How is Cocaine Addictive?
Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that works by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is released normally and naturally by pleasurable stimuli such as food or sex. Recreational users take cocaine for the euphoria, joy and energy they feel while they are on the drug. Cocaine is typically ingested by snorting, injecting intravenously, or smoking.Cocaine is addictive at a psychological level. Extended use of the drug causes the brain to decrease dopamine levels and the user can no longer experience pleasure without continuous and increased use of cocaine. Immediately after the effects of the high diminish there is a ‘crash’ effect of exhaustion and fatigue normally felt for up to 24 hours.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Cocaine Use
Withdrawal symptoms normally lasting around a few weeks include:
- Agitation and restless behavior
- Mood Swings
- Variable energy
- Poor concentration
- Low enthusiasm and lethargy
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Increased appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Suicidal thoughts
- Strong cravings
Symptoms of depression and craving can last for months after quitting. Craving symptoms are generally associated with the users desire to alleviate discomfort of withdrawal symptoms often sending addicts in cycles of withdrawals and relapse when attempting a self-detox. Depression symptoms are caused by the lack of available dopamine in the brain and eventually with continued abstinence the brain will produce more and a recovering user will be able to feel pleasure again.
The brain will also over time re-train itself to associate non-cocaine activities with pleasure and will release more dopamine for them. When using cocaine for extended periods of time the brain trains itself to associate cocaine with pleasure over other activities.
Cocaine withdrawal effects are recognized to be of a severer level than that of withdrawals of many other drugs. Though it has similar symptoms to other stimulant and drugs in general, the extent and gravity of those symptoms are more uncomfortable. Self-detoxification off cocaine is possible but not recommended. Quitting cocaine is possible by one-self but is far more difficult than with medical care. 30-40% of cocaine addicts cross-addict to other medications or alcohol.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
The recommended way to quit cocaine is to either check into a detoxification facility or an addiction treatment center. As an in-patient the user will be closely monitored in a safe environment to help prevent relapse. Physicians will also be able to prescribe symptom controlling prescription medications to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms mentioned above.
Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous, amongst other 12 step programs, are useful fellowship support groups. These groups consist of people all in recovery or starting their recovery from drugs and cocaine. Attendance of meetings will help to build a support network of like-minded addicts who can advise and help a newcomer early in sobriety. Recommended are 90 meetings in the first 90 days if not more and the majority of rehabs offer fellowship meetings every day.