Cocaine Addiction

Is Cocaine Addictive?

Normally when we think of drug abuse, the immediate thing that comes to mind is when someone takes drugs every day, several times. But with Cocaine Addiction, signs can be ambiguous. You do not have to be taking cocaine, or crack cocaine, every day to be addicted to it. A sign of addiction is that you’ve tried to cut down or stop but are unable to. According to the piece ‘Understanding Cocaine’, published by Addictioncenter.com, “Any use of cocaine is considered abuse because it is an illegal substance”.

Even when Cocaine is a highly addictive drug, one of its main issues is that it may be hard to recognize an addiction to it. For example, craving cocaine, even if the use or need appears every few days, and ignoring the consequences that come with it are signs of an addiction. 

“The psychological addiction is often the hardest part to overcome, although there are undeniable physical symptoms of addiction as well. Someone who uses cocaine frequently will develop a dependence on it, meaning they need to have it in order to feel normal. Once dependence has developed, a tolerance will develop and withdrawal symptoms will occur when stopping use. Once someone becomes addicted to cocaine, it can be very hard to stop. This is because cocaine abnormally increases the level of dopamine in the brain, eventually reprogramming the brain reward system”. [1]

Is there a specific time frame that determines if you are going to become addicted to cocaine or not? How long does it take? It can depend on certain factors such as how often you use cocaine and how much of the drug you use on each occasion. Getting addicted to cocaine depends on various factors but most people who use the drug heavily become dependent within a few weeks of regular abuse.

Various factors can increase your likelihood of experiencing substance misuse issues like medical history, genetic, mental health, environment, and method of use.

cocaine addiction
One of the signs of Cocaine Addiction is that you’ve tried to cut down or stop but are unable to.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Why is Cocaine so addictive? In the scientific research, ‘Stress and Cocaine Addiction’ published by the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, the author discovers a strong relationship between stress and Cocaine Addiction. Being, stressed the main factor in people who develop this type of dependence. 

“Corticosterone seems to be crucial for the acquisition of drug use since self-administration does not occur unless this stress hormone is increased above a critical reward threshold. …Corticosterone and CRH are critical for the stress and cue-induced reinstatement of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior.

Therefore, cocaine self-administration may represent an attempt to seek out specific sensations, with the internal state produced being very similar to that perceived by individuals who engage in risky, thrill-seeking behavior. During abstinence, exposure to stressors or cocaine-associated cues can stimulate the HPA axis to remind the individual about the effects of cocaine, thus producing craving and promoting relapse.

Stress reduction, either alone or in combination with pharmacotherapies targeting the HPA axis may prove beneficial in reducing cravings and promoting abstinence in individuals seeking treatment for Cocaine Addiction”. [2]

Cocaine Addiction Symptoms

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that affects the brain by stimulating high levels of dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure and reward. Over time, Cocaine negatively affects every part of the body with the potential for severe long-term effects. It can cause changes to genetics in brain cells, nerve cells, and proteins, among other permanent effects.

Symptoms and Effects of using cocaine include:

  • Talkativeness
  • Excitement
  • Alertness
  • Anxiety
  • Overconfidence

How people use cocaine also alters the potency and duration of the effects. The effects of snorting it are short-lived, lasting approximately 15-30 minutes. Smoking or injecting cocaine is more intense but lasts for an even shorter period, about 5 to 10 minutes. Most cocaine users will dose frequently in order to maintain the desired effects. Injecting the drug poses a higher risk of overdose than snorting.

Cocaine abuse is particularly dangerous because continued use can cause strain on the heart. The most common cause of death of infrequent cocaine users is stroke or cardiac arrest. If you or someone you know is abusing cocaine, get help now. [1]

Cocaine Addiction and Other Drugs 

It is usual for people with Cocaine Addiction to also consume other substances that stimulate the central nervous system. For this reason, many people who consume cocaine on a regular basis, tend to have a dependence on other substances, such as alcohol or marijuana. This is known as poly-drug use and is especially dangerous, as it increases the risk of fatal overdose.

According to Addictioncenter.com, “Cocaine and alcohol are frequently used together, to the point where alcohol can be a trigger for recovering cocaine users. For this reason, it is important to abstain from all drugs during recovery. Using heroin and cocaine together (known as a “speedball”) is arguably the most dangerous of all drug combinations that include cocaine”. [1]

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction 

The treatment for Cocaine Addiction must address the context of polydrug users in order to be effective. As stated by The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the piece ‘Cocaine Research Report. How is cocaine addiction treated?’, “In 2013, cocaine accounted for almost 6 percent of all admissions to drug abuse treatment programs. The majority of individuals (68 percent in 2013) who seek treatment for cocaine use smoke crack and are likely to be polydrug users, meaning they use more than one substance. 

Those who provide treatment for cocaine use should recognize that drug addiction is a complex disease involving changes in the brain as well as a wide range of social, familial, and other environmental factors; therefore, treatment of Cocaine Addiction must address this broad context as well as any other co-occurring mental disorders that require additional behavioral or pharmacological interventions”. [3]

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction is focused on behavioral interventions that can be used in order to manage this substance dependence in an effective way. There are no medicines that work as substitutes for powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and other stimulants of this kind. However, currently, there are some pharmacological advances.

Pharmacological Approaches

Currently, there is no US. Approved medications, drug administration, or a specific diet to treat Cocaine Addiction. However, researchers are exploring a variety of neurobiological targets. 

