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Stages of Cocaine Withdrawal


Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug and is currently the second most illegally trafficked drug in the world. The largest amount of cocaine that was seized came from South America at 756 metric tons, which is not a big surprise since the coca plant (from which cocaine is derived from) is native to South America.


Cocaine is also the second most used, illegal drug. It is most commonly used between young people between the ages of 17 to 34. Researchers estimate that, in Europe, approximately 7.5 million people have used cocaine at least once in their lifetime, with 3.5 million being within the last year and 1.5 being within the last month. In the United States of America, researchers estimate that 35 million people over the age of 12 have tried this dangerous stimulant.


To put that into perspective, the entire population of the New York City is around 8 million, and the population of the United States of America is about 320 million people. So, that is more people than the entire population of one of the world’s biggest cities that has dabbled with cocaine.


Causes of Cocaine Addiction


Cocaine addiction is caused by many factors, and it is not as easy to recognize compared to other illicit drug addictions. Factors such as genetics, environment, biological, and psychological all come into play when considering a drug addiction. This is referred to as a “bio-pyscho-social” model.


Genetics: research shows that people who have a relative with a drug addiction are more likely to develop an addiction themselves. These chances of an addiction are higher if the related individual is at the first degree, such as a parent.


However, there could be more social factors that play into this genetic theory which will come up in environmental.


Environmental: Many sociologists are looking into addiction to see how social factors are influencing a person’s addiction. They are hypothesizing that people who come from home environments with addictions are more likely to engage in drug abuse because of the ease in obtaining the drug. Furthermore, if one lifestyle, such as one filled with drug abuse, is all a person sees and knows, they are more likely to engage in this because they may be unconcerned about the consequences.


Additionally, environmental factors caused by life stressors, such as child abuse, death of loved ones, or other traumatic events can instigate drug abuse because of the desire to create pleasure that is not ordinarily felt.


Biological: drug addictions are also caused by the wiring of the brain. After over consuming a drug for an extended period of time, an individual’s wiring of their brain will change, causing the addiction. When the brain perceives its dopamine levels to be too low, a person may then start to abuse drugs and other substances more to increase or maintain feelings of pleasure, which is the root to how addictions occur, but more on this later.


More On Biological Causes of Addiction


The biology of an addict is very important to understand when looking at individuals who suffer from drug abuse. Addiction is caused by the pleasure-producing center of the brain. When someone uses cocaine, their brain and body get an overall feeling of well-being and euphoria. Clearly, here you can see that the main feeling associated with addiction is pleasure.


In an individual’s brain, there are many different neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters send chemical messages that tell our bodies how to feel and how to function. When our neurotransmitters are out of balance, it can wreak havoc on our bodies.


The neurotransmitter associated with pleasure is dopamine. Through evolution, dopamine has been a very important neurotransmitter to help ensure our survival. Our bodies produce dopamine during pleasurable experiences that help to sustain us, such as with food, social contact, and sex. Our brains are wired to create pleasure for us. This is essential in understanding how addiction works.


With this pleasure, our brains begin to reinforce behavior. When we receive pleasure during a certain activity, such as when eating, our brain learns that we will continue to have feelings of pleasure when we do that activity. This makes a lot of sense when understanding our body’s desire for survival. It also makes sense when you understand how a person can manipulate these feelings, thus causing an addiction. Because, when a person manually overstimulates their pleasure system, the drugs can cause neuroadaptive changes that damage their normal experiences of pleasure.


When a person manually changes their pleasure system, it changes their normal experiences of pleasure. So, when a person has sober experiences that would normally give them pleasure, such as through food, social interaction, and sex, they do not feel the same amount of pleasure that they might have before ever taking the drug. This is when an addiction has taken over, when sober experiences are no longer pleasurable.


When an addiction begins to control the body it is because the wiring in the brain has changed. This change is referred to neuroadaptation because the neurons within the brain are sending and receiving slightly different messages. The body has a natural process called homeostasis, which is when the body is always trying to remain balanced. Homeostasis almost always causing the body to be compensating for something, such as trying to warm the body when it is cool outside, shivering, or trying to cool the body on a hot day.


When our brains are going through homeostasis with neuroadaptation, it is because our body is trying to keep the balance. Some of the neurotransmitters are working at a different pace than they once were before. Our brains are overstimulated by dopamine and pleasure (that is caused by manually overriding our system with drugs), and our bodies become accustomed to these levels of dopamine.


When this happens, our brains expect a higher level of dopamine in order to release pleasure in our brains, so, when we are sober, this level of pleasure cannot possibly be met. Through this one can see how sober experiences that once caused pleasure will no longer seem rewarding, leaving the drug abuser to have a profound inability to experience pleasure.


