What is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant drug made from the coca plant leaves native to South America. Although health care providers can use it for valid medical purposes, such as local anesthesia for some surgeries, recreational cocaine use—or cocaine addiction—is illegal. 
As a street drug, cocaine looks like a fine, white crystal powder. Street dealers often mix it with things like cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to increase profits. They may also combine it with other stimulant amphetamine or synthetic opioids, including fentanyl.
The majority of individuals who seek treatment for cocaine addiction use smoke crack and are likely to be polydrug users, meaning they use more than one substance.
Adding synthetic opioids to cocaine is especially risky when people using cocaine don’t realize it contains this dangerous additive. Increasing numbers of overdose deaths among cocaine users might be related to this tampered cocaine. 
Cocaine produces its psychoactive and addictive effects primarily by acting on the brain’s limbic system, a set of interconnected regions that regulate pleasure and motivation. An initial, short-term effect—a buildup of the neurochemical dopamine—gives rise to euphoria and a desire to retake the drug.
Cocaine’s Initial Effect & Cocaine Addiction Development “Dopamine Buildup”
Cocaine causes many types of intermediate-term alterations in brain cell functioning.
Snorted, smoked, or injected, cocaine rapidly enters the bloodstream and penetrates the brain. The drug achieves its main immediate psychological effect—the high—by causing a buildup of the neurochemical dopamine. 
The principal routes of cocaine administration are oral, intranasal, intravenous, and inhalation. The slang terms for these routes are, respectively, “chewing,” “snorting,” “mainlining,” or “injecting,” and “smoking” (including freebase and crack cocaine).
Snorting is the process of inhaling cocaine powder through the nostrils, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. Injecting releases the drug directly into the bloodstream and heightens the intensity of its effects.
Smoking involves the inhalation of cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is as rapid as by injection. The drug can also be rubbed onto mucous tissues. Some users combine cocaine powder or crack with heroin in a “speedball.”
Crack is the street name given to the freebase form of cocaine that has been processed from the powdered cocaine hydrochloride form to a smokable substance. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked. Crack cocaine is processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water and heated to remove the hydrochloride.
Because crack is smoked, the user experiences a high in less than 10 seconds. This relatively immediate and euphoric effect is one of the reasons that crack became enormously popular in the mid-1980s. Another reason is that crack is inexpensive both to produce and to buy. 
As cocaine addiction continues, tolerance often develops. This means that higher doses and more frequent use of cocaine are required for the brain to register the same level of pleasure experienced during initial use.
Recent studies have shown that, during periods of abstinence from cocaine addiction or use, the memory of the euphoria associated with cocaine use, or the mere exposure to cues associated with drug use, can trigger tremendous craving and relapse to drug use, even after long periods of abstinence. 
Short-Term & Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
Cocaine’s effects appear almost immediately after a single dose and disappear within a few minutes or hours. Taken in small amounts (up to 100 mg), cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert, especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch.
It can also temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. As a result, some users find that the drug helps them perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, while others can experience the opposite effect.
Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
- Increased energy
- Decreased appetite
- Mental alertness
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased temperature
- Dilated pupils
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. Therefore, once having tried cocaine, an individual may have difficulty predicting or controlling the extent to which they will continue to use the drug.
The use of cocaine in a binge, during which the drug is taken repeatedly and at increasingly high doses, leads to a state of increasing irritability, restlessness, and paranoia. This may result in full-blown paranoid psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations. 
Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use
- Irritability and mood disturbances
- Auditory hallucinations
Medical Complications of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction has been linked to many types of heart disease. For example, cocaine has been found to trigger chaotic heart rhythms, called ventricular fibrillation; accelerate heartbeat and breathing, increase blood pressure and body temperature. Physical symptoms may include chest pain, nausea, blurred vision, fever, muscle spasms, convulsions, and coma.
- Disturbances in heart rhythm
- Heart attacks
- Chest pain
- Respiratory failure
- Seizures and headaches
- Abdominal pain
Cocaine Addiction & Withdrawal
Cocaine withdrawal occurs when someone who has used a lot of cocaine cuts down or quits taking the drug. Symptoms of withdrawal can occur even if the user is not entirely off cocaine and still has some drug in their blood.
Cocaine withdrawal often has no visible physical symptoms, such as the vomiting and shaking that accompany withdrawal from heroin or alcohol.
Cocaine Addiction & Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms Of Cocaine Withdrawal May Include:
- Agitation and restless behavior
- Depressed mood
- A general feeling of discomfort
- Increased appetite
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Slowing of activity
The craving and depression can last for months after stopping long-term heavy use. Withdrawal symptoms may also be associated with suicidal thoughts in some people. 
During withdrawal, there can be powerful, intense cravings for cocaine. The “high” associated with ongoing use may become less and less pleasant. It can produce fear and extreme suspicion rather than euphoria. Even so, the cravings may remain powerful.
Addicted users who stop using cocaine will undergo an initial crash, known as withdrawal. In particular, withdrawal can be intense and complex due to cravings and uncomfortable side effects. 
Complications Of Cocaine Withdrawal Include:
- Craving and overdose
Cocaine Addiction & Withdrawal Treatment
Symptoms of withdrawal usually disappear over time. However, if symptoms are severe, a live-in treatment program may be recommended. There, medications may be used to treat the symptoms. In addition, counseling may help end the addiction. And, the person’s health and safety can be monitored during recovery.
Withdrawal from cocaine may not be as unstable as withdrawal from alcohol. However, the withdrawal from any chronic substance use is severe. Therefore, there is a risk of suicide or overdose.
People who have cocaine withdrawal will often use alcohol, sedatives, hypnotics, or anti-anxiety medicines to treat their symptoms. Long-term use of these drugs is not recommended because it simply shifts addiction from one substance to another. Under proper medical supervision, however, short-term use of these medicines may be helpful in recovery.
How We Can Help
Your first step in recovering from cocaine addiction should be medical detox in a safe and medically supervised setting. For anyone who suffers from addiction, just the thought of having to stop using can cause severe mental distress. But, with the help of a medical detox center, the medical detox process is manageable.
At Level Up Palm Beach County, our thorough approach to rehabilitation supports several levels of care to ensure the best possible outcome for every client who enters our doors.
From an intensive and more supportive atmosphere for those in the early days of recovery to a comfortable residential-style living dynamic upon completion of detox, we are here to help guide you down the safe and results-based path to your sobriety.
Call us today if you’re struggling with cocaine, and we can help you explore cocaine addiction treatment options.
 Cocaine DrugFacts – National Institute On Drug Abuse
 The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction – National Center for Biotechnology Information
 Cocaine Abuse & Addiction – www1.nyc.gov
 Cocaine Withdrawal – medlineplus.gov
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