When asking the question, “am I addicted to cocaine?”, it’s important to know that you can be physically addicted, which means your body craves it, or mentally addicted, which means your brain does. If you are wondering whether your cocaine use is an actual addiction, it likely is or soon will be.
The feeling of a cocaine high is euphoric. As a stimulant, cocaine allows you to feel energetic, fast-talking, laser-focused, maybe feelings you’re not used to having. During the time of your high, you may feel unstoppable. However, this feeling quickly dissipates until it is fed through repeated cocaine use.
Continuous frequency of drug abuse leads the body to become tolerant of the stimulant drug in the system. The brain adapts and starts storing natural, feel-good-chemicals like dopamine and relies on cocaine to release the feelings of pleasure and reward. Drug tolerance means that the amount and frequency that worked before doesn’t work in the same way and the brain continues to crave more and more. It’s often at this point that users will need addiction treatment in order to overcome the drug abuse. Rehab centers are focused on helping the user detox and then address the root source of the addiction so the brain and body can overcome this tolerance.
When Tolerance Turns to Dependency and Dependency Turns to Addiction
After a tolerance is built, then a dependency begins. The brain depends on cocaine to feel what it considers normal. The regular people, places, and activities that used to make it happy doesn’t make it as happy anymore. Only the illusion of how cocaine has manipulated the brain can satisfy the need. With continual use, that’s when addiction sets in.
Addiction comes with cravings that are severe to a point where a person can’t think about anything except their next time to use. As a result, they may start to wane on responsibilities at work, distance themselves from loved ones, and take on new activities or dangerous behaviors that can feel as equally sustaining. Experiencing these or similar types of feelings when not using cocaine is indicative of addiction.
At that point, it’s difficult to stop using without the support of others. The cravings are too strong and likely there are other influences that can continue to feed the addiction. Also, once a person becomes addicted to cocaine, not only will cravings set in, but other withdrawal symptoms as well. These may include paranoia, depression, and insomnia, among others.
The discomfort and disruption these cause in a person’s life makes them want to use again. Plus, the body may react dramatically during the withdrawal period, which may include suicidal thoughts and physical reactions like seizures or tremors that are unmanageable alone. Going through the cocaine detox process under the care of a medically managed treatment program is the safest and most secure way to achieve sobriety.
Overcoming Addiction As the New Normal
You may wonder, how long does it take to get addicted to cocaine? There is no set number of times to use cocaine for you to become addicted. It varies with each person since the drug affects everyone on a different level.
When you’ve become addicted to cocaine, you may not realize it at first, since it’s perceived as a new normal. Even if it’s already greatly affected your health and relationships, you may not see that as an effect of your addiction, but rather an unfortunate occurrence of life.
The reality is cocaine prevents you from accomplishing the things you want and feeling good about the things you have. However, there is help available to start a new path. With treatment and ongoing attention to your self-care, you’ll be able to thrive in sober living.
Feelings and Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Why is cocaine addictive? Cocaine is a stimulant that causes dopamine levels to rise. Dopamine is transmitted naturally in the brain to give you “reward” feelings of pleasure, but these are heightened as cocaine causes them to have a higher concentration since the brain starts to store the chemical.
This feeling makes some believe they can focus better and perform tasks quicker. They crave it and carry it with them into their daily lives. For the short-term, it may make them feel funnier, smarter, more capable. The truth is it changes the makeup of the brain and results in several psychological effects that show the feelings of cocaine were only a mirage. These effects of cocaine addiction may include:
- Impaired judgment
- Repetitive or abnormal behaviors
Along with these significant changes, there are physical effects of cocaine abuse on the body that correspond with these, such as an unhealthy weight loss, chest pain, increased heart rate, and headaches. Cocaine addiction can cause a person to stop eating healthfully, but possibly exercising frenetically due to their increased feelings of energy. Cocaine causes damage to your health in more ways than one. Addiction serves as a catalyst to other unhealthy and risky habits.
