What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that increases both body and brain activity. It causes users to feel more alert, confident, and happy. But cocaine has a dark side; it is responsible for countless hospitalizations and overdose deaths across the U.S.
How is cocaine made?
Cocaine is made from leaves of the coca plant, mainly found in South and Central America. It takes about 900 pounds of these leaves to make just one kilo of cocaine. The leaves are soaked in water, acid, and bleach to extract the drug from the leaves. Cement, lime, lots of gasoline, and ammonia are only a few of the other substances that are added to make the popular white powdered drug.
Is cocaine illegal?
In every state other than Oregon, which in 2020 became the first state in the United States to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug, cocaine is considered to be illegal for recreational use.
Cocaine Street Names
Like other drugs, cocaine is rarely sold by its name on the streets. Dealers and addicts alike usually prefer to call it by one of a number of street names, which include: Coke, C, Snow, Blow, Bump, Rock, Toot, Flake, and Coca.
Are Crack and Cocaine the Same Drug?
Crack cocaine is not used in the same way as traditional cocaine. Crack is smoked, while other forms of cocaine can be snorted or injected into a vein.
Crack is made by lacing coke with other substances, such as cornstarch, flour, or another non-addictive substance. This is also called cutting. Once mixed, it is cooked down to remove the hydrochloride and produce a product that can be smoked. This is typically in the form of a rock that is off-white or yellow in color.
Making crack first became popular in the 1980s. It was a way for drug dealers to make more money on cocaine because it stretches the product further. Once introduced, crack cocaine’s popularity surged quickly.
The History of Cocaine in the U.S.
The history of cocaine is very interesting. Around 3000 BC, ancient Incas who lived in the Andes would chew the leaves of the coca plant as a way to speed their heart rates and their breathing due to the thing mountain air. Historically, many societies would chew the leaves during religious ceremonies.
Cocaine was first extracted from coca leaves in 1859 by Albert Neimann, a German chemist. But it did not become popular in the medical community until the 1880s. Sigmund Freud was a proud user of the drug, and he used to promote it as a cure for depression and sexual impotence. He called it a magical substance. Freud believed that there was no such thing as a toxic dose of cocaine, and when he prescribed it for one of his patients, they died as a result.
Coca-Cola actually got its name from cocaine because it was an ingredient that was included in the soda until they were forced to remove it in 1903. The United States government reported that there had been 5,000 cocaine-related deaths in one year in 1912. But it was not until 1922 that the drug was made illegal in our country.
Since that time, people have still continued to use this drug. Over the years, it has become common in Hollywood and among people with high-profile jobs. Today, hundreds of tons of cocaine are produced and exported every year. It is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance, which means that it does have some medical uses, although most doctors prefer to use safer alternatives.
Understanding Cocaine’s Side Effects
Cocaine is a powerful drug that can be highly addictive; especially with repeated use. Using this drug even one time can have serious side effects, and they include:
- An intense sense of euphoria.
- Reduced fatigue and increased energy levels.
- Increased mental alertness.
- Loss of appetite.
- Less need for sleep.
- Feelings of restlessness.
- Irritability and anxiety.
- A state of paranoia with high doses.
Why is Cocaine Addictive?
What makes individuals continue to compulsively use cocaine even when they know it could cost them their jobs, home, relationships, freedom, and even their lives? In other words, why is cocaine so addictive?
Cocaine affects the part of the brain that controls pleasure and motivation. When someone takes the drug, it causes the release and build up of dopamine, the brain’s pleasure and reward chemical. It’s this dopamine that gives us feelings of euphoria and the desire to use the drug again and again. In simple terms, the brain rewards us every time we use the drug.
In addition to the feelings of euphoria, even small doses of coke can have a stimulating effect on the body, making a person feel more energetic, self-assure, talkative, and mentally alert. Hence why it makes for such a great party drug and a mental stimulant for people working long hours or in social settings.
