Getting Help with Cocaine Addiction
America is currently facing a drug addiction epidemic that is spreading at terrifying rates. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one fourth of Americans between the ages of 26 and 34 have used cocaine within the last year. The United States is the largest consumer of Cocaine in the world and as a result of this ever-increasing flow across the borders, cocaine is the second most commonly used recreational drug in America behind marijuana. This pervasive use throughout America results in 12,000 annual arrests due to cocaine use or dealing, over 300,00 Emergency Department visits and a sobering 15,000 American deaths as a result of complications from use, such as heart attack, stroke or respiratory arrest.
Designated a scheduled II controlled substance by the DEA, cocaine has been cited as a, “High abuse, high dependency risk, with a full range of possible negative consequences from use, both psychologically and physiologically. Its street parlance is referred to as “blow,” “coke,” or “crack” if it is in its freebase and most addictive form.
Repeated use or abuse of cocaine can actually change the way an individual’s brain chemistry functions and lead to a deadly physical and psychological dependence. From a physiological standpoint, repeated cocaine use can significantly alter the brain’s chemistry due to rewiring deep areas of the brain’s reward center, known as the hedonic hotspots (pleasure centers of the brain).
The brain gets tricked by the flood of dopamine, which usually only occur from good activities such as food, exercise, sex and other healthy pleasures. As a result, these activities become less and less rewarding when compared with the pleasure granted by cocaine abuse. But, over time, increased and repeat use of more cocaine increases the body’s tolerance to the drug which causes people to use higher doses in order to gain the same pleasurable effects and as a result, the body becomes dependent or addicted to the substance.
Even if television, cinema, music and pop culture glamorize drug use, do not fool yourself into believing the lie, addiction is a terrible thing that can hold the addict’s life hostage. While you could simply point out mortality and crime statistics, the more menacing repercussion of cocaine and other illicit drug addiction is the way it destroys futures and burns bridges between the user and their friends or family members.
This anonymous addict did not set out to be a junky, because no one goes out looking for addiction, just a good time, or an escape from the pressures of the world, or to chase a high, or one of the countless other reasons people start abusing drugs. While no one wants to be an addict, once drugs sink their claws in, the marks they leave can last a lifetime. Whether you or someone you know, perhaps a friend or a family member, suffers from cocaine addiction, it is important to know the signs of addiction. After identifying that, we will discuss the stages of cocaine withdrawal and the long road towards recovery.
Signs of a Addiction Addiction
There are a whole host of things to look for either inwardly or in a friend or family member when identifying cocaine addiction. Read below for some signs of a cocaine addiction
Behavioral Symptoms- can include the following: Increased energy, a person being very talkative, an inability to modulate volume of one’s voice, bizarre or odd behavior, acting erratically such as jumping from task to task or subject to subject and increased recklessness, anger, irritability, or violence.
Mood Symptoms – may include the following: Anxiety, paranoia, panic, irritation, fearfulness, restlessness and euphoria.
Physical Symptoms – can include the following: Clenching of the jaw, weight loss over time, decreased need for sleep, headaches, nosebleeds, a runny or stuffy nose, dilated pupils, sexual dysfunction, muscle twitches and cravings.
Psychological Symptoms- may include the following: Lack of motivation, inability to stay focused, paranoia, violent mood swings, manic mood swings, hallucinations, poor judgment, psychosis, constantly making excuses or blaming others.
By themselves, many of these symptoms can be explained away by the stresses of life, but when patterns form, it is important to reach out and seek help; the sooner, the better. Anyone who has ever battled with some form of addiction is well aware the stranglehold their vice has on their life and just how much of an uphill battle of not only getting clean, but staying clean.
Cocaine Detox Process
Detox can be a frightening word, mainly due to all of the negatives that are associated with withdrawal, especially since the vast majority of addicts have faced milder withdrawals as their habit developed. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can be like hell, especially since it has to be the addict’s desire to get better. Aside from the awful flu-like symptoms, there are a whole mess of other things that one wouldn’t consider to lead to an even less stable mental state.
Cocaine detox is a medically supervised period of cocaine withdrawal in which a doctor or medical professional will give the individual seeking help medication to counteract symptoms. Currently, there are zero proven pharmacologic therapies for cocaine addiction, but there are several medications that do help aid in the withdrawal symptoms.
When an addict enters a detoxification program, the cocaine detox timeline can vary, but, generally an individual enters a detox unit and has a preliminary assessment by a doctor, asking a variety of questions regarding medical and drug use history to determine the proper treatment course. After this first evaluation, doctors may prescribe beta-blockers, antidepressants or antianxiety medications to lessen the psychological hold cocaine has on the brain.
