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How To Quit Cocaine

Stimulants are a powerful class of drugs that promise to deliver euphoria, attentiveness, and energy.  The “high” that a stimulant provides is soon followed by a “low”.  This low occurs when the effect of the stimulant wears off.  This subsequently leads the user to experience unpleasant side effects, which then prompts the individual to use more drugs. Cocaine is one such powerful stimulant. It is widely used today and is the cause of many unpleasant side effects, including death.  Cocaine is highly addictive, but stopping is possible.  Keep reading to learn more about cocaine and how to #GetCleanFor2018.


Cocaine comes from the coca plant. This plant is prevalent in South America, and through various channels, has found its way to North America. This drug increases dopamine and how available dopamine is in the brain. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters that is associated with pleasant feelings and rewards. Specifically, it is associated with goal-setting and rewards.

Signs of Cocaine Use

A user will display both physical and mental signs when they are using or abusing cocaine. The physical symptoms of cocaine may include widened pupils and runny or bleeding nose, if the user is snorting cocaine. If the user is injecting, you may notice needles or injection site marks on their arms. Lastly, because you can smoke the drug, a user can also suffer from burns to their mouth or hands.  Over time, an individual may display exhaustion and may sleep much of the time.

An affected mental state can include feelings of ecstasy, arrogance, unusual pleasure, belligerence, intense distrust or suspicion, poor judgment, and delirium. With extended use, the user’s mental state can include a general uncaring disposition, sadness, anxiety, and symptoms of psychosis. There may be a powerful desire for the drug which may influence the individual’s mood.

Physiological symptoms of cocaine may include a racing heart, heart that has become enlarged, death to cells of the heart, heart attacks, and cessation of heartbeat. With injections there can also be damage to organ tissues and problems with kidneys.

Some people may not use long term or even frequently, but may be recreational users. Even recreational users risk neurological changes that can affect their lives. Recreational cocaine use is associated with decreased behavioral control and less ability to regulate oneself, leading to less control over fine motor skills and movement, and reduced ability to complete daily tasks and react normally to the world around them. Long-term recreational cocaine use is also associated with decreased cognitive and decision-making abilities, as well as attention deficits.

Quitting Cocaine

Cocaine is a very addictive stimulant. As a stimulant, it increases the strain on the heart significantly.  This is one the top reasons to quit using the drug!  Cocaine withdrawal includes intense anxiety and distress. The anxiety alone may make it very difficult for users to quit on their own. The cravings that follow may also be too much to handle and may make relapse or overdose very likely.

Treatment can include both or either inpatient or outpatient options. Additionally, different modalities may be used depending on the length of cocaine use, reason for initial use, and effects on the body and brain. Treatment can be medically assisted, and include the use of drugs. These drugs can help “wean” the user off of cocaine while helping to relieve them of the harsh side effects of quitting abruptly. Behavioral treatment will include methods that address habits, triggers, supports, and reasons for use. One behavioral therapy that works well for cocaine treatment is CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, addresses cognitions, or thoughts, and the behaviors associated with them. With this treatment, unhealthy cognitions can be addressed and behavior adjusted. The new behaviors reinforce cognitions and it continues in a feedback loop.

Since cocaine releases dopamine, an individual would want to find new ways to release dopamine more healthily.  Behaviors such as setting goals and achieving them, or rewards for efforts are a few ways to release dopamine.  Therapy known as Contingency Management works along these lines.

A therapeutic community is another type of treatment that could also be beneficial. The idea behind this is to have a support community that is drug-free and consists of people in recovery. Individuals interact, help each other to comprehend their cognitions and behaviors, and work to prevent relapse. These communities can include outside re-integration services so that the individual can settle outside matters and re-enter into society as a productive member. Aftercare is an important part of recovery, and can help an individual stay sober and conquer temptations. There are many drug anonymous groups that can also help with aftercare.

Quitting Is Possible

There are many options for an individual to take advantage of if he or she would like to quit using cocaine. While the drug is highly addictive, if there is a commitment to stopping the addiction, then it can be done. Individuals do not have to go through the process alone and can find support in many places along the path to recovery.

References: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA DrugFacts, The Utopian

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