What are the Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse?

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant and therefore extremely addictive, both physically and mentally. Made from the coca plant leaves