For heavy users, withdrawal symptoms may appear within hours, and for those less intense users, symptoms may appear within 24 hours. Common substance abuse symptoms and signs include: Anxiety, depression, extreme cravings for the drug, exhaustion and fatigue, heavy nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, paranoia, insomnia, itching, irritability and mood swings.
To help combat such symptoms, medical professionals will likely prescribe an assortment of medications such as:
- Baclofen: Baclofen is a muscle relaxant. Baclofen increases the release of GABA.
- Gabapentin: A medication prescribed to prevent seizures, this drug helps to restore feelings of wellbeing by promoting the release of the neurotransmitter GABA.
- Modafinil: May prevent the fatigue and drowsiness associated with cocaine withdrawal by promoting healthy nighttime sleep and encouraging dopamine production.
- Topiramate: An anticonvulsant drug that may ease agitation during recovery by reducing activity in the central nervous system
- Vigabatrin: An antiepileptic medication that may reduce cocaine cravings by increasing production of GABA.
This information is not intended to scare off those considering detox. Rather, they are meant to prepare you mentally for what you may face and to make those who have first started using cocaine or are considering trying it recreationally, to rethink that notion. Now, for those who plan on taking on the challenge of detoxing, below are some tips and advice from experts on how to overcome this seemingly overwhelming hurdle.
- Reach out to Family and Friends – While it is likely that those close to you know full well the extent of your drug problem, it is vital that you reach out to for help and support. Let them know that you really want freedom from your addiction. You may feel guilty for the wrongs you’ve done them, but they are your anchor and your reason to get better. If you have wronged them, ask for absolution. Forgiveness is one of the key steps in recovery. Recovered addicts know you cannot go at it alone, this is why people in AA always have a sponsor. They are aware of how important it is to have someone in their life who can relate and thus keep you accountable. You must have a support system, consisting of family, friends, and other recovering addicts to keep up the fight.
- Detox at a Medical Facility – Although this may appear obvious, if you have the money, the best place to detox is an inpatient medical facility or a qualified treatment or a recovery center. Even if it is for only the initial phase, you will be monitored by medical professionals through the worst of it and they can keep an eye on your body’s vitals. On top of this, your body loses a ton of water and nutrients during this process, doctors will counteract that by pumping you full of fluids. This can foster a feeling of wellbeing even when it may feel like your body is dying. On top of this, isolation within a facility, removes the possibility of you giving up and getting a fix to stop the withdrawals. If you are not financially well off, there are a variety of state or city funded detox or treatment centers through the Substances and Abuse Mental Health Center’s website.
- Drink Water – Hydration is vital to humans. Water acts like the oil in a motor to help regulate the body’s systems and it is especially important when those systems are working on overdrive. As embarrassing as this may be to think about or discuss, when you get hit with withdrawals during the first stage of the detoxification process, you will probably get some lovely combination of extreme diarrhea and extreme nausea. As a result, dehydration is likely, due to this nausea combined with severe sweating that results from the massive shock to the system. It is important to dramatically increase water and electrolyte intake during the process, this will help your muscles from clenching and aid your body in its fight against the various symptoms.
- Find a sleep aid – Like water, sleep is very important to your body’s recovery process. During the detox, you will enter a hellish state of half-sleep, whereby you never feel fully awake or asleep and your mind is constantly focused on the lack of cocaine in your system. Speak with your doctor about finding a non-narcotic sleep aid. The first days are the hardest and often times sleepless, but it gets better. That said, you should be aware that you will likely have difficulty sleeping for a long time after detox.
- Detox is only the start – Once the first phase of withdrawal symptoms subsides, then the lifelong battle towards sobriety truly begins. It is important to immediately go from detoxing to getting treatment. Programs such as the 12-step program have been consistently shown to improve the lives of addicts and to decrease relapses. The counseling, support and spiritual guidance these programs provide are necessary for combatting addiction.
- You may screw up– More often than not, addicts go through a seemingly never ending cycle of getting clean and then relapsing. The path to sobriety is ugly and filled with regresses. The grasp cocaine has on the brain is significant and the way it alters the composition of the brain can have lasting impacts that must be fought. Do not ever believe that you cannot fight it. You can and you will be better off when you are freed from your addiction.
- Alter your patterns – Whether you are 1 day or ten years sober, the battle is never finished and you will never be fully clean. You cannot allow yourself to revert to your old drug abusing self. This may involve cutting out people who may tempt you to fall back into your addiction. Change your phone number, cut ties even move if you have to. Recovery is a lifelong battle that you need to face daily. It may seem hopeless at times, but if you change your behavior, you can make the fight easier.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, please know that you are not alone. At Luminance Recovery, our Orange County rehab center offers a safe and positive environment to get you one step closer to recovery. Contact us today for a better life tomorrow.
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