The top substances that Americans are addicted to include tobacco, alcohol and marijuana as well as painkillers, cocaine and heroin. In 2011, several studies found that at least 821,000 Americans were abusing cocaine. In its powder form, the substance is natural and pure. It is also expensive. Where many individuals have gotten themselves into trouble is crack cocaine, a cheaper and more hazardous version of the original powder.
Like several other substances that are abused in the United States, cocaine alters a person’s central nervous system. Some substances are depressants. Cocaine is a stimulant. It delivers a feeling of euphoria while helping a person feel like they are more awake.
If you have found yourself struggling with cocaine addiction, help is available. There are several programs, centers and tools that can help you overcome this condition. The following provides information about cocaine, including statistics and details about how to get help for cocaine addiction.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine originates from the coca plant that is found in South and Central America. The plant has been around for thousands of years. It is believed that the Incas treated the plant as sacred and that other indigenous Americans were aware of the stimulant effects of the plant.
The plant made its way to Europe and the United States during the 1700s and 1800s. It was German scientists who tried to use the plant for medicinal purposes, and they succeeded. Scientists figured out how to turn the plant into powder form. Thereafter, it was used in pills and anesthesia.
In the early 1900s, the powder found its way into products such as Coca Cola’s soft drinks. At that time, it was not seen as something dangerous. The doses were also very tiny. The U.S. government, however, did eventually step in to address the situation. They banned the substance from consumer products and from recreational use. Laws were passed that took the substance out of drug stores, too. It could only be used and consumed for medical purposes but not over the counter. To get it, a prescription had to be written for a specific use.
Today, cocaine is available on the street as a powder. Since it is white, the average person cannot tell the difference between the drug and cornstarch, talcum powder or flour. Someone who purchases it on the street, therefore, can never be sure if they are buying an authentic product. The rise of fentanyl has led dealers to mix it into the powder, which makes it more addictive, causing tragic results.
Users can snort the substance into their nose or rub it into their gums. The substance can also be injected into the bloodstream after its powder form is dissolved. Sometimes cocaine is mixed with other substances knowingly. For instance, the combination of cocaine and heroin is known as a “speedball.”
Freebasing the substance also became common for a while. The drug is turned into rock crystal, or crack cocaine. The crystal is heated, which causes it to turn into vapors that are then inhaled. The goal is to get the vapors as deep into the lungs as possible. Crack can also be smoked by mixing it with marijuana or tobacco.
A Look at Cocaine Addiction
There are several reasons why cocaine is so highly addictive. One is that it causes a sense of euphoria. People have shown that they enjoy the extra hit of dopamine. Some people use cocaine to wake up or to stay awake.
An addiction becomes all-consuming because the user is chasing their high. It really stops being about the substance and becomes all about the feeling. The drug of choice is simply the vehicle that gets the user to the high. If someone can achieve a specific feeling with something that is cheap, they will typically pick that vehicle. The problem with the cycle of addiction is that the initial feeling can never be achieved again.
The first time is the ultimate high. Researchers have found that cocaine users tend to binge the substance. They take successive hits in a time period so that they can maintain their high. When it begins to wear down, they know that it is time for another dose.
Addiction becomes a losing battle, especially an addiction to cocaine. Since the first high that got someone hooked is never going to be achieved again, the consumption frequency and dosage have to increase every time. The process turns into a downward spiral. Fortunately, help is available for those who need it.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is conducted on an annual basis. The survey asks several questions of respondents and their consumption of drugs and alcohol. In 2015, the survey found that:
- 1.5 million people 12 years or older had consumed cocaine within the last month
- Individuals 18 to 25 years old had the highest rate of current cocaine use
- 913,000 Americans met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for dependence on or abuse of cocaine
Over the decades, there has been an up-and-down trend for cocaine. There are times when it goes up, but it can also go down the following year. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that cocaine use was much lower than in 2002 to 2007, where use ranged from 2 million to 2.4 million. In 2013, there were 855,000 cases of reported cocaine dependence.
The 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network report found that cocaine was involved in 505,224 emergency room visits due to misuse or abuse. In that same time period, there were 1.3 million visits to emergency departments due to drugs.