Consequences of Addiction


The consequences of a drug addiction are mental, physical, and emotional.


The sheer fact of having an addiction will cause a constant craving for the drug and to achieve that level of pleasure that an addict’s brain has been rewired to feel. Sobriety no longer feels rewarding in any sense, even with food, social contact, or sex.


There are many serious medical consequences of an addiction as well, especially to cocaine. A cocaine addiction is linked to cardiovascular disease, strokes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis , lung disease, and more.


Other serious medical consequences that come from drug abuse are due to the changes in the brain that occur as a result of the side effects of cocaine. One may notice abrupt changes in weight, bad skin, bad hair, and bad teeth. Also, some people have problems with memory and recall trouble with changes in speech.


Emotionally, cocaine can cause serious effects with our neurological processes. Addiction to cocaine can also lead to depression, anxiety, paranoia, mood swings, psychosis, and aggression.


All of these consequences of an addiction make sober life even more difficult for an addict, which can help one understand how a drug such as cocaine that has so many pleasure benefits can easily take over a person’s life.


As human beings, we are wired for social contact and connection. We thrive as social animals and are not meant to live a life in solitude. With an addiction, however, many may experience severe social consequences because of their behavior. It is difficult to trust addicts because they are not themselves as their drug addiction to cocaine has taken over. Drug addictions can cause relationship changes, job loss, and suspension from social activities.


Furthermore, the secondary effects of drug addiction are immense. For example, a child growing up with a parent suffering from a drug addiction can incur lasting neurological/psychological effects. Not to mention if the mother is pregnant with her child during the time of her addiction, her baby may develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, growth deficiencies, and central nervous system deficits.


Addiction can also play a large role in domestic abuse, with many cocaine addicts being physical abusers as well. This is not a far stretch to see as cocaine can cause severe mood swings and aggression.


Cocaine Withdrawal


Going through the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal is a necessary step for any addict to get clean and to regain control over their lives.


Fortunately, withdrawal from cocaine is not as intense as withdrawal from other drugs such as heroin or alcohol, however, there are some intense side effects that need to be noted.


Symptoms from cocaine withdrawal are fatigue and exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, inability to feel pleasure, inability to experience sexual arousal, depression, anxiety, chills, tremors, muscle aches, nerve pain, suicidal thought or actions, increased cravings for cocaine, increased appetite, unpleasant dreams, slowed activity, restlessness, and slower cognitive functioning.

As you can see, going through withdrawal from cocaine is not a pleasant experience.


Withdrawal – Explored


Going through the stages of cocaine withdrawal can mean different things, so let us clarify. Withdrawal is the umbrella term used for when the drug, in this case cocaine, is leaving the body after its half life is finished. Therefore the positive effects of the drug are wearing off and a person starts to “crash” i.e. there is a sudden drop off from the euphoria felt by the drug.


Withdrawal starts as soon as a person stops taking the drug. However, withdrawal is also commonly referred to as the period when a person is trying to become clean and stop abusing drugs. During this time, they will go through an intense withdrawal detox period to become completely clean from the effects of the drug, but that is only the start of their recovery process.


Some may consider going through a medical cocaine detox because of co-occurring illnesses to a drug addiction and the desire for medical professionals to assist during the process. These co-occurring illnesses are often times mental health disorders. An important thing to be aware of is that because of the strong crash that occurs during the withdrawal period, many addicts trying to become clean also become suicidal because of increased feelings of depression. In this case, a medical detox with professional supervision is suggested.


Co-occurring mental health disorders are seriously important when considering their serious effects on the brain. Depression and anxiety can be co-occurring mental health disorders as well as being symptoms of cocaine withdrawal.


Depression and anxiety causes are not completely understood by researchers, however, there is a strong connection of these disorders happening when a person’s neurotransmitters are out of balance. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter associated with mood, social behavior, memory, and sexual desire. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression.


When a person’s neurotransmitters are out of whack because of an addiction, this can be even more dangerous when a person considers other neurotransmitters being abnormal as well. When a person crashes after taking cocaine, they can suffer severe mood swings because their dopamine levels suddenly crash. This can cause immediate sadness or depression to strike the abuser.


However, if a person has depression, they may not feel as depressed when using cocaine because of heightened dopamine, but when those levels suddenly stop, a person will begin to feel even more down than before. The effects could be quite dangerous, as severe depression is linked to suicide. For this reason, getting yourself or a loved one to a rehab center is the safest first start to recovery.


Getting Help


Getting clean is difficult, it is hard, it is also the best thing you can do for yourself if you are an addict. If you or a loved one are suffering from a cocaine addiction, please contact Luminance Recovery today. Our Orange County rehab offers experienced professionals and a safe environment that can get you on the road to recovery.

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