major artery of the heart that runs down the chest and into the pelvis)
Chronic impotence and sexual dysfunction
Infertility (affects both men and women)
Difficult breathing and swallowing (permanent damage to the throat, nose, and sinuses)
Lung damage and chronic lung diseases
Seizures and convulsions
Weight loss, malnourishment, and subsequent symptoms
Gastrointestinal issues and diseases
Increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Cocaine withdrawal is not considered as immediately dangerous or severe as withdrawal from opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol. However, the withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and put a person through quite an ordeal. Much like with other drugs, cocaine addicts may keep using cocaine in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Summary of Cocaine withdrawal symptoms:
Depression, sadness, negative emotional states
Cocaine Withdrawal: Crash Phase
When an individual decides to quit cocaine, there will first be an initial “crash” stage. This is where the initial effects of the stimulant wear off and leave the individual with cravings for more of the drug. The person will experience fatigue, sleeplessness, an inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia), as well as feelings of paranoia and anxiety.
Because cocaine only stays in the body for a few hours, the crash stage comes on quickly but can take 24-36 hours to finally subside.
Cocaine Withdrawal: Acute Withdrawal Phase
After the “crash stage” from cocaine, begins the acute cocaine withdrawal stage. In this stage, the cravings for the drug will increase. Also, anhedonia increases and evolves into depression. As well, feelings of sadness, sleeplessness, anxiety, and feelings of unease increase.6-8
Withdrawal is often prolonged in cocaine users and acute cocaine withdrawals can last up to 7 days in some individuals, and some adverse withdrawal reactions can linger far longer. The exact timeline for cocaine withdrawal really depends on how much cocaine you have used, how long you have been a cocaine user, and for how long your last cocaine binge lasted.
The good news is that after the acute cocaine withdrawal phase, an individual experiences an “extinction” of the cravings and dependence symptoms. Recovering cocaine addicts rarely experience the life-threatening symptoms that are common with alcohol, benzodiazepine, and opioid withdrawals.
However, a common and debilitating cocaine withdrawal reaction is the loss of the sense of pleasure, (anhedonia), especially in relation to things that normally would produce positive emotions and interest. Anhedonia increases with the amount of cocaine that was consumed during the binge. 14
Cocaine withdrawal without professional guidance and help can be unpleasant, and difficult, which may ultimately lead to relapse.
However, if the process is undergone correctly, the process can become tolerable, with little to no discomfort. At Alternative to Meds Center, the program is built around several foundations of treatment. One very important of these is to stabilize the person’s neurochemistry. That means, in part, we need to balance dopamine levels. We use multiple methods of detoxification and therapies to balance neurochemical levels naturally. We also employ multiple techniques of detoxification and therapy, during and after the initial withdrawal process.
The adjunctive treatments and holistic therapies we offer ease most withdrawal symptoms and cravings in a short time. Also, corrective methods are aimed at addressing the underlying causes that ultimately led to cocaine use and abuse. These foundations for recovery allow for stability and real relief from physical, mental, and emotional pain. Examples of the treatments and holistic therapies we offer include therapeutic massage, craniosacral work, soothing mineral baths, natural cleansing/detox methods such as sauna in tandem with conjugators (supplements to gently purge toxins), safe and gentle chelation strategies, clean, nutrient-dense diet, Reiki, mild exercise, yoga classes, acupuncture, Qi Gong, and many other services that are clinically well-proven to assist with recovery from cocaine addiction.9-13
Alternative to Meds Center Cocaine Treatment
We treat cocaine addiction and cocaine withdrawal on many levels. One of the most fundamental goals in our treatment program is the normalization of brain neurochemistry. After cocaine has altered the way the brain functions, it’s important to address this thoroughly. Our protocols focus on this goal for every one of our clients.
3. Girczys-Połedniok K, Pudlo R, Jarząb M, Szymlak A. Kokaina – charakterystyka i uzależnienie [Cocaine – Characteristics and addiction]. Med Pr. 2016;67(4):537-44. Polish. doi: 10.13075/mp.5893.00291. PMID: 27623834. [cited 2022 Aug 31]
11. Giménez-Meseguer J, Tortosa-Martínez J, Cortell-Tormo JM. The Benefits of Physical Exercise on Mental Disorders and Quality of Life in Substance Use Disorders Patients. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 May 23;17(10):3680. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17103680. Erratum in: Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jul 17;17(14): PMID: 32456164; PMCID: PMC7277811. [cited 2022 Aug 31]
Lyle Murphy is the founder of the Alternative to Meds Center, a licensed residential program that helps people overcome dependence on psychiatric medication and addiction issues using holistic and psychotherapeutic methods.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.
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