The only problem is that repeated and frequent cocaine use can increase our tolerance to the drug. Tolerance occurs when we need to consume higher quantities of the drug to feel the same effects we once did with a smaller dose. This vicious cycle of increasing doses to feel the same high can lead to cocaine addiction.
Why do People Abuse Cocaine?
There is a difference between cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction. Someone may be abusing the drug but isn’t necessarily addicted to it. As a matter of fact, any recreational use of cocaine is considered abuse.
The National Institutes of Health’s definition of drug abuse is – “The use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts.”
People begin abusing cocaine for a variety of reasons including:
- Self Medication: Many people with mental health problems use psycho stimulants like cocaine to help them cope with and block out the overwhelming feelings of anxiety, fear, negative thoughts, and depression. They continue using the drug
because they think it makes them ‘feel better’.
- To Stay Awake: As mentioned earlier, one of the primary effects of cocaine is that users feel more alert, awake, and energetic. For that reason, it’s common for people to start using coke just to help them work, study, or party longer.
- To Fit In: “You have to try it, it’s amazing” – Responding to peer pressure from friends and acquaintances who use the drug. Many people try coke for the first time in social situations, out of fear that they won’t be like or accepted.
- Curiosity: Some people try coke for the first time because they’re curious about how it will make them feel. For some, they use it with alcohol, marijuana or other drugs to increase their buzz.
What are the Signs of Cocaine Addiction?
Someone who has a cocaine addiction will demonstrate most, if not all, of the following signs. They may:
- Have a faster heart rate than normal.
- Talk, move and think faster than other people.
- Have a high body temperature.
- Experience shaking and twitching.
- Be unable to sleep much at night.
- Be unable to sleep much.
- Experience quick mood swings.
- Have paranoia.
- Go through a “crash” after using, which can cause them to feel tired and sad for many days.
- Have extreme cravings for cocaine.
- Suffer from nosebleeds.
- Lose their sense of smell.
- Have a runny nose all the time.
Some other signs of addiction include:
- Going through withdrawal when the drug is out of the person’s system.
- Feeling the need to increase how much of the drug they use in order to get the same effects.
- Experiencing physical or mental health issues as a result of the drug use, yet refusing to quit.
- Choosing to use the drug in secret.
- Making sure they always have a good supply of their drug of choice on hand at all times.
- Denying that they have a problem with cocaine.
- Giving up activities or hobbies they enjoy because they would rather use the drug.
- Taking dangerous risks in order to obtain their drug of choice.
- Using as a way to cope with one’s problems.
There are several factors that can put a person at risk for cocaine addiction and abuse. They include:
- Having a family history of addiction – Researchers say that genetics may account for 40%-60% of the risk.
- Family environment – The fact that many people actually witness drug abuse from family members plays a role too.
- Influence from peers – Friends can easily influence people to start using drugs like cocaine. This is especially true during the teenage years.
- The age of first use – Young people who try drugs have a much bigger chance of getting addicted later on in their lives.
- The method of use – People who smoke or inject drugs have a higher chance of getting addicted. This is because these methods provide quicker access to the brain.
- The type of drug being used – Certain drugs are much easier to get addicted to than others. For example, marijuana is known to be non-addictive physically. But a drug like cocaine can lead to addiction within just a few uses.
Symptoms of Cocaine Use – The Short & Long-Term Effects
Using cocaine for any period of time is going to have a profound effect on the mind and body. But there are some differences depending on how long the drug is being used.
Many of the short-term effects of cocaine are pleasurable. This only increases the chances that a person will use the drug repeatedly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the drug’s effects will appear almost immediately after use.
The short-term effects of cocaine include:
- A feeling of euphoria.
- Becoming more talkative.
- Becoming more mentally alert.
- Becoming hypersensitive to touch, sound and sight.
- Less of a need for food and sleep.
- Constricted blood vessels.
- Dilated pupils.
- An increase in body temperature.
- An increase in heart rate.
- An increase in blood pressure.
If a person is using larger doses of cocaine, they could demonstrate, violent, bizarre behaviors. Panic, tremors and paranoia are also common.
