Cocaine Abuse and Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine Abuse and Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine is incredibly addictive both physically and mentally because it’s a powerful stimulant. In the street, the extremely expensive drug is known as blow, coke, crack, rock, and snow. It’s made from South American coca plant leaves in particular. Although healthcare professionals can utilize the drug for positive benefits, like local anesthesia when dealing with surgeries or dealing with severe pain with controlled doses, recreational cocaine is highly illegal.

An Introduction to Cocaine and Cocaine Abuse

The street drug form of cocaine, as showcased in popular media, looks like flour from afar or a fine crystal powder (like refined sugar) from up close. It can also be comparable to cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour, which is why some scamming street dealers might mix them with your cocaine to increase their profits and make their stash grow at the expense of the people buying them. It’s also usually mixed with amphetamine and other drugs for the sake of increasing the potency of its effects.

Remember that the longer you use coke the less effective the same dose becomes, so you have to take higher dosages every time to maintain the peak high of your first or second dose (sometimes the first dose makes you feel terrible due to sensory overload). This takes a toll on your mind, making it more dependent on cocaine even long after you’re off of the stuff because your brain has been rewired by your own bad habits. 

How Is Your Brain Affected by Cocaine? 

Dopamine is the secret to cocaine’s insidiousness when it comes to making someone addicted to it. To be more specific, cocaine increases your dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter or natural chemical messenger of the brain that controls your pleasure and movement. It’s also a major player in your brain’s reward circuit, which is what your mind depends on when it comes to management of your pleasurable feelings.

In other words, you’re psychologically affected by cocaine because of the chemical imbalances it causes with your brain and its dopamine levels. To wit:

  • The Effects of Dopamine: Your brain releases the chemical dopamine in your reward circuit when anticipating potential rewards, thus encouraging or motivating you to work hard towards a goal. That’s how it normally works.

It also gives you pleasurable feelings when you go on a date, your first child is born, your startup has become successful, you’re up for a raise, or you smell good food. It’s the chemical that makes you do things because they feel good and satisfying to do. 

  • The Dopamine Cycle: After its release, the chemical is recycled back to the cell that released it. This process then shuts off the signal between your nerve cells, resulting in the initial sensation wearing off. There’s a good reason for that. You can’t have dopamine all the time. 

You don’t want to become a dopamine junkie who does one or two good things and you’re set for life in terms of satisfaction, as though you have a shallow threshold for happiness and fulfillment. It’s your body’s way to make you motivated to do other satisfactory things 

  • How Cocaine Works with Dopamine: Cocaine activates and stimulates the cell that releases dopamine, thus resulting in an increase in your dopamine supply.  Furthermore, it stops the drainage of dopamine as soon as it floods your brain as long as you’re having your coke high.

This will give you a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction, like you’ve just won the lottery, fulfilled your lifelong dreams, married a supermodel, made your parents proud of you, or became a billionaire. Your brain feels like it’s been handsomely rewarded from the simple act of snorting coke.

  • Stopping the Dopamine Cycle and Dopamine Flood: Cocaine raises your dopamine levels by keeping the desensitization and dopamine recycling processes at bay, thus you feel like a million bucks or have achieved something major in your life through simply taking cocaine.

You’ll then be flooded with dopamine since it’s not being drained from your brain anymore, resulting in dopamine buildup between your nerves. You’ll feel so sated and “happy” when you’re high with coke that you’ll be chasing that high as soon as it’s gone.

  • Deluge of Dopamine: This deluge of dopamine disrupts the normal function of your brain and how its reward circuit works. After all, why attempt to achieve great things in your life or live a fulfilling existence when a couple of bags or even a hit of cocaine on glass is enough for you to feel “fulfilled” by getting high, however brief that might be?

Your brain’s normal communication with your body is disrupted during your cocaine high, leading to feelings of giddiness, pleasure, and satisfaction even though you’re actually throwing your life away to coke. Cocaine can serve as your replacement for success and achievement in the mental sense. 

Methods of Cocaine Dosage Delivery

Cocaine addicts usually take the drug in “binges”, which involves consuming coke over and over again in a short time frame and in ever-increasing doses to maintain the first high. This maintenance of your high is required because the effects of cocaine tend to weaken over time and prolonged use.

There are multiple ways to go about getting your cocaine dosage. They include: 

  • Snorting: Cocaine users can snort coke through their nose, typically with a rolled-up paper like a dollar bill or a straw.
  • Dissolve Into the Gums: You can rub the powder through your gums, letting it absorb coke as it melts in your saliva.
  • Water Solution for Injection: You can also dissolve the coke into water so that you can shoot it into your bloodstream by stimulating injection, resulting in an instantaneous high.
  • Speedball: A Speedball is when you combine heroin and cocaine the shoot it up your veins via injection, resulting in an even more potent and stimulating high that’s raises overdose risks as well.
  • Smoking: You can smoke cocaine too. You need to smoke coke that’s been processed into a rock crystal known as freebase cocaine or crack, though. This is what you put into what’s known as a crack pipe.
  • Crack: In the streets, freebase cocaine is also known as crack. This rock made of cocaine gets this name from the crackling noise it makes as it’s heated up in your crack pipe, which in turn produces vapors you inhale into your respiratory system. 


