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Is Cocaine Addictive? Insights from a Cocaine Rehab Guide
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Is Cocaine Addictive? Insights from a Cocaine Rehab Guide

Written by Seth Fletcher on January 27, 2024
Medical editor Dr. Chintan Shah
Last update: May 13, 2024

Cocaine is one of the world’s most trafficked and abused drugs. Its status as a party drug makes it easily accessible and abused by individuals from all walks of life. Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the South American Coca plant and processed into a white powder or crystals, which is snorted, smoked, or injected.

An addictive substance has the potential to cause compulsive and uncontrollable substance-seeking behaviour. So, is cocaine (coke) addictive, and how addictive is cocaine? Cocaine causes changes to the brain’s reward system, leading to compulsive pursuit and use of the drug. CCFA explains what makes cocaine addictive, its health implications, and how you can help a loved one find treatment for cocaine addiction.

Key Takeaways

●  Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that changes the brain’s reward system, making it difficult to beat the addictive use

●  Cocaine addiction can lead to a variety of severe health conditions if not addressed

●  It is possible to overcome cocaine addiction with the right combination of treatment and support

Why is Cocaine So Addictive?

To understand why cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs, you need to know how the brain reacts to cocaine. When a person first uses cocaine, it produces an incredibly intense high due to its stimulation of the brain’s reward centres. These euphoric sensations are short-lived, and the user feels a comedown or “low” when the euphoria passes. Consequently, they may seek cocaine again to recreate the high and possibly become addicted to the drug. The main reasons a person becomes addicted to cocaine are:

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a learning process in which a behaviour is repeated because it is rewarded. For cocaine addiction, the reward is the euphoria the drug produces. When a person uses cocaine, they feel happy, confident, and full of energy. Cocaine effects serve as a reward for using the drug, making it likely that they’ll use it again in the future. Over time, the brain becomes conditioned to associate cocaine use with pleasure, making it difficult to stop using the drug.

Short-lived Euphoria

Cocaine produces a powerful euphoric rush, but these sensations last for a short time, usually between five and 30 minutes. After the high passes, users tend to feel depressed, anxious, and irritable. These negative feelings can trigger a cycle of increased cocaine use as the user attempts to recapture the initial high. As the brain gets used to cocaine, the user will need more of the substance to get the same effects. This cycle can quickly lead to dependence, where the user has to take cocaine to feel good. The individual will eventually form an addiction if they keep taking cocaine.

Cocaine is Often Mixed with Other Drugs

Cocaine users often tend to combine the drug with other substances. Many people who use cocaine also use alcohol, marijuana, and other stimulants. These substances can interact with cocaine, producing unexpected results and increasing its addiction potential.

Withdrawal Avoidance

When a person who has been abusing cocaine for some time suddenly stops using the drug, they may experience a range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. For some users, the symptoms may be so severe they’ll use cocaine again to avoid them. However, this can create a dangerous drug use cycle that can lead to addiction.

If you or a loved one is abusing or dealing with the effects of cocaine abuse and addiction, the Canadian Centre for Addictions can help. At CCFA, we offer cocaine addiction treatment in an environment that inspires lasting change. Our team of experts will guide you or a loved one through the addiction recovery process so you can get your life back on track.

Causes of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine use is clearly dangerous, but many still abuse the drug. So, why is cocaine addictive, and why do people do cocaine till they become addicted? One’s addiction to cocaine is often due to a combination of factors, including:

Genetic History

Some people may be more likely to develop cocaine addiction due to genetic predisposition. Individuals from families where relatives have struggled with addiction in the past may be at higher risk of becoming addicted to cocaine. Studies show that genetic makeup may play a role in up to 70% of cocaine addiction cases.

Psychological or Environmental Factors

Negative experiences and unpleasant life events can cause people to seek out substances like cocaine as a coping mechanism. Young people growing up in environments where they are exposed to alcohol, marijuana, and similar substances may be more likely to experiment with harder substances like cocaine.

Pre-Existing Mental Health Conditions

People struggling with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia may turn to cocaine as a way of dealing with their symptoms.

Cocaine Addiction Risk Factors

Risk factors for cocaine addiction include:

●  Peer pressure

●  Dealing with high levels of stress

●  Having easy access to cocaine

●  Exposure to violence, poverty, or unemployment

●  Exposure to cocaine while in utero

●  A history of childhood abuse or neglect

●  Social isolation or lack of social support

●  A history of risky behaviour, such as gambling or unprotected sex

●  A personal history of mental health problems

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

The signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction may be physical, behavioural, or cognitive

Physical Signs and Symptoms

●  Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)

●  Rapid heart rate

●  Increased perspiration

●  Nose bleeds

●  Seizures

●  Dilated pupils

Behavioural Signs and Symptoms

●  Increased participation in risky activities

●  Sudden episodes of aggression

●  Anxiety and depression

●  Secretive or dishonest behaviour

●  Rapid speech

●  Mood swings

●  Loss of interest

●  Increased energy and hyperactivity

Cognitive Signs and Symptoms

●  Euphoria

●  Hallucinations

●  Restlessness

●  Panic

●  Paranoia

●  Irritability

How to Tell If Someone is Addicted to Cocaine

People with cocaine addiction will tend to hide or deny that they have a problem when confronted. However, there are tell-tale signs of cocaine use and addiction to watch out for if you suspect someone is addicted to cocaine. Take a look at our guide on how to tell if someone is on drugs so you're always prepared in such situations

Nosebleeds or Runny Nose

Most cocaine users snort the powder through their nostrils for a quick, intense high. However, this method of ingestion can damage the skin and cartilage in the nose. Continuous cocaine ingestion via this route can lead to a deviated or perforated septum, which can lead to nosebleeds and runny nose.

Disheveled or Unkempt Appearance Due to Poor Hygiene

For someone with cocaine addiction, getting the drug takes priority over every other thing, including their hygiene. They become more motivated to spend their money on funding their addiction than getting clothes or personal hygiene products. They may also not be aware of their deteriorating hygiene as they focus on getting high.

Sudden Weight Changes

Cocaine addiction can cause weight changes in either direction. It can cause weight loss due to the drug’s appetite-suppressant properties. Cocaine use can also disrupt the body’s metabolic processes, leading to weight gain.

Social Isolation

Cocaine addiction can lead to paranoia that makes the individual avoid social situations out of fear. They may also prioritize using the drug over forming social relationships, leading to reduced social interaction. Long-term cocaine users may act erratically, damaging their existing relationships and creating a vicious cycle of isolation and drug use.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Cocaine’s stimulant actions increase energy and alertness, making it difficult for users to shut down or sleep. Even when they do, they wake up frequently and have trouble returning to sleep. Over time, these disruptions can lead to changes in brain chemistry that impact sleep patterns permanently.

Risky Behaviour and Legal Troubles

Cocaine use can impair judgment and decision-making, making users prone to reckless activity. They may drive while intoxicated or engage in other illegal acts that may get them into trouble with the law.

Financial Problems

Cocaine is a relatively expensive drug, and users may spend significant amounts funding their addiction. They may also experience job loss or reduced income due to their addiction. It’s also more difficult to make sound financial decisions when one is always thinking about their next high.

Loss of Interest

Cocaine hijacks the brain’s reward system by flooding it with dopamine and making it see the drug as the only route to pleasure. This process can make users lose interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed.

Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are highly unpleasant symptoms a person experiences when they stop or reduce their cocaine use. The duration and frequency of use impact the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are primarily psychological and include:

●  Anxiety

●  Depression

●  Fatigue

●  Paranoia

●  Increased appetite

●  Difficulty concentrating

●  Irritability

●  Inability to feel pleasure

●  Changes in sleep patterns (difficulty falling asleep or oversleeping)

●  Vivid dreams and nightmares

●  Psychosis

●  Intense cocaine cravings

These symptoms may start immediately or within a few days after the last use. For people with severe cocaine addiction, withdrawal symptoms are dangerous and can be life-threatening. It can lead to seizures, heart failure, coma, and even death. It’s crucial to seek professional help immediately if you think you or a loved one is having cocaine withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine Abuse and Addiction Treatment

Cocaine is a highly potent narcotic, and treatment for cocaine abuse and addiction requires professional intervention. Recovery from cocaine addiction is challenging and requires concerted effort. Cocaine addiction relapse rates are high as patients often experience cravings long after their treatment.

A patient-centric drug addiction treatment approach is required to overcome cocaine addiction. Treatment usually consists of multiple strategies tailored to the individual’s specific needs. Cocaine addiction treatment typically starts with medical detox to get all traces of cocaine and other toxic substances out of the patient’s system while managing their withdrawal symptoms in a safe and supervised environment.

After detox, the patient may get into an inpatient or outpatient rehab program, depending on the severity of their addiction. They may receive a combination of therapy, medications, and support to help them deal with cravings and negative beliefs that fuel drug use. An aftercare and relapse prevention plan will also be incorporated into treatment to give the individual the best chance of maintaining sobriety.

When to Consult a Medical Professional

Cocaine is a dangerous and illegal substance, and even a single use may be enough to trigger addiction. You should consult a medical professional about your cocaine use if you notice the following:

●  Trying and failing to reduce or stop cocaine use

●  Using increasingly higher amounts of cocaine than intended

●  Experiencing intense cravings for cocaine

●  Spending much time using cocaine or trying to recover from the effects of cocaine use

●  Continued cocaine use  despite obvious physical or mental health issues

●  Continued cocaine use, even when it’s affecting your work, school, or other activities

●  Giving up important activities or activities you once enjoyed to use cocaine

●  Continued use even when it’s affecting your relationship with friends and loved ones

●  Using cocaine in dangerous situations like driving or operating hazardous machinery

●  Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you cut back or stop cocaine use

Conclusion

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that can have severe and lasting consequences for users. Can you get addicted to cocaine (coke)? Yes, cocaine addiction can affect anyone. The initial effects may be pleasurable, but cocaine addiction is bound to negatively affect one’s health and life. Fortunately, treatment for cocaine addiction is available, and you must seek help for yourself or a loved one as soon as possible before the addiction takes over your or your loved one’s life.The Canadian Centre for Addictions offers client-centered cocaine addiction treatment in a serene environment designed to help you or your loved one(s) achieve permanent sobriety. At CCFA, we help people understand their addictions and the healthier coping strategies available by engaging them in one-on-one counselling with certified counsellors, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals. Call 1-855-499-9446 to learn more about our cocaine addiction treatment programs.

FAQ

What is the addiction rate for cocaine?

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, approximately 2% of the Canadian population has used cocaine in some form. This figure accounts for 49% of the total number of illegal drug use in Canada.

What are the legal implications of cocaine use?

Cocaine use in Canada is illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Anyone caught possessing, selling, or importing cocaine can face legal consequences. Cocaine possession can lead to up to seven years in jail, while manufacturing or trafficking can lead to life imprisonment.

Is cocaine hard to get off of?

Yes. Cocaine is one of the more difficult drugs to quit. The drug hijacks the brain’s reward system and makes the user dependent on the drug to feel good. Cocaine has a high relapse rate as people who stop it’s use develop intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

How does cocaine affect your weight?

Cocaine may cause weight changes in either direction. It increases your energy levels and suppresses your appetite, which can lead to weight loss. People going through cocaine withdrawal may experience weight gain due to impulse control issues or disruption of their metabolic processes.

What happens if you do cocaine with antidepressants?

Mixing cocaine with antidepressants is dangerous as they both act by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. This combination leads to serotonin syndrome, a condition characterized by high levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin syndrome can cause several adverse effects, including anxiety, delirium, seizures, and coma, and may be fatal in some rare cases.

Is cocaine chemically addictive?

A chemically addictive substance directly affects the brain’s chemical makeup. So, is cocaine chemically addictive? Yes, because it alters the way the brain produces neurotransmitters, causing euphoric feelings, which can lead to dependence and addiction.

Is cocaine physically addictive?

A physical addiction causes physical withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using their choice of drug. So, is cocaine physically addictive? While its withdrawal symptoms are mostly psychological, cocaine can cause physical withdrawal symptoms like sweating, seizures, dilated pupils, and nose bleeds.

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

Dr. Chintan is a Board Certified Family Physician with an interest in holistic and preventative care as well as healthcare systems. Credentialed Physician with both American & Canadian Board of Family Medicine. Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Telemedicine clinician.

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