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Cocaine Addiction

cocaine addictionStimulants are widely abused for their ability to elevate mood and elicit feelings of euphoria through their biochemical effects in the brain. Cocaine is the most frequently abused illicit stimulant drug in the United States, with 1.9 million people reporting current cocaine use in 2015 10.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant and prolonged use can lead to addiction. Addiction to cocaine is a serious and complex issue that may be driven by genetic and environmental factors. It is important to understand how addictions develop and how they progress with time. Addiction is often a chronic struggle, marked by periods of both remission and relapse. As a result, recovery can be a lifelong process, but definitely one worth fighting for. Left untreated, cocaine addiction can significantly impair multiple components of a person’s life, including their health, well-being, and relationships with others.

This article contains the following information about cocaine addiction:

  • The cycle of cocaine abuse.
  • Treatment programs and medication.
  • Cost of addiction treatment.
  • Financing recovery.
  • Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction.
  • Causes of addiction.
  • Long-term effects of cocaine addiction.
  • Get help today.

The Cycle of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is a fine, white powder. Users often insufflate or ingest cocaine nasally, while others mix cocaine with water to inject it intravenously. Less common routes include oral administration or application of the drug to other mucosal surfaces such as the gums, genitals, or rectum.

Cocaine works by binding to receptors in the brain that release dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters produce feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and sexual desire by activating the sympathetic nervous system. Cocaine also acts on the hypothalamus, which decreases appetite and reduces the user’s need for sleep 9.

The compulsion to continue using the drug often begins when the positive feelings of intoxication dissipate. The effects of cocaine can wear off in a very short amount of time. After snorting cocaine, the effects peak in 15 to 20 minutes and then disappear after about 60 to 90 minutes. As this happens, the user’s stress system is activated, causing them to feel uncomfortable 9. The unpleasantness associated with the cocaine “comedown” can prompt sustained use, and in doing so, can help drive the rapid development of addiction.

Treatment Programs

The risk of relapse is highest during the withdrawal period.
When someone stops taking cocaine they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms such as 9:

  • Depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Sleep disturbances.

Due to these unpleasant withdrawal effects, users might obsess over continually reaching the high that the original dose of cocaine produced. While withdrawing from cocaine does not generally require medical treatment, the risk of relapse is highest during the withdrawal period 9.

Luckily, an addiction to cocaine is 100% treatable. Although it is possible to quit using cocaine without treatment, addiction rehab programs can be helpful in supporting an addict’s journey to recovery.

Treatment programs are designed to help people live a drug-free life. Treatment may include any combination of the following:

  • outpatient treatment therapyIndividual therapy.
  • Group therapy.
  • Family or couples therapy.
  • Medication-assisted treatment.
  • Medical care.
  • Psychological care.
  • Art therapy.
  • Trauma workshops.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Nutrition education.

There are several types of addiction treatment programs available. Depending on the individual’s situation and needs, one may be better suited for their situation than another. It is important that you take into consideration what you need in treatment before entering into a program.

For example, programs may be structured as any of the following:

  • Detox: Detox programs are often shorter in duration than other types of programs. Detox typically lasts for a few to several days and patients generally transition into an inpatient or outpatient program once detox is complete.
  • Inpatient program: These are residential programs that offer 24/7 medical care and support during your stay. Depending on the program, they may offer amenities such as chef-prepared meals, exercise classes, and complementary care, such as acupuncture.
  • Outpatient program: These programs tend to be more affordable than inpatient or other residential programs. Outpatient programs focus heavily on group therapy and require that the individual visit the facility periodically throughout the week to receive treatment.
  • Luxury: Provides treatment in private, secluded, or vacation-like destinations. They often include high-end, or resort-like amenities to help make treatment as comfortable as possible.
  • Executive: This type of high-end treatment caters to business executives who wish to keep working while recovering from an addiction to cocaine. Typical services provided include internet, phones, and private workrooms.
  • Holistic: Some individuals prefer taking a holistic route to treatment. Some facilities offer alternative services such as reiki, acupuncture, yoga, massage, and mindfulness to help individuals address their cocaine addictions.
  • 12-step: 12-step groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous, can be extremely helpful for people going through the recovery process. These groups bring together individuals who are going through similar situations to provide strength and hope to help each other live drug-free.

Some rehabs focus on specific populations, such as teens, LGBTQ, gender-specific addiction treatments, or veterans. If you are interested in any of these types of programs, give us a call today to speak to a rehab placement specialist 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? . We can help you find a program that will fit your needs.

