The dangers of cocaine addiction are often clouded by popular misinformation surrounding its safety and addictiveness. For this reason, if you or someone you love is showing signs of this form of drug abuse, you may be wondering if quitting altogether is a necessary step.
When left untreated, cocaine abuse seriously endangers your physical and mental health. In the short-term, risks associated with heavy cocaine use or binging include psychosis and overdose.
Meanwhile, in the long-term, the physical stress of heavy and frequent cocaine abuse can result in many forms of permanent organ and tissue damage, including ulcerations in the gastrointestinal tract, heart muscle inflammation and damage, pulmonary disease, brain hemorrhage, brain damage, seizures, organ failure, and stroke.
However, this is not a niche problem. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as many as one in twenty young adults in America used cocaine in 2015.
Many people have witnessed first-hand how cocaine addiction can quickly bulldoze a person’s mental and emotional health, job, relationships, and finances. It is not easy to make the decision to quit, but once you have, medical detox with a licensed drug addiction center can offer safe, easier, and more comfortable treatment options.
Under unaltered conditions, when your brain experiences something pleasurable, it lets out a small wave of dopamine – one of the most potent feel-good neurotransmitters in your nervous system. This dopamine floats around in your system for a while, interacting with receptors that make you feel good before the brain reabsorbs it.
When you first start taking cocaine, the high or rush you feel comes from the chemical’s ability to block dopamine from being reabsorbed into the synapse. This means that dopamine rapidly builds up in the central nervous system as the brain continues to produce it but not reabsorb it. Typically, this manifests as a euphoric high, characterized by confidence and contentment.
However, when cocaine wears off, this dramatically differs. When you frequently take a substantial amount of the drug or engage in binging – meaning that you abuse cocaine many times in quick succession over a moderate period – your brain will drastically reduce its dopamine release. This is because your brain assumes that it will be swamped with this chemical and changes its production accordingly to regain balance. When cocaine is absent, your system is without dopamine. In its own right, this is not a healthy place to be.
Cocaine detox and early addiction treatment focus on relieving the experience of withdrawal symptoms. The most common withdrawal symptoms brought on by this dopamine depletion can be divided into two categories: mild and moderate to severe.
Mild symptoms of withdrawal are more common in light, infrequent cocaine use cases or when drug abuse is relatively short-term. These include:
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are more severe if you abuse the drug frequently over a more extended period before quitting. If you have a mental health disorder, you may also experience intense withdrawal symptoms.
Moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms include:
Cocaine has a short half-life of about ninety minutes. Typically, the first ‘crash’ is experienced within six hours of cocaine cessation. However, it can take up to four days for symptoms to peak in some cases.
The crash phase comes with the onset of mild to severe symptoms and is a time of acute stress. Cravings are most intense during this time.
The withdrawal timeline is likely to be prolonged if you use cocaine heavily or have an underlying mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety.
In some cases, psychological withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings persist or return over the course of weeks or even months after your last dose. Seeking therapeutic support and completing a medically supervised cocaine detox during this time is crucial if you struggle with an extended withdrawal period.
The oppressive sense of hopelessness and anxiety that are often part of the cocaine withdrawal process are among the more dangerous side effects of quitting this drug without seeking help from a treatment center.
Opting for a natural detox requires you to quit cocaine at home. Unfortunately, shouldering the total weight of the psychological symptoms associated combined with the ubiquity of cravings as a symptom could put you at greater risk of relapsing. As relapse can easily lead to an overdose, extreme care needs to be taken to avoid it, so natural cocaine detox is not usually advised.
At the same time, the psychological symptoms of acute or prolonged cocaine withdrawal are risky in their own right. Erratic behavior, which may arise if you experience paranoid episodes or suicidal thoughts, can put you in harm’s way, even as you are attempting to quit cocaine for your own safety.
Doing so at home without the supervision, guidance, and grounding efforts of a treatment program is a decision that should not be made without consulting with qualified medical professionals.
Every medical cocaine detox program is individualized and responsive to the needs of each person. This means that upon seeking medical treatment, your personal circumstances will be considered to ensure that the best cocaine detox treatment is provided.
In the case of outpatient cocaine detox, a dual focus on providing psychological support and sustainably transitioning into recovery is necessary. This means integrating a schedule of drug counseling and mental health support with a range of addiction-informed therapies to ensure coping skills can be developed, leading to relapse prevention.
Clinical services, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, are also helpful during the detox process as they can help you shift out of addictive thought processes while alleviating cocaine withdrawal symptoms.
The cocaine detox process is different from that of other drug detox programs. Unlike alcohol and drug addiction treatment for commonly abused depressants such as heroin and alcohol, there are currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications that can be prescribed explicitly for the short-term treatment of cocaine withdrawal.
That said, a medically supervised detox program will endeavor to make the process as safe and comfortable as possible by providing treatment if necessary for severe or persistent psychological symptoms. If flagged during dual diagnosis, other medications may be prescribed to reduce depression or anxiety.
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The first step in treatment, medical detox from cocaine marks a crucial turning point in your addiction recovery journey. The next leg of the road is longer, aimed at healing holistic health, internalizing your coping mechanisms, and rebuilding the aspects of your life that substance abuse broke down.
In practice, this means therapy, reflection, and rehabilitation. It isn’t easy, but by detoxing safely, you can win stable ground to stand on as you face the next step towards an authentic, healthy life.
Contact local treatment facilities or American addiction centers to learn more about detox and the other treatments available for cocaine addiction.
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