Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is made from the leaves of the South American coca plant. While the drug did not gain popularity until the 1970s, the plant has been used for thousands of years by indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest and Andes Mountains. Indigenous people in these regions would chew the raw coca leaves for an energetic high. It was beneficial for those who would farm and work to get through their day.
It wasn’t until the 1850s when European scientists isolated cocaine from coca leaves. It was once considered as a medical wonder drug, but experts do not recognize cocaine as one of the most addictive substances on earth.
In 1860, a German chemist by the name of Albert Niemann isolated cocaine from the coca leaves, and he noticed that the powdery white substance made his tongue feel numb. Around the same time, a French chemist named Angelo Mariani created a tonic consisting of Bordeaux wine and coca leaves. He called it Vin Mariani, and it was marketed as a drink that could restore health and vitality.
Cocaine is similar to other drugs in the sense that is increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is released to trigger a reward sensation in the limbic system when you experience positive stimulus. Anything that is considered positive such as working out will trigger dopamine to be released, and when you continue these actions over time, it trains your brain to associate these positive feelings with these actions. When dopamine is released, it is recycled back into the neurotransmitter transporter that tells the brain to stop producing dopamine.
Cocaine, however, is a reuptake inhibitor, meaning it blocks the signal and causes the brain to continue to produce dopamine. The buildup is what causes the rush experienced when someone consumes cocaine. The more of the drug that is used, the less your brain will naturally produce dopamine. When your brain begins to rely on cocaine, you have become chemically dependent on the drug. Upon abstaining from the drug at this point, it will cause withdrawal symptoms.
Becoming dependent on cocaine means that you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you cut back or stop the drug cold turkey. Drug withdrawals are predicated on the type of drug you are stopping because they all work on different areas in the brain and body. Two addictive drugs that are difficult to quit are depressants and stimulants. Detoxing from either of these will cause the body and mind to experience mood swings in the opposite direction. Since cocaine falls under the category of stimulants, it will cause you to feel excited, and withdrawal symptoms will make you feel tired and depressed. Other symptoms may include:
When comparing cocaine withdrawal to alcohol or benzodiazepines, it is relatively mild because it is not life-threatening. The most difficult symptoms will be psychological that can cause suicidal thoughts. Physical symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal are mild. As with all drug withdrawals, the most common symptom will be intense cravings for cocaine.
There is a low risk of severe medical complications when withdrawing from cocaine, but there is a high likelihood of relapse. When detoxing alone, it will be difficult to resist the drug cravings. If the drug is available, it’s likely that you’ll use it again.
Various factors will dictate the severity of your withdrawal symptoms as well as the timeline in which you start to feel the effects. Some of these factors will include the length of time you used, and the amount of the drug you used. If you’ve been using cocaine long enough to build up a tolerance, it’s possible that you cannot go for very long without a dose. Cocaine withdrawals often come on quickly because of the drug’s short half-life.
Other factors include:
If you have decided to quit using cocaine, you can begin to experience withdrawals within 90 minutes of your last use. If you stop using through a method known as cold turkey, you will experience intense cravings and experience something cocaine users refer to as a “crash.” As your system works the cocaine out of your body, the brain will begin to recycle the excess dopamine, and you still start to feel the effects. Cocaine comedowns are associated with feelings of crippling depression, anxiety, and a bleak outlook of impending doom.
The withdrawal symptoms often last for seven to 10 days before slowing down. During this time, it is difficult to focus on tasks, attend work or school, and established sleep patterns are disrupted.
As mentioned above, cocaine withdrawal symptoms are not as dangerous as other drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines. The risk of a life-threatening reaction is low, but it is notoriously difficult to get through on your own. Symptoms can imitate the flu and cause headaches, body aches, restlessness, and fatigue. While the body is undergoing intense physical effects, the mind can plunge into a deep and crippling depression. Those who have gone through cocaine withdrawal had reported symptoms as extreme and dealt with suicidal thoughts and panic.
Medical detoxification can assist you at a time of need during cocaine withdrawal and alleviate the extremes of these symptoms. The added accountability can also prevent you from relapsing or reusing cocaine again, which is important if you are serious about abstaining permanently. The additional supervision will save you from having to go through the comedown and withdrawal symptoms alone.
A cocaine use disorder can result in death. Cocaine is notoriously hard on your heart, and it can cause cardiac arrest. Depending on the purity of the cocaine used, it is easy to overdose on this drug. If you have committed to quitting your use of cocaine, you are saving your life.
Lastly, going through detox with knowledgeable and caring professionals can be a psychological comfort for you. A side effect of depression is isolation, and having someone in your corner can prevent this.
Detox is just the beginning of the continuum of care. Even after all of the cocaine has been removed from your system, your reward system has been rewired to desire and seek cocaine. The most efficient way to avoid relapse is to continue your care and change your behaviors in addiction treatment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that the longer someone stays in treatment, the more likely they are to abstain from drugs or alcohol long-term. Detox is not enough to change an addiction. Fortunately, there are many options when it comes to cocaine addiction treatment.
While there are no approved medications for cocaine addiction, there are some that have been beneficial when treating other addictions. Disulfiram, modafinil, and lorcaserin have shown useful when treating cocaine addiction.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the leading and most efficient method for treating cocaine addiction. CBT can help you identify underlying issues that made you start using in the first place. Other treatments include group therapy, family therapy, and sober living houses. The top treatment programs will use a combination of these methods and are customized for your needs.
Cocaine addiction is a dangerous disease when left untreated, and it can lead to death by overdose or cardiac arrest. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder involving cocaine, options are available to you. It is time to take the first step by learning more about cocaine addiction and how it can be effectively treated.
Speak to an addiction treatment specialist at Serenity at Summit to learn more about the treatment plans that may be available to you. Call 844-432-0416 or reach out to us online to take your first steps on the road to recovery and take back your life. We are ready when you are, so give us a call today.