Cocaine Addiction and Detox

March 20, 2023

Cocaine, made from the coca plant, is a stimulant that gives the user a feeling of extreme euphoria as well as increased energy and alertness. Cocaine can be an especially lethal drug because of the long-term effects it has on the cardiovascular system. It is available in a variety of forms, most notably crack (which intensifies its effects). Chronic cocaine use can lead to a higher tolerance for the drug, as is also the case for meth and heroin. Elevated cocaine usage following drug tolerance sets the stage for an accidental overdose. 

Cocaine addiction is treatable and medical detox allows you to rid cocaine from your body while under the care of licensed healthcare professionals. These professionals will not only attend to your physical health during the process but also provide treatments to reduce the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

How Cocaine Addiction Affects Your Health

The use of cocaine raises both heart rate and blood pressure among other effects. Snorting cocaine may produce nosebleeds, a reduced ability to smell, and damage to the nasal septum. In some cases, the nose becomes continually runny. Psychologically, extended cocaine use may produce sleep deprivation, mood instability as well as problems thinking clearly and remembering past events. The cardiovascular system can also suffer from cocaine abuse and result in heart disease. The consequences may include the heart staying in a state of inflammation or having problems with efficient contraction to push the blood through the body. 

Cocaine’s side effect of insomnia leads some users to combine cocaine with a depressant such as alcohol, marijuana, or heroin. Cocaine combinations can be deadly. When taken with alcohol, the result increases the risk of sudden death. When a cocaine overdose occurs, the body experiences extremely serious side effects that may have the potential to kill the person. While a cocaine overdose is generally assumed to be a matter of too large an amount used, there are other scenarios that can also account for a cocaine overdose. For example, if a user encounters a much purer batch of cocaine, the same amount that was previously snorted to produce a high may lead to an overdose. Likewise, combining the use of cocaine with other drugs or alcohol can lead to an overdose situation. 

Cocaine overdose has a variety of symptoms such as:

  • A very fast heartbeat (tachycardia) or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blood pressure spike
  • Lightheadedness and pale skin color
  • Seizure
  • Unconsciousness

If you use cocaine and experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care immediately.

Cocaine vs Crack: What’s the Difference?

Cocaine is a powder that is snorted or combined with another drug. Crack cocaine, in contrast, is a hardened substance resembling small pebbles. They may be yellowish or white in color. Crack cocaine is produced by mixing cocaine with baking soda (or ammonia) and water. This process removes hydrochloride. After the process is completed and the rock-like objects are formed with drying, the drug is smoked. 

Crack is considered extremely addictive, so much so that it is difficult to estimate how little exposure can lead to crack dependency.

How Does Detox Treat Cocaine Addiction?

Because of the risks of heart arrhythmia and blood pressure problems, medically-supervised detox is strongly recommended for a person seeking to end his or her cocaine addiction. Medical detox is preceded by a physical exam to establish a patient’s readiness for treatment and identify any accompanying health conditions that may influence the nature of the treatment. Physicians may prescribe one or more medications to help a patient through the withdrawal process. Among the options are:

  • Clonidine – This medication treats withdrawal symptoms such as muscle aches, insomnia, and tremors
  • Desipramine – This is an antidepressant and nerve pain medication
  • Haloperidol – This medication is used if psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, manifest during cocaine withdrawal

Once major withdrawal symptoms are finished and the body is rid of cocaine, the next stage of recovery begins. This is typically the discharge from the detox facility. Medications may be prescribed to assist with the ongoing management of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Typically someone who exits detox is advised to enter a counseling setting such as a rehabilitation center (rehab). Rehab centers may offer individual counseling, group counseling, or both. The counseling is focused on developing health behaviors and attitudes that help preserve sobriety. After rehab, a patient may be encouraged to join a support group with regular meetings and sobriety sponsors. Narcotics Anonymous is an example of a support group tailored for people suffering addictions to drugs such as cocaine.

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