Adverse Effects of Cocaine Abuse on Your Mental and Bodily Functions 

Every cocaine user taking coke recreationally should use it responsibly or moderately like alcohol. However, because it’s illegal and unregulated, people are more likely to abuse coke and chase that initial high.

This leaves your brain and body at risk of neurological changes that can alter the quality of your life when push comes to shove. Using coke is specifically connected to the following: 

  • Losing Control Over Your Behavior: When you’ve used coke for an extended period of time, your ability to control your impulses and showcase patience or emotional maturity is significantly reduced due to your altered mind state.
  • Losing Control Over Your Movements: Because coke works on the neurological level, your ability to move your body as well as to sit down, stand, and walk will be affected by involuntary shaking and twitches.
  • Inability to React to Stimuli in the Environment: Cocaine abuse also results in desensitization to normal stimuli or things that would normally stimulate your senses. You’ll feel bored about life because your senses are more “alive” when you’re doing lines of coke. 
  • Reduced Ability to Carry Out Daily Activities: Daily activities you take for granted like brushing your teeth, getting up from bed, eating at the dining table, or going to the bathroom might be altered due to the drug’s effects on your mind and body. 
  • Reduced Ability to Carry Out Normal Cognitive Performance: Your ability for cognition, your attention span, and your decision-making can be affected by long-term cocaine usage.

In other words, your sleep-wake cycle, attention, perception, mood, emotion, appetite-satiety, memory, and other abilities related to cognitive performance will take a hit the longer you take coke hits.

Specific Adverse Effects of Cocaine Abuse on the Brain

Cocaine abuse can cause unfavorable changes to your brain chemistry, which directly affects your behavior and adds to your psychological withdrawal symptoms if you attempt to quit using coke.

The alterations are connected with your increased “need” for cocaine usage over a given time period. Getting addicted to cocaine is quite easy because of the desensitization effect wherein to chase your initial high, you need to take higher doses because your body is good at getting used to anything, including a coke high.

 Cocaine-induced brain chemistry changes manifest in the form of abnormalities in your behavior. These can include the following anomalies:

 Unusual Erratic Behavior: Being addicted to cocaine can make your behavior erratic. This in turn can result in unintentional trauma due to physical accidents and altercations between friends and family.

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Constant usage of coke can also result in what’s known as new-onset ADHD. Even though who don’t have ADHD will end up displaying ADHD symptoms due to cocaine abuse.
  • Psychotic Symptoms: You can end up with cocaine psychosis, which involves addict experiencing heightened paranoia and losing focus of reality. This is one of the more difficult complications of coke because it affects your ability to trust doctors and socialize during interventions and group therapy.


The Signs of Cocaine Withdrawal

The “good” news is that compared to the intensity of withdrawal symptoms with other drugs like meth and heroin or even substances like alcohol, cocaine comparatively doesn’t have as intense symptoms. The bad news is that it comes with its own set of problems you need to overcome in order to successfully recover from it.

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines or alcoholic drinks can involve dire physical symptoms that can be life-threatening if not monitored in an inpatient setting. In contrast, cocaine detoxification results in damaging psychological withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Slower thinking
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Physical symptoms, such as:
    • Chills
    • Tremors
    • Nerve pain
    • Muscle aches
  • Increased craving for cocaine
  • Inability to experience sexual arousal
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams or nightmares
  • Anhedonia or the inability to feel pleasure
  • Slowed activity, or physical fatigue after activity


When Is Cocaine Medical Detox Necessary?

Even though you can technically do cocaine detox through outpatient therapy, inpatient-style medical detoxification is required in some instances. Specifically, if the addicted patient has relapsed during past attempts at rehab, then 24-hour supervision by doctors and nurses through medical detox is called for.

This type of detox is generally recommended to ensure patient safety throughout the cocaine withdrawal process. To wit:

  • Co-Occurring Mental Conditions and Increased Suicide Risk: Additionally, if the addict in question suffers from various co-occurring mental conditions, the medical detoxification should tit-for-tat be followed by comprehensive inpatient addiction rehabilitation treatment.

 One of the most problematic symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine is the increased suicide risk. This is what makes coke uniquely difficult from other drugs despite it lacking intense physical withdrawal symptoms. This is doubly true when it comes to persons with a history of suicidal thoughts and depression.

  • An Addictive Kind of High: Another issue from addicts who attempt to stop cocaine usage after their addiction has gotten a hold of them is them suffering from mental issues like mood swings, thoughts of suicide, and intense depression. This comes from the continual flood of dopamine neurotransmitters that keep them happy as long as they take coke.

Because cocaine prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed, the chemical ends up flooding the brain in order to induce the “high” linked with coke use. Once your brain stops feeling that coke-induced euphoria, your mind will end up depressed. There’s also impairment with how your brain processes motivation and reward-related behavior. 