An addiction to cocaine may also be treated using a model of therapy called the Matrix Model 1. This type of therapy uses a variety of approaches to prevent relapse. Components of the Matrix Model include 1:

  • Receiving support and direction from a trained therapist.
  • Becoming familiar with self-help programs.
  • Monitoring drug use via urine testing.
  • Fostering a positive relationship with the therapist.
  • Promoting an individual’s self-esteem, dignity, and self-worth.
  • Engaging in family and group therapies.
  • Participating in drug education.

Studies have found that people who participate in treatment using the Matrix Model have significantly lower rates of drug use and improved psychological functioning 1.

Medication for Cocaine Addiction

Despite cocaine’s widespread abuse, there are currently no FDA-approved medications to specifically treat cocaine dependence. However, some medications have shown promise in minimizing withdrawal and helping prevent relapse after treatment.

Below are medications that have the potential to be effective for cocaine treatment and relapse prevention 2:

  • Propranolol: A beta-blocker that may help treat severe withdrawal symptoms. As a beta-blocker, the drug can help reduce anxiety and uncomfortable cravings.
  • Baclofen: A muscle relaxant that may reduce cravings. As an agonist of the B subtype of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor, this drug reduces the amount of dopamine released after taking cocaine, making users less likely to continue using cocaine.
  • Tiagabine:A drug currently approved to treat seizures. It is a selective blocker of a GABA reuptake transporter and may help improve rates of abstinence among those in recovery.
  • Topiramate: A drug that elicits effects on GABA neurotransmission and glutamate neurotransmission. In animal studies, this drug helped prevent cocaine use.
  • Disulfiram:Disulfiram (Antabuse) is a well-known treatment for alcohol dependence, but it may also help with cocaine addiction. Disulfiram inhibits metabolism of both cocaine and the accompanying dopamine release that its use leads to. Rather than increasing the reinforcing effects of the drug, this actually makes the high from cocaine less enjoyable by increases a user’s anxiety, thus decreasing the likelihood that an individual would continue taking cocaine.

Cost of Addiction Treatment

Although funding your treatment is stressful, nothing is more important than investing in your health and future.

Depending on the program, treatment cost can vary widely. The cost of treatment will correspond to the amount and quality of amenities available, how luxurious the treatment facility is, and the caliber of medical services that you can expect to receive. Before choosing a treatment facility, you may want to meet with your doctor and/or therapist. They may be able to recommend an appropriate treatment program for you based on your physical and mental health. Your doctor and/or therapist will assess your situation and create a tailored treatment plan based on your history of substance abuse, age, life stressors, and other factors. If you don’t have a primary doctor or you are not able to see a physician before entering treatment it is okay too—treatment can also be sought by directly reaching out to individual treatment centers.

If you have insurance, call your insurance company to learn more about what your insurance plan covers. If you purchased insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or if you have Medicaid, you have access to services for drug treatment. If you have low or no income, you may qualify for government assistance to help you cover the cost of treatment.

Financing Recovery

If you don’t have health insurance, paying for drug addiction treatment can feel overwhelming. Take a deep breath and remember that many people have been in your shoes. No matter what your financial situation is, there are ways to cover your treatment costs.

Below are some strategies on how to cover the cost of treatment:

  • Find a treatment center that offers a sliding scale or payment plan: Many treatment centers offer options for individuals who cannot pay the full amount of treatment upfront. You can call centers and ask what they provide in terms of sliding scale and payment plans before entering a treatment program.
  • Ask friends or family: Your close group of loved ones is an excellent place to start when you are raising funds to pay for treatment. Odds are they will be happy to contribute to your recovery so that your relationship will improve.
  • Start a crowdfunding campaign: You can create a campaign using a website such as GoFundMe or Kickstarter. Campaigns can be great resources to help you raise funds for rehab. You may be surprised by the response you receive and how many people want to help support you and your treatment.
  • Get a loan: You can apply for a loan to help cover the costs of addiction treatment. Taking on an additional monthly payment is a small price to pay for the benefits of stopping your cocaine use. In the long-run, treatment can pay off and allow you to keep your job, save your personal relationships, and improve your health.
  • Sell personal items: If you own valuable items such as jewelry, antiques, cars, or a boat, you can host a garage sale or post the items online for sale to help raise funds.