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
In addition to the behavioral and physical changes that occur as part of cocaine addiction, there are other signs that present themselves as well. These may be based on how cocaine is ingested, whether it is snorted, injected, or inhaled. Side effects like nosebleeds, collapsed veins, and respiratory problems could result. These are clues for family members or friends who may have concerns their loved one is addicted.
Other signs of cocaine use and addiction include the desire to keep using even when health complications arise or worsen. Also, cocaine is costly. If a person is spending excessive money on cocaine, it may lead to poor financial decisions in order to feed their addiction. Withdrawal from family or friends who aren’t aware of the addiction is also common.
Everyone experiences addiction differently. Some may have obvious cocaine addiction symptoms, while others may be able to keep theirs hidden. No case is better or worse; all of it is dangerous. There is help available. You don’t have to feel like you have to go through the process alone. While your path is uniquely yours, there are structured treatment plans that can be customized to fit your specific needs.
How Is Cocaine Addiction Treated?
Treatment for cocaine addiction starts with the detox. The body has to be free of all drugs and toxins before being able to move forward with therapeutic treatment. The cocaine detox timeline takes a few days. In the first stages of drug withdrawal, the symptoms are at their peak. They feel the most intense and painful during this time. It can feel like you can’t see your way out of it.
With each day, the intensity and frequency will start to subside. For chronic users, these symptoms may carry on for weeks, months, or even longer. Although they won’t be at the same level of severity, they will still be present as the brain tries to rework its way back to a truly stabilized state. This doesn’t mean that treatment is not available right away.
Detox and abstaining from cocaine use during this period creates the foundation to begin the next phase of care. This includes residential rehab or an intensive outpatient therapy program. Residential rehab is recommended as the first step. In some cases, for those who have attended a rehab program in the past, they and their care team may decide to head directly to outpatient care instead.
Benefits of Residential Rehab and Intensive Outpatient Care
Residential rehab requires a temporary stay at an addiction recovery center. Each person has the support of a dedicated care team of therapists and specialists to help guide the treatment plan and provide guidance. This is beneficial for several reasons.
First, it’s beneficial to be removed from the current environment where the addiction lives. Structure and calm will replace the chaos that addiction creates. Second, it provides a secure space to focus on recovery full-time without distraction or obligation to anything else. The recommended stay is for 90 days, but may take longer depending on the course of care and if there are any setbacks.
The structure of residential rehab includes multiple therapies to treat the body and mind in a holistic way. Through individual counseling and group therapy, it creates the opportunity to dig deep into the cause of the addiction. Why did it start? What was happening before it began? And most importantly, how can it be prevented in the future? Learning the right tools and strategies to combat temptations or triggers in the future is key.
After the detox and rehab, outpatient therapy is next. This is ongoing treatment for several months after you’ve secured a safe and sober living situation. In some cases, people choose sober living housing to make a gradual transition as they enter this phase of care. This allows for greater flexibility in scheduling to promote independence in a person’s newly sober life. Each week requires at least 12 hours of treatment that includes similar therapies to those administered in the rehab program.
There is the addition of other educational and mentoring opportunities for those who wish to pursue goals that may have been put on hold due to the addiction. This could be anything from enrolling or re-enrolling in college or pursuing deeply held trauma that occurred before the addiction began. There are several specialized programs available that concentrate on one specific focus.
The feeling of cocaine is short-lived but the aftermath can feel like it will never end. There is a way to get out from under addiction and live a freer, more fulfilled life as a person who’s sober. The first step is to acknowledge addiction is the problem and be open to the care available.
Do you think you or a loved one may be addicted to cocaine? Contact us at Northbound Treatment today to get the support you need.
Gabbey, Amber Erickson. “Cocaine Addiction: What It Is, Treatment, and More.” Healthline.com. N.p., 30 Sept. 2013., https://www.healthline.com/health/cocaine-and-related-disorders#causes