Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that stimulates the central nervous system, inducing states of euphoria and producing energy. The white powder is commonly snorted but can also be smoked or injected.
Initial positive effects for the user can be short term motivation, energy, increased concentration and sociability. However, these quickly wear off and are replaced by feelings of agitation, irritability, anxiety and confusion.
Cocaine is a drug that exposes the user to serious risks of heart damage, kidney damage with prolonged use causing the increased risk of brain damage.
Cocaine addiction treatment is best managed within inpatient facilities, with ongoing medical supervision and therapeutic support. In addition to specialised detox, behavioural therapies, as well as group therapies, are an important element of the rehab programme at Castle Health.
Cocaine – Overview about the drug
Cocaine is a type of drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant. It is highly addictive because it acts directly upon the reward pathway in the brain. Other names for cocaine include coke, snow, blow or crack.
The drug acts by inhibiting the intake of three different neurotransmitters at the same time, namely those related to serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This leads to higher concentrations of these neurotransmitters in the brain. In small quantities, the drug can make the user more euphoric, mentally alert, talkative and energetic and it can help overcome shyness. It can also decrease the need for food and sleep, which may, in turn, allow the user to be more productive.
In its purest form, cocaine is a white powder coming from the crushed and dried leaves of the cocoa plant When sold on the street pure cocaine is often “cut” with potentially dangerous chemicals to increase the quantity available for sale. The resulting product sold on the street can contain amounts of lactose, sucrose or other substances in order to “cut it down”. Crack cocaine is a lower purity version of the drug that is hard or brittle, that can have varying shades of white to brown. The drug affects the brain’s reward system, causing long-term changes and leading to addiction.
The use of coca leaves is deeply integrated into the culture of many Andean countries, such as Columbia, Chine, Argentina, Peru, and Brazil. The plant is used by the local people of these lands for cultural practices that include chewing or brewing it. While the process of producing cocaine starts with the coca leaves, the final product, the illegal drug, is a highly processed one.
The isolation of the cocaine alkaloid was only achieved in 1855 and the first synthesis of the cocaine molecule was performed in 1898. Today, the production, distribution, and sale of cocaine products is restricted and illegal in most countries and it is regulated by international conventions. Countries like Bolivia and Peru allow the cultivation of the coca leaf for traditional consumption by the indigenous population, however, the general production, sale, and consumption of cocaine is still prohibited.
In Europe, cocaine is the second most popular illegal drug, behind cannabis. According to a 2019 Country Drug Report for the United Kingdom by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, cocaine is the second most common substance for first-time patients who seek addiction treatment. The report states that in 2018, there were 8,185 users entering treatment for cocaine for the first time, with the total number of entrants being 20,290. The gap between male and female users is a large one, with 19% of users being female and 81% male. The mean age at first use was reported to be 22 years, while the mean age at first treatment entry was 31 years.
Side-Effects of Using Cocaine
The initial effects of the cocaine “high” are short-lived, with periods of approximately 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the method of administration. Most users may consume the drug frequently to maintain the desired effects such as alertness, overconfidence, excitement or perceived increased performance.
However, once the initial effects start to wear off, the user will experience several other effects. The short-term physiological ones can include dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as increased body temperature.
Other short-term side-effects of cocaine use include decreased appetite, extreme sensitivity to touch or sound, anger or irritability, as well as paranoia.
Cocaine Addiction Signs
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug and ceasing its use may be very hard for the individual. This is the primary reason why it is very important to seek qualified addiction treatment, such as the inpatient rehab treatment at Castle Health.
Cocaine addiction signs include the following:
- Aggressive behaviour;
- Tremors, muscle spasms;
- Long periods of wakefulness;
Cocaine is a dangerous drug as it has the potential to devastate all aspects of the user’s life. The negative personal, professional and financial costs of cocaine addiction can be devastating
While initial overconfidence may cause the user to apparently perform in an exceptional manner, over time, this drug addiction yields the opposite results, resulting in decreased productivity, work-related issues, financial problems and even legal issues.
Health Risks of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine is a dangerous drug with highly addictive potential that can lead to serious risks to the user’s overall health. Short-term and long-term health issues related to cocaine abuse are caused by the fact that the drug interferes with the blood flow in the body.
Some of the common physical side effects associated with cocaine consumption include headaches, high blood pressure, nausea, chills, confusion or sweating.
A severe risk of cocaine abuse is heart damage. Consumption can lead to ischemic heart disease, hypertension, cardiomyopathy and endocarditis in the case of intravenous drug administration.
Prolonged cocaine use increases the risk of stroke and brain damage as it can cause blood supply interruptions to the brain. Over time, this drug can affect not only the heart and brain but also the lungs, kidneys and the gastrointestinal system. Long-term use also damages the nasal cavity and causes nosebleeds and loss of smell when the drug is administered through snorting. Users who administer the drug intravenously are also at risk of contracting hepatitis C or HIV.
Cocaine overdoses often can cause strokes or heart attacks.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Cocaine users will feel an urge to return to the feeling of euphoria and excitement induced by the drug. Long-term use is associated with developing a tolerance to the drug, meaning that the brain will rely on cocaine in order to produce dopamine or serotonin and “feel normal”.
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms appear within hours of stopping use and may include the following:
- Agitation, restless behaviour;
- Increased appetite;
- Inability to concentrate;
- Chills, muscle aches;
- Craving the drug.
The withdrawal symptoms are usually severe within the first month after interrupting the drug use and some of them can also last for more than one month. Severe depression and suicidal thoughts are two of the most dangerous side-effects. This is why at Castle Health we conduct a long-term residential cocaine addiction treatment programme where patients receive ongoing medical supervision and therapeutic support for longer periods.
The duration of the cocaine detox depends on the patient’s general health and how long the patient has been using the drug prior to admission. Medication may be prescribed during the detox phase, after an initial consultation from one of our Consultant Psychiatrists.
At Castle Health we use the 12-steps recovery approach for treating cocaine addiction with the foundation of this method requiring complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol.
Because of the potentially risky physical and psychological effects of quitting cocaine use, it is advisable to only undergo detoxification while under medical assistance. At Castle Health we make sure detox is safe and done in a gentle and gradual manner for all patients, while reviewing their medication dose daily.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
Patients at Castle Health have access to the highest quality of care. When treating cocaine addiction, we personalize each treatment plan according to the length of the addiction and the patient’s relevant lifestyle factors.
Our cocaine addiction treatment plan includes the detox phase, addiction therapy programme that includes specialised addiction therapies both individual sessions and group sessions. Castle Health utilizes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which has been found to be particularly useful when treating this type of addiction. Our team also offers complementary therapies such as art or creative writing therapy, equine therapy, mindfulness meditation, and others.
Continuous long-term support is essential for all recovering addicts. This is why, at Castle Health, we continue to be there for our patients by means of a two-year continuing care plan, teletherapy and weekly aftercare groups.
If you or someone you know is suffering from cocaine or crack cocaine abuse, you can contact us for professional, personalised help. Our admissions team at Castle Health are always ready to answer any questions.