Continuing to abuse cocaine long-term can be detrimental to brain function. It can cause significant changes in the brain that may not be reversible.
Some additional long-term effects of cocaine addiction include:
- Increased displeasure.
- Negative moods when not using the drug.
- Withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer in the system.
- Tolerance, which means that more of the drug is needed to achieve the same or similar results.
- Panic attacks.
- Full-blown psychosis.
- Irritation of the nasal septum.
- Tears and ulcers in the intestinal tract.
- Weight loss.
- Heart problems.
- An increased risk of stroke.
- An increased risk of seizures.
- An increased risk of bleeding in the brain.
Why Is Mixing Cocaine with Other Drugs Dangerous?
Consuming cocaine at the same time with other substances like prescription medications, illicit drugs, and/or alcohol can have very unpredictable and dangerous outcomes.
As a matter of fact, most fatal overdoses involve the use of more than one type of drug. This is referred to as Polysubstance Abuse.
Polysubstance abuse is dangerous because mixing drugs causes different effects than either drug would normally cause on its own.
For example, cocaine and heroin are both dangerous drugs. When the two drugs are combined, their effects are compounded. Although they do opposite things to the body their effects do not cancel each other out.
The Speedball – Cocaine and Heroin Mixed
Cocaine is a stimulant drug that speeds up the heart and causes the body to need more oxygen. Heroin on the other hand, is a depressant that slows down our breathing and reduces the body’s oxygen supply. When cocaine and heroin are taken at the same time (aka speedballing), it puts a strain on the organs and increases the risk of respiratory failure and death.
Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol
One of the most popular recreational drug combinations is cocaine and alcohol. As a matter of fact, about 75% of cocaine users report drinking alcohol while they’re using cocaine. Unfortunately, this mix has profoundly negative and toxic effects on the body. When taken together, alcohol and cocaine create a chemical in the body called cocaethylene that is toxic to the heart and liver.
Cocaine Addiction Recovery
Recovering from a cocaine addiction means addressing both the physical and psychological sides of the problem. This is done through detox and rehab, and both are recommended for this drug.
Cocaine Detox – A Critical First Step to Recovery
Treatment for cocaine addiction begins with detoxification, or detox for short.
Oftentimes people confuse detox and rehab, thinking they are one and the same. However, detox is more or less a prerequisite first step in the rehabilitation process.
Think of detox as the process of cleansing the body of cocaine and all its toxins. Rehab on the other hand, is more about getting to the root psychological causes and effects of cocaine addiction. However, before someone can address the psychological aspects of their addiction, they must first be physically stable enough to participate in and commit to treatment. This requires them to stop using cocaine!
However, anyone who’s been addicted to cocaine will tell you that quitting isn’t as easy as – “Just Say NO”! That’s because when someone tries to stop using coke after repeated and regular use, they suffer from what’s referred to as withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms are the physical and psychological side effects of decreasing or stopping drug use. When someone is addicted to or dependent on cocaine, it feels like both their brain and body need the drug to function normally.
Detox is sometimes referred to as withdrawal management, because getting to the next stage of recovery is all about managing and getting past the painful withdrawal symptoms. Many people who try quitting cocaine cold turkey, start back using after only a first few hours/days, just to avoid the symptoms.
How Long Does it Take to Detox from Cocaine?
Detox timelines aren’t the same for everyone. The length and intensity of the detox process will depend on the individual’s history of drug use. A few key factors that influence detox times are:
- How long they have been using or have been addicted to cocaine
- How frequently they use the drug
- The quantity of cocaine they consume in each sitting
- If they are have been abusing other drugs in addiction to cocaine
The typical detoxification process takes about 5-10 days to complete, however, for individuals with severe addictions it could take up to a 3 weeks.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
Some common withdrawal symptoms for cocaine include:
- Feeling depressed.
- Becoming agitated and restless.
- Feeling extremely fatigued.
- Having intense cravings for cocaine.
- A general feeling of discomfort.
- Having an increased appetite.