Short-Term Effects vs. Long-Term Effects
The quicker cocaine is absorbed into the bloodstream, the more powerful the effect. Short-term physiological effects of cocaine use include:
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure
- Bizarre, erratic and violent behavior
In the worst-case scenario, a user may experience restlessness, irritability and anxiety as well as panic, paranoia and tremors. The long-term effects of cocaine use are:
- Full-blown psychosis with hallucinations
- Loss of sense of smell and nosebleeds
- Lung damage
- HIV and hepatitis C
The long-term effects depend largely on the method of consumption. For example, nosebleeds are common for those who snort, and contracting HIV or hepatitis C occurs most often among those who share needles to inject. With enough use over an extended period of time, stroke, seizure and neurological problems become more common.
The Effects on the Brain
All addictions rewire the brain. From sugar to alcohol and drugs, each has an effect on your central nervous system. An addiction is a chemical dependence on a substance of choice. Beating the dependence requires effort, commitment and accepting that the road to recovery may be bumpy.
Beating cocaine addiction is tricky because research has found that the drug impacts the area of your brain that deals with reward. There are changes in the glutamate neurotransmission and receptor proteins. Additionally, a person’s ability to respond to stress is changed along with the orbitofrontal cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex is the mechanism that allows you to make good choices. This is why a big focus is placed on counseling and therapy during rehabilitation.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options
As dire as the facts may sound, treatment for cocaine addiction is widely available and highly effective. Recovery is possible for anyone dealing with a substance use disorder involving cocaine.
Decades ago, drug rehabilitation involved a one-size-fits-all approach. Someone trying to recover from a cocaine addiction would go through a 12-step program. Then, to maintain sobriety, they were encouraged to attend Narcotics Anonymous-type meetings. These are still two tools that are used in rehab programs. The difference between then and now, however, is that rehab centers take a layered approach to their programs nowadays. Causes of addiction in every patient are explored because no two cases are the same.
Treatment options for cocaine addiction include inpatient and outpatient programs. The best one for each person depends on how much support they require and whether or not detox is necessary. In many cases, a patient who wants to recover must be removed from their current environment, which often plays a major role in addiction cases.
One way to rehab from cocaine addiction is to enter a program at a private facility like Green Mountain Treatment Center in New Hampshire. The extended treatment programs at our center give you the time to focus on yourself and the treatment program outlined for you by our experienced staff. If you require detox, it is often offered, as well.
At a private center, program options may include:
- Individualized treatment plans
- Medical detox
- 12-step curriculum
- Gender-separate programming
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions
Green Mountain Treatment Center is located in a serene, secluded and panoramic area of New Hampshire on purpose. The goal is to remove the patient from the environment that started or contributed to their addiction. Rehab centers are designed to feel like a resort for several reasons. First and foremost, this helps eliminate any triggers. While there may be difficult moments during the sessions, you should not experience any stress outside of those sessions. Amenities, therefore, are plentiful and often include:
- Yoga and meditation classes
- Chef-prepared meals
- On-site gym
- Group outings
Programs are customized to the needs and diagnosis of each patient. Your program may include cognitive behavioral therapy, experiential therapy and group therapy sessions. Someone else may need anger management and trauma therapy sessions. The program depends on how each patient became addicted, the length of time they have abused cocaine and the type of environment they are going to return to.
At a private facility, patients enter an inpatient treatment program. Outpatient programs are also available. Since cocaine addiction can be intense, however, you have to be deemed a good candidate for outpatient treatment.
The point of entering rehab is to detox and learn about one’s addiction, including underlying causes and potential triggers. When a breakthrough is made, the staff begins to prepare the patient for life after the program. This is known as ongoing recovery.
When you exit rehab, you are not alone. There are support groups throughout the United States. If you make a few phone calls, you can easily find a meeting in your area.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has caught on because it teaches a patient to identify harmful behaviors and patterns of thinking. If you know your triggers, you learn to stay away from them. In situations where you cannot avoid your triggers, you learn the skills that help you cope with the situation. The goal of CBT is to prevent you from relapsing.
Some addicts do not understand why they should get help. Family and friends of a person who abuses a substance can only do so much to convince them to enter a program or attend a meeting. The person in question has to decide to get help for themselves.
Every person experiencing addiction is encouraged to seek help. Thankfully, it is easier than ever to find the help one needs. There are many more options, centers and tools than there were a decade ago. Plus, rehab professionals are better trained and equipped to deal with the circumstances of every case on an individual basis. Health is one reason why an addict is told to get help. Getting back to sober living is another. Fortunately, getting on the road to recovery and learning to live a life free of addiction is possible with the right support and resources.