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse,  several medications marketed for other diseases show promise in reducing cocaine use within controlled clinical trials. Among these, disulfiram, which is used to treat alcoholism, has shown the most promise. Scientists do not yet know exactly how disulfiram reduces cocaine use, though its effects may be related to its ability to inhibit an enzyme that converts dopamine to norepinephrine. However, disulfiram does not work for everyone. Pharmacogenetic studies are revealing variants in the gene that encodes the DBH enzyme and seems to influence disulfiram’s effectiveness in reducing cocaine use. Knowing a patient’s DBH genotype could help predict whether disulfiram would be an effective pharmacotherapy for cocaine dependence in that person. [3]

Cocaine Addiction Vaccine

Researchers have developed and conducted early tests on a cocaine vaccine that could help reduce the risk of relapse. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to create cocaine-specific antibodies that bind to cocaine, preventing it from getting into the brain. In addition to showing the vaccine’s safety, a clinical trial found that patients who attained high antibody levels significantly reduced cocaine use. However, only 38 percent of the vaccinated subjects attained sufficient antibody levels and for only 2 months.

Researchers are working to improve the cocaine vaccine by enhancing the strength of binding to cocaine and its ability to elicit antibodies. New vaccine technologies, including gene transfer to boost the specificity and level of antibodies produced or enhance the metabolism of cocaine, may also improve the effectiveness of this treatment. A pharmacogenetics study with a small number of patients suggests that individuals with a particular genotype respond well to the cocaine vaccine—an intriguing finding that requires more research. [3]

Behavioral Interventions

Many behavioral treatments for Cocaine Addiction have proven to be effective in both residential and outpatient settings. Indeed, behavioral therapies are often the only available and effective treatments for many drug problems, including stimulant addictions. However, the integration of behavioral and pharmacological treatments may ultimately prove to be the most effective approach.

  • Contingency Management: One form of behavioral therapy that is showing positive results in people with cocaine use disorders is Contingency Management (CM), also called motivational incentives. Programs use a voucher or prize-based system that rewards patients who abstain from cocaine and other drugs. On the basis of drug-free urine tests, the patients earn points, or chips, which can be exchanged for items that encourage healthy living, such as a gym membership, movie tickets, or dinner at a local restaurant. CM may be particularly useful for helping patients achieve initial abstinence from cocaine and stay in treatment. This approach has recently been shown to be practical and effective in community treatment programs. Research indicates that CM benefits diverse populations of cocaine users. For example, studies show that cocaine-dependent pregnant women and women with young children who participated in a CM program as an adjunct to other substance use disorder treatment were able to stay abstinent longer than those who received an equivalent amount of vouchers with no behavioral requirements. Patients participating in CM treatment for cocaine use who also experienced psychiatric symptoms—such as depression, emotional distress, and hostility—showed a significant reduction in these problems, probably related to reductions in cocaine use.
cocaine addiction
Contingency Management may be particularly useful for helping patients achieve initial abstinence from cocaine and stay in treatment.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): is an effective approach for preventing relapse. This approach helps patients develop critical skills that support long-term abstinence—including the ability to recognize the situations in which they are most likely to use cocaine, avoid these situations, and cope more effectively with a range of problems associated with drug use. This therapy can also be used in conjunction with other treatments, thereby maximizing the benefits of both.
  • Therapeutic communities (TCs): Drug-free residences in which people in recovery from substance use disorders help each other to understand and change their behaviors—can be an effective treatment for people who use drugs, including cocaine. TCs may require a 6- to 12-month stay and can include onsite vocational rehabilitation and other supportive services that focus on successful re-integration of the individual into society. TCs can also provide support in other important areas—improving legal, employment, and mental health outcomes.

Regardless of the specific type of substance use disorder treatment, it is important that patients receive services that match all of their treatment needs. For example, an unemployed patient would benefit from vocational rehabilitation or career counseling along with addiction treatment. Patients with marital problems may need couples counseling. Once inpatient treatment ends, ongoing support—also called aftercare—can help people avoid relapse. Research indicates that people who are committed to abstinence, engage in self-help behaviors, and believe that they have the ability to refrain from using cocaine (self-efficacy) are more likely to abstain. Aftercare serves to reinforce these traits and address problems that may increase vulnerability to relapse, including depression and declining self-efficacy.

Scientists have found promising results from telephone-based counseling as a low-cost method to deliver aftercare. For example, people who misused stimulants who participated in seven sessions of telephone counseling showed decreasing drug use during the first 3 months, whereas those who did not receive calls increased their use. Voucher incentives can boost patients’ willingness to participate in telephone aftercare, doubling the number of sessions received according to one study.

Reclaim your life from Cocaine Addiction 

Cocaine Addiction is a serious disease that should not be taken lightly.  We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Cocaine Addiction with professional and safe treatment.  Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors.  We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information.  Our specialists know what you are going through.  Please know that each call is private and confidential.

Sources: 

[1] Cocaine Addiction » Drug Alcohol Addiction Rehab (welevelup.com) – WeLevelUp.com

[2] ‘Stress and Cocaine Addiction’, Nick E. Goeders. – Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

[3] ‘Cocaine Research Report. How is Cocaine Addiction treated?’ – National Institute on Drug Abuse (https://www.drugabuse.gov/)