Cocaine’s Withdrawal Symptom Timeline

Coke withdrawal symptoms typically resolve themselves within a week to 10 days. Then again, like with many other substances, cocaine cravings can occur from out of the blue, many years after you’ve detoxified or purged coke from your body. Brain chemistry alterations from cocaine are hard to undo.

Nevertheless, for a drug, cocaine also has a short half-life. Symptoms for withdrawal can start as soon as 90 minutes after you’ve taken your last hit. Cocaine’s withdrawal symptom timeline depends on the individual’s constitution as well. Here are the factors that can affect this timeline.

  • Pureness of the Drug: When the drug is cut with fillers like flour, less of the drug ends up in the patient’s system. However, people who use the purest of coke will tend to have withdrawal symptoms and psychological complications for a longer period of time.
  • Dosage Size: Addicted patients who use huge amounts of coke will likely undergo withdrawal symptoms for longer periods of time compared to those who take smaller doses because there’s more buildup of coke left in their systems. Also, their brains are more acclimated to the more intense and longer highs than small-dosage coke users. 
  • Usage Length: Cocaine users and abusers who use the drug for a short period of time will have a proportionately short duration for their withdrawal symptoms. In turn, people who’ve been using cocaine for the long term or for years will suffer from lingering withdrawal symptoms that stretch on weeks due to the buildup of cocaine in their bodies as well as residual cravings many more years after detoxification.
  • Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder: If you suffer from any co-occurring condition of the brain or mental disorder such as an eating disorder, anxiety, personality disorder, or depression, then this might complicate or aggravate the cocaine withdrawal process. The same could be said from someone suffering from addiction from various substances. The withdrawal timeline will have to be lengthened to adjust to this situation.
  • Environment: If the coke user uses cocaine in order to escape from an environment filled with stress, then stress becomes the trigger to induce his relapse. Therefore, environmental factors that made the addict turn out addicted to coke can serve as a way for him to succumb to future coke usage, such as work troubles and relationship issues. The more stress he suffers the more intense his cravings for coke will become, thus making the psychological withdrawal process even more complicated. 


The Verdict 

Getting over a cocaine addiction is easier said than done. This goes double for the psychological and emotional scars left by the potent drug. You’re required careful individualized treatment that caters to every aspect of your addiction to get over it. You specifically need something like a holistic treatment model that covers your physical, mental, emotional, and (at times) spiritual needs.

In terms of your psychological withdrawal symptoms and mental trauma from being addicted, you need to search for rehab centers on counseling and different psychiatric therapies (like behavioral therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and sponsorships in 12-step programs).

More often than not, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. If you can help it, never get addicted to cocaine or quit while you’re still not dependent on it. This is especially true if you have an addictive personality. Avoid it like the plague.

Cocaine Abuse and Withdrawal Treatment at Lanna Rehab

The dedicated staff and crew of Lanna Rehab Wellness Center is there to assist you when it comes to your lifelong success and recovery from drugs like cocaine. It has the kind of program necessary to specifically assist you when it comes to the psychological impact that cocaine has in your brain. It takes more than medical detoxification to handle cocaine’s psychological withdrawal symptoms, but Lanna Rehab has the right treatment model to help you ever step of the way. Call their24/7 toll-free number for more information.

Martin Peters

Martin Peters has a BA (Hons) Dip HE Dip RN CSAT III and is the Group Program Director Lanna Healthcare. He is a Registered Nurse and Certified Substance Abuse Therapist working in the mental health field since 1994; Martin has had a wide range of experience in management and supervisory roles within established healthcare systems, and has provided consultancy services to a number of private and public sector organizations in the UK and Asia in terms of management, policy writing, accreditation and recruitment. Martin’s addictions experience has been in developing inpatient services in Thailand since 2009, both clinical and operational. He has been instrumental in expanding and developing a non 12 step inpatient treatment centre and opening a further inpatient centre with a 12 step approach, implementing KIPU Electronic Records, strengthening hospital partnerships, introducing a Scholarship for students under the Masters in Addiction Studies Program at The ASEAN Institute for Health Development and working with an international accreditation body. Martin has also been a speaker at several international conferences on addiction, including ASEAN conferences and has also guest lectured at Mahidol University (Thailand), University of Sarghoda (Pakistan) Institute of Medical Sciences (Pakistan) and has been a representative on the CARF Standards Advisory Committee for 2016.In 2015. Martin became a Co-Founder of Lanna Healthcare, launching Lanna Rehab in March 2016 and opening Jintra in January 2018. In June of 2018, Martin was involved in the merger of Lanna and DARA, becoming Thailand's biggest private licensed operator. Martin is currently a Joint and Asia Health Co Ltd Owner Operator of Lanna Healthcare Co Ltd, which under its umbrella manages Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai, Jintra Rehab in Chiang Mai and DARA Rehab in Koh Chang - all Thailand MoPH Licensed Addiction Facilities providing world-class treatment in Thailand.

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