When understanding addiction, it is important to know how certain substances affect the brain/cause an addiction. Here at Atlanta Recovery Place, we want to help you gain more knowledge about substances, substance abuse, and addiction. It is important to be able to comprehend why someone with an addiction is struggling to overcome, and more importantly, how to help that person. Within this article, we have provided information about cocaine, how it is addictive, and what to do if you or someone you love is  addicted to cocaine.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a very powerful and addictive stimulant drug. Cocaine is considered a schedule 2 drug, which basically means that it is very high in the potential for abuse, but it can also be administered by a doctor for medical usage. This medical usage can be things such as local anesthesia for ear, eye, and throat surgeries.  

Cocaine as a street drug appears to be a fine white and crystalline powder that is also known as Coke. There are two different chemical forms of cocaine that people abused. The first being water-soluble hydrochloride salt and the second being water-soluble cocaine base or ‘freebase’. The hydrochloride salt is a powder, which is snorted or injected. The freebase cocaine is considered crack, which is smoked.

How Is Cocaine Addictive? 

Cocaine is addictive because it increases the levels of the neurotransmitter/chemical messenger, dopamine, in the brain. Dopamine is related to the control of movement and reward. Normally, the dopamine neurotransmitters will “recycle” back into the neuron that released it. This then would shut off the signal between nerve cells. Cocaine prevents the dopamine from being recycled back into the neuron, which then causes large amounts of dopamine to build up in the space (synapse) between the two nerve cells. This large amount of dopamine will affect the brain’s reward circuit which then would strongly reinforce drug-taking behaviors. This enforces drug-taking behaviors because the reward system/circuit will adapt to the excess amount of dopamine caused by cocaine, and the brain/body will become less sensitive to it. This tolerance will cause individuals to take more frequent or larger doses of cocaine to receive the same high that they once did, or even to just have relief from withdrawal.

What to Do If You’re Addicted to Cocaine

If you or someone you know is addicted to cocaine, it is important to get professional help, find support, and to receive treatment. Reach out to someone who you trust and respect to help figure out your treatment options and to help you feel supported. This person can help to support you throughout your recovery process. If you don’t have a person like this, you can always find treatment and help for yourself (which can be part of taking responsibility for your addiction). Some of the different types of treatments that are good to look into are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) – This therapy is an effective approach for preventing relapse and helps patients to develop skills that support long-term abstinence. These skills include things such as the ability to recognize and avoid situations in which cocaine usage is likely to occur, and the ability to cope more effectively with problems that are associated with drug use.
  • Contingency management (CM) – This program uses a reward/prize-based system that rewards patients who remain abstinent from cocaine and other drugs. This way patients earn points/chips/rewards that can be used to “buy” items that encourage healthy living. These items could be things such as a gym membership, movie tickets, or a nice dinner. This treatment program helps individuals stay abstinent from cocaine and to stay in their treatment program.
  • Therapeutic communities (TCs) – These communities are drug-free residences where people can recover from substance use disorders. These communities are very supportive and provide assistance in helping each other to understand and change their behaviors. TCs may require a 6 to 12-month stay. 
  • Community-based recovery groups – This recovery group could be a group such as Cocaine Anonymous that used a 12-step program that can be helpful within maintaining abstinence. Within this group, individuals may benefit from supportive fellowship and sharing experiences with those who are going through common problems.

Get Help With a Cocaine Addiction at Atlanta Recovery Place

At Atlanta Recovery Place, we are a premiere outpatient rehab with a sober living community. We currently offer partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs. Reach out to us today to learn more about our programs and how we can help you beat addiction once and for all! 

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