Cocaine abuse is currently on the rise, as evidenced by an increase in cocaine-related emergency room visits and deaths. This highly addictive stimulant is one of the most widely abused illegal drugs in the United States. According to a 2008 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 15 percent of Americans have tried cocaine. While some people experiment with this drug without consequence, others become addicted almost instantly. This situation has created a great demand for effective cocaine addiction recovery treatment.
Cocaine’s Affect on the Brain
Cocaine stimulates the nervous system and increases the level of dopamine in the brain. This chemical is associated with feelings of pleasure. In excess, dopamine produces a euphoric effect that for many users is addictive. Other effects of cocaine include increased energy and mental alertness and reduced fatigue. It also provides a feeling of invincibility and increased confidence. Repeated use of cocaine causes long-term changes in the brain’s reward system.
After repeated use, many cocaine abusers also develop a tolerance for the drug. In an effort to experience the same high that occurred with their early use of the drug, they will increase their dosage. This can lead to increased psychological and physical damage and even death.
Cocaine Abuse Methods
Cocaine is most commonly ingested by snorting, smoking or injection. All of these abuse methods are associated with addiction and other serious health problems. Besides altering the nervous system and brain, cocaine ingestion can cause ear, nose, throat and lung disorders. Cocaine injection increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as hepatitis. No matter how it is ingested, cocaine can bring on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular emergencies, including heart attack or stroke, which can lead to sudden death.
Cocaine abusers often abuse other substances, complicating the cocaine addiction recovery process. The combination of cocaine and other psychoactive drugs can increase the dangerous effects of each substance. For example, consuming cocaine and alcohol together leads to a chemical reaction in the liver that increases the euphoric effects of cocaine. It also increases the risk of sudden death.
Treatment Options for Cocaine Addiction Recovery
Abstinence from cocaine does not cause the type of physical withdrawal that occurs with heroin or alcohol, leading some abusers to think it is non-addictive. However, it is psychologically addicting. The symptoms of cocaine withdrawal may include anxiety, paranoia, hallucination, major depression, suicidal thoughts, violence, psychosis and attempted homicide.
There are no FDA-approved drugs to aid in cocaine addiction recovery treatment. Therapy, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, is currently the most effective form of treatment. Once an abuser has stopped using cocaine, follow-up treatment is needed to help avoid relapse.