Although funding your treatment is stressful, nothing is more important than investing in your health and future.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

There are different signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction—including physical, psychological, and behavioral signs. An addiction to cocaine may be characterized by many signs, including but not limited to the following behavioral signs and symptoms 3:

  • Using more cocaine or increasing the frequency with which you use cocaine.
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work, home, or school due to cocaine use.
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite negative physical or psychological consequences.
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite interpersonal or relationship problems caused or worsened by use.
  • Failing to quit using cocaine despite efforts to do so.
  • Abandoning previously enjoyed activities for cocaine use.
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining cocaine, using cocaine, and recovering from its effects.
  • Using cocaine in dangerous situations, such as while driving.
  • Displaying erratic or violent behaviors.
  • Lying about cocaine use or exhibiting other secretive behaviors.

Some physical and psychological signs of cocaine abuse or addiction may include 3,9:

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Chest pain.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Dilation of pupils.
  • Elevated body temperature.
  • Depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Insomnia.
  • Paranoia.
  • Delirium.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Formication, or the sensation of bugs crawling on or under the skin.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Strong cravings for cocaine.
  • Intranasal effects, such as nose bleeds or perforation of the nasal septum.
  • Intravenous effects, such as track lines, collapsed veins, abscesses, or contraction of HIV or hepatitis.

If you have noticed that you or a loved one is exhibiting any of these signs, call our helpline today at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? . We have addiction support specialists who can help you find a treatment center.

What Causes Addiction?

withdrawal symptoms depressionUnlike opioids, only 10 to 15% of people who try cocaine will progress to abuse and addiction. Researchers are still working to understand how cocaine and addiction work, but there is a link between environmental stressors and genetics that make a person more vulnerable to developing a cocaine addiction. For example, researchers found that in animal and human studies, stress causes subjects to use more cocaine 4.

According to research, it is estimated that a person’s genetics may be responsible for 30% to 60% of an individual’s susceptibility to developing a cocaine addiction. Another study suggested that the heritability of an addiction to cocaine specifically is as high as .72, which means that 72% of a person’s cocaine addiction can be attributed to their DNA 8. In fact, the heritability for cocaine addiction is higher than other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and breast cancer 7.

In addition to genes and environmental factors, other causes of addiction include 5,6:

  • Trauma: Experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or witnessing domestic violence in the home is strongly related to the development of a drug addiction.
  • Mental health: Many people who struggle with substance abuse or addiction also have mental health problems. For example, people with antisocial personality disorder or anxiety or mood disorders are about 50% more likely to have a substance addiction than those who don’t.

Keep in mind that although genes and stressors may contribute to your susceptibility of developing an addiction, it does not define your future.

Long-term Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine can cause a number of neurochemical changes in the brain. Some of these changes are long-lasting and can contribute to an individual transitioning from occasional cocaine abuse to addiction.

When people use cocaine over a long period of time, they may suffer from brain damage in the prefrontal lobe. This area of the brain controls and modifies behaviors, causing the user to experience 9:

  • Impaired judgment.
  • Unreliability.
  • Poor foresight.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Apathy.

Another danger of cocaine addiction is the development of “cocaine bugs,” also known as Magnon’s syndrome. Cocaine bugs produce a feeling similar to bugs crawling under the skin. Some people will pick at their skin or, in the most extreme cases, a user will cut into to remove the perceived bugs 9.

Using cocaine causes the blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to chest pain and increased heart rate and blood pressure. In individuals who have heart problems, this can be extremely dangerous. Heavy cocaine users may be at risk for the following detrimental effects 9,11:

  • Stroke.
  • Bleeding inside the brain.
  • Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder.
  • Aortic ruptures.
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle.
  • Gastrointestinal tears or ulcerations.
  • Malnourishment.
  • Significant weight loss.

Cocaine use can also harm a person’s sex life. For example, heavy cocaine use can lead to male impotency, problems with male ejaculation, and make it difficult for women to experience an orgasm 9.

Cocaine addictions can also cause a number of long-term effects that impact a person’s personal and professional life, such as:

  • Job loss.
  • Expulsion from school.
  • Divorce.
  • Child neglect.
  • Legal problems.
  • Financial hardships.

Get Help Today

If you are struggling with cocaine abuse and you feel as if you cannot stop taking cocaine, you may want to consider drug rehab options.

There may be multiple types of treatment to consider before finding one that is right for you. Give us a call today at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? and speak to an addiction support specialist about recovery options.


[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). The Matrix Model (Stimulants).

[2]. Kampman, K. M. (2005). New medications for the treatment of cocaine dependence. Psychiatry (Edgmont)2(12), 44.

[3]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

[4]. Simon, D. P., & Kreek, M. J. (2016). Cocaine: Usage, Misuse, and Addiction Processes. An Overview.

[5]. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Adverse Childhood Experiences.

[6]. National Institute on Drug Abuse, & United States of America. (2010). Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses.