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Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug with which continued use can result in a tolerance being built and an addiction. Sometimes cocaine addiction treatment is needed to help patients detox from the drug and create a long term plan to maintain sobriety.

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

An estimated 1.5 million Americans are current users of the stimulant drug cocaine, which increases dopamine levels in the brain, giving users a euphoric and energetic high. The majority age group of people that use cocaine are young adults, aged 18 to 25. Results from a 2011 report found that 40% of drug misuse or abuse-related emergency department visits involved cocaine, as this drug can cause serious short- and long-term health effects. Repeated use of this drug can result in a tolerance and addiction, and for some, cocaine addiction treatment is needed.

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America, and according to the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, the majority of cocaine seized and tested in the United States is from Colombia. In 2017, 59% of cocaine bricks seized and tested were uncut, meaning they did not contain diluents or adulterants. As cocaine works its way through the system, it becomes more likely that substances will be added to it so that street dealers can stretch profits. Flour, cornstarch, and talcum powder may be added, as well as other drugs like fentanyl and other amphetamines. When other drugs are added, this increases the likelihood of someone overdosing.

Most of the time, cocaine is consumed by being snorted through the nose. Users may also inject it, rub it into their gums, or smoke it in the form of crack cocaine. When snorted, the high from cocaine appears almost immediately and typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes. Cocaine users often binge, continuing to use a lot of the drug repeatedly to keep their high going. Users will typically experience a rush of energy, happiness, mental alertness, sensitivity to light, sound, and touch, as well as irritability, paranoia, and a decreased appetite.

Cocaine addiction treatment is needed when long term cocaine use changes the way the brain functions. Over time, the brain’s reward circuit, which controls feelings of pleasure, adapts to the excess of dopamine caused by cocaine and becomes less sensitive to dopamine. This reinforces drug taking behaviors, as users will need to take more doses to feel high and even happy again. Cocaine users can suffer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they stop using, which motivate them to continue use.

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Cocaine Overdose And Withdrawal

When someone overdoses on cocaine, they may suffer from a heart attack, seizure, or stroke. First responders will try to treat the symptoms of a cocaine overdose by stopping the seizure, restoring blood flow to the heart, or restoring oxygen-rich blood supply to the affected part of the brain. The other signs of a cocaine overdose are extreme agitation or anxiety, hallucinations, difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, and high body temperature.

After someone discontinues cocaine use, they will experience a crash and a strong craving for more of the drug. This crash will come with symptoms like agitation, irritability, anxiety, paranoia, and fatigue. For someone with a history of heavy cocaine use, withdrawal symptoms like craving, depression, and suicidal thoughts can last for months. Counseling and medications offered in cocaine addiction treatment programs can make the process of detox and withdrawal easier.

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Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options

Most of the people, 68% to be exact, who enter a treatment program for cocaine are polydrug users, meaning they use more than one substance. Many cocaine users also misuse alcohol and heroin. Depending on the severity of the addiction, those looking for help can choose from outpatient rehabilitation and inpatient rehabilitation, also called residential treatment. Some outpatient treatment programs may be less intense and offer drug education as individuals continue working and carrying on with their daily lives. Intensive day treatment can offer treatment at a facility each day while the patient returns home each night to sleep. In residential treatment, patients live and stay at the facility full time.

Short term residential treatment programs typically last 3 to 6 weeks and may be followed up by outpatient treatment and the involvement in 12-step support groups. Long term residential treatment usually lasts 6 to 12 months and creates an immersive environment for patients to fully focus on their recovery. The therapeutic community (TC) model is most commonly used in long term residential treatment where behavioral interventions are used to discourage drug use.

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A commonly used behavioral intervention is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), that works with patients to understand why they used drugs as well as helping them understand triggers so they can increase their odds against relapse. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, CBT helps patients with skill training, “which the individual learns to recognize the situations or states in which he or she is most vulnerable to drug use, avoid those high-risk situations whenever possible, and use a range of behavioral and cognitive strategies to cope effectively with those situations if they cannot be avoided.”

Another behavioral intervention used in cocaine addiction treatment is contingency management (CM) which uses a prize or voucher-based system where patients are rewarded for not using drugs, which is determined by a urine test. Those who abstain from cocaine can earn points to be redeemed for prizes like dinner or a gym membership. This approach is effective as encouragement in the beginning stages of therapy, but some research has demonstrated that after 1 year, CBT has better rates of continued improvement in patients than CM.

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Cocaine Addiction Treatment Medications

Although research continues to be conducted, there are currently no FDA approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. Certain medications have still been found to helpful during treatment. Disulfiram, the drug used to treat alcoholism, has shown some potential in treating cocaine addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that, “its effects may be related to its ability to inhibit an enzyme that converts dopamine to norepinephrine. However, disulfiram does not work for everyone.”

Lorcaserin (used to treat obesity), modanifil (used to treat narcolepsy), and buprenorphine (used to treat opioid addiction) are all medications that are being tested to treat cocaine addiction. Recent research from the University of Michigan found that, “chemical modifications to buprenorphine can improve its effectiveness to treat cocaine addiction while minimizing abuse potential.” Buprenorphine’s biological targets may be involved in reward and addiction to multiple drugs, and animal models have shown potential in reducing relapse rates.

Do I Need Treatment?

If cocaine use has started to impact your professional or personal life, you find yourself craving the drug, or you need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects, you may have an addiction. Cocaine is a dangerous drug that can result in overdose and death. If you or a loved one are abusing it, it is important to seek professional help. A treatment provider can talk to you about cocaine addiction treatment options for free today.

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