- Having vivid and unpleasant dreams.
- A slowing down of physical and mental activity.
Some people may also develop suicidal thoughts related to depression once they stop using cocaine. This is one reason why it is so important do so in a professional setting.
Options for Cocaine Detoxification Programs
Someone who is recovering from cocaine addiction will most likely be recommended for medical detox and holistic detox treatments. Both can effectively address their withdrawal symptoms and help them feel better faster.
Medical detox involves the use of medications to help with withdrawal. For example, a person may be placed on an antidepressant to help with symptoms of depression. Holistic detox involves the use of more natural treatment methods, such as starting a new exercise program or making changes in one’s diet.
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in the Body?
There’s a lot of curiosity about how long cocaine stays in the body.
One reason could be if someone is worried about cocaine showing up on an upcoming drug test. Another could be if they’re experiencing side effects and they don’t know when they’ll subside. Whatever the case may be, there is a general consensus on how long cocaine stays in the human body.
The Cocaine Half Life
The half-life of cocaine refers to how long it takes for half the amount of cocaine consumed to leave a person’s body. Cocaine’s half-life is pretty fast –Approximately one hour! Since the average cocaine high lasts anywhere from about 15-30 minutes, it isn’t surprising that the human body can get rid of 50% of the drug in just one hour.
Cocaine Drug Testing
After someone last uses cocaine, the drug can show up in a blood or saliva test for up to two days. For a casual user, a urine test can show traces of cocaine for up to 3 days after the last use. For heavy users, they can expect a positive urine test for as much as up to 2 weeks after last using. A hair follicle test can show a positive result for cocaine use for months or in some cases years after the person last used.
Cocaine Addiction Rehab
Drug rehabilitation programs offer various types of therapy for the purpose of treating the addiction’s underlying cause. It is important to determine why the person started using cocaine in the first place. Because of the nature of this drug, many people who use it are actually suffering from mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder or even PTSD. This is called having a co-occurring disorder
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorders are very common in people who use drugs like cocaine. Addicts will frequently use the drug as a way to self-medicate their symptoms away. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of people in need of rehab are suffering from a mental health issue that has not been addressed properly. Many people are not even aware that they have one.
Dual diagnosis treatment is a method of treating co-occurring disorders at the same time as the addiction. It is very beneficial because it removes the reason for the person’s drug use. That gives them a much better chance of being successful in recovery.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Rehab is the gold standard in cocaine addiction treatment because it offers comprehensive, round-the-clock care in a safe and sober living environment. If you’re unsure about your ability to get clean, then, rehab is your best option. You’ll have access to the following services in rehab, but can also opt to pursue these services on your own if you’re not yet ready to try addiction treatment:
- Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous. These popular 12-step programs are highly effective at getting participants sober. By working the steps, you’ll steadily regain control over your life, get the peer support you need, and eventually be confident in your ability to remain sober.
- Therapy with a trained addiction counselor. Through therapy, you’ll explore the origins of your addiction, assess why you continue using, and develop strategies for resisting the temptation to continue using. If you have an underlying mental health condition, your therapist will also help you develop strategies for coping with it.
- Medical care under the supervision of a physician who specializes in addiction medicine. Your doctor will ensure you are safe during the detox process, and may even prescribe medications to reduce the symptoms and severity of detox. If you have an underlying mental or physical health problem, your doctor can prescribe medications to treat these conditions as well.
What to Expect During Cocaine Addiction Treatment
A lot of people never consider getting treatment for their addictions simply because they are not sure what to expect. The prospect of talking about their struggles with strangers is too much for them, so they resign themselves to continuing to use it.
The reality is that going to drug rehab is often pretty straight forward. It is important to address the physical aspect of the person’s substance abuse problem first. This means treating their withdrawal symptoms. Afterwards, it is time to address the psychological withdrawal symptoms that can occur.
Cocaine Rehab Services
Although a good substance addiction treatment program should be customized to address each individual’s unique case, there are few rehabilitation services that are typically included in most programs:
- Group therapy – Peer support is absolutely necessary for most people during addiction recovery. It helps to talk with others and learn from their experiences. It is also nice for the addict to know they are not alone.
- Individual therapy sessions – Working one on one with a therapist is a critical part of the recovery process. Therapy can help people understand their own behaviors and why they do the things they do. It can also help them modify dangerous behaviors and make better decisions in the future.
- Medication management – A lot of people are taking medications when they come to rehab, or they need to be taking them to manage their conditions. Medication management services allow staff to monitor them closely and make changes as needed.
- Experiential activities – A lot of rehab programs use experiences as a way to teach certain concepts. Equine therapy is a popular option for this, and the same is true for other experiences, such as rock climbing and Yoga.
- Family therapy sessions – A person’s strongest support system is their family. It is important to work on those vital relationships when someone is going through addiction treatment. So much healing can take place to restore families and friendships.
Getting Treatment for a Co-Occurring Disorder
About half of the people who need to go to drug rehab actually suffer from co-occurring disorders. These are mental health conditions that often lead to, but can result in, the use of a substance like cocaine.
People who are addicted to cocaine could be suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or a number of other mental health issues. Their use of cocaine is not just a way for them to get high. It is a way for them to escape the internal pain they feel because of their co-occurring disorder.
One of a therapist’s most important jobs is to determine if an addict has a co-occurring disorder. It is critical for it to be treated so that they have the best possible chance of recovering from their addiction successfully.
A lot of people think that once they finish rehab, their addictions will be “cured” and they can move on with their lives. Unfortunately, there is no cure for addiction. There are many ways to treat it, and it is possible for people to live normal lives, and even thrive. But doing so typically requires receiving some type of ongoing treatment and/or support.
A lot of people start by going through an inpatient program and then transitioning into an IOP or outpatient rehab as a part of their aftercare plan. Others may begin with outpatient rehab and then begin attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. It all depends on what works best for the individual.
Even with the most stellar program, no addiction can be treated completely within a month’s time. It can take much longer before people start to feel like themselves, but every step they take is a step in the right direction.
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Finding a Quality Drug Rehab Program
As we mentioned earlier, there are many excellent drug treatment programs. But how do you know if you have chosen the right one to meet your individual needs? You may want to start by answering the following questions:
- Is the rehab facility accredited by the Joint Commission?
- Does the program provide you with the type of treatment you need?
- Does the rehab participate with your insurance plan so that your costs stay as low as possible?
- Have you spoken with someone who works at the facility so you can be certain you are not dealing with a rehab broker?
- Have you read reviews online from real patients or clients who were satisfied with the care they receive?
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction in Arizona
At SpringBoard Recovery, we have worked with many people who were struggling with cocaine addiction.
We use only the most modern methods of treatment that have been proven to be effective.
The first step is to provide the client with a detox referral so they can get help for their withdrawal symptoms. We only refer to programs we know and trust.
Next, the client will return to us for their treatment. We offer one of the best outpatient drug rehabilitation programs. Personalized care is something we specialize in because we know that every patient and every addiction is different.
Many of our clients come to us from all over the country to get treatment. Whether they are traveling for rehab, or they live locally and need additional support, our sober living home offers them a safe place to stay while they recover.
Get Help for Cocaine Addiction Today – Recovery is Possible
It can be difficult for anyone to recover from cocaine addiction without the right support. But the good news is that they do not have to. We can provide people with the help they need to successfully treat this addiction and go on to live the life they have always dreamed of.
Would you like to learn more about cocaine addiction? Do you have questions about our drug rehab program or about sober living? Please do not hesitate to contact us.
- Definition of Drug Abuse from the National Cancer Institute: Available at:
- Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States:
Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.(SAMHSA). https://www.samhsa.gov
- The United States Department of Justice. (n.d.). Crack Cocaine Fast Facts.
- Foundation for A Drug-Free World. (n.d.). Cocaine A Short Story.
- Eric J. Nestler. (2005, Dec). The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction. National Center for Biotechnology Information.