When you use cocaine, you hardly ever feel like you’ll develop an addiction. We don’t often view cocaine as being very addictive. Society’s view of the stimulant can be that you can use it recreationally. This contrasts with how we view other substances like opioids, which we know are highly addictive.
Even though cocaine doesn’t always create addiction like other substances, it can.
When you’re stuck in cocaine addiction, you feel trapped. There’s the same negative feedback loop happening in other addictions. You may want to stop. You could even take tangible steps toward quitting, and then you find you relapse. Cocaine addiction can be as unrelenting as any other substance use disorder without treatment.
The Phases of Cocaine Addiction
Whether to cocaine, other illicit drugs, or alcohol, every addiction follows a cycle. The cycle includes:
- The initial use. With cocaine, you may think you’re going to try the drug casually. Often you might try it at a party or social environment since it’s a powerful stimulant.
- The next phase in addiction is abuse. When you abuse cocaine, you’re continuing to use it recreationally. You may be using it more often, but you don’t necessarily have an addiction.
- Tolerance occurs when your brain and body become used to the effects of cocaine. You may find you’re using more to get the same feelings or results you did when you first used it.
- Dependence is part of the addiction cycle where your brain and body depend on you using the substance. If you’re dependent and stop using a substance, you may have withdrawal symptoms.
- Addiction is a psychological brain disease. Your brain’s function and structure are different at this point. Using cocaine or any other substance when you’re addicted is no longer a choice.
- Relapse is when you once again return to using a substance after a period of abstinence. Not everyone will experience a relapse, but many people do.
Cocaine addiction is a chronic disease. Your brain’s areas controlling reward, motivation, pleasure, and memory feel the effects of addiction.
Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. As a chronic disease, some things build up over time and contribute.
If you’re in a cycle of cocaine addiction, it can be highly frustrating. You may recognize the problems it’s creating in your lie. Despite your best efforts, you may find you’re unable to stop using, despite seeing these effects.
When you take cocaine, effects occur in your mesolimbic dopamine system. This is a technical way of saying your reward pathway. This brain pathway starts in the midbrain. Along with reward, the parts of your brain cocaine effects also control the regulation of motivation and emotions.
Typically, your neurons release dopamine into your brain. Dopamine binds to receptor sites. Then, dopamine is a chemical messenger. Dopamine carries signals between the neurons of your brain. The dopamine is recycled and then used again.
When you take a drug like cocaine, there’s interference in the communication. Cocaine binds to the dopamine transporter. That effect prevents the removal of dopamine. Dopamine accumulates. The accumulation of dopamine causes the euphoric high you feel after taking cocaine.
As a stimulant, when you use cocaine, you may experience a rapid, powerful high. The high can last for up to 10 minutes if you smoke or inject the drug. If you snort cocaine, your high may be slower and last for up to 30 minutes.
With cocaine, there can be frequent cycles of binging on the drug because of how short the effects are.
Short-term cocaine effects include:
- Dilated pupils
- Sensitivity to stimuli like light and sound
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increases in blood pressure and body temperature
- Fast or irregular heart rate
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Muscle twitches
The potential emergencies from this addictive drug include seizures, strokes, and brain bleeds. Heart attacks and ruptured arteries can also occur, among other physical symptoms.
Over a period of time, long-term physical effects of cocaine addiction can include:
- Blood vessel damage
- Liver damage
- High blood pressure
- Kidney issues
- Tooth decay
- Sexual problems including male and female infertility
- Weight loss
Mental health problems that are signs of cocaine use include:
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Impairment in control, attention, and memory
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
There are a lot of general and more specific addiction symptoms in someone who is dealing with a cocaine use disorder. Some of the symptoms of cocaine addiction can include:
- Depression after a cycle of binging or repeatedly using the drug in a relatively short period
- Intense cravings are a common sign
- Major mood swings
- Seeming “on top of the world” sometimes
- Changes in sleep patterns and having more alertness and energy
- Suddenly needing a lot of money or experiencing financial problems
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- Engagement in risky behaviors
- Strange, out-of-character, or violent behavior
- Damage to nasal passages
- Increases in libido
- Loss of the sense of smell
- Ongoing runny nose
- Problems swallowing
- Being unable to stop using despite wanting to
- Failed attempts to cut back or stop
- Prioritizing cocaine above other things
How Long Does Cocaine Stay In Your System?
Before you can get treatment for cocaine addiction, you have to detox. This means the drug leaves your system. So how long does cocaine stay in your system? While the effects wear off quickly because of the short half-life, it can show up in a blood test for up to 24 hours. In a urine test, cocaine use can show up for one to three days.
The cocaine withdrawal symptoms aren’t severe for most people like other heroin or alcohol. One of the more difficult withdrawal symptoms is likely to be the cravings for cocaine you experience after long-term use.
The withdrawal and detox period may be fairly short, and then you can begin to receive treatment.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
If you receive treatment for an addiction to cocaine, the focus is often on behavioral therapy. Therapeutic interventions are an important part of preventing future relapse in drug addiction.
Different types of therapy for substance abuse can help you get to the underlying root causes of why you started using cocaine in the first place.
For example, if you have co-occurring mental health disorders, you may start using cocaine to self-medicate your symptoms. When you work with professional treatment providers, you can receive therapy for those mental health disorders.
Your risk of relapse is high, especially with something as widely available as cocaine.
Being stuck in a cycle of cocaine addiction isn’t just frustrating. It can damage your health, your career, and your relationships. Over time, as with other addictions, cocaine use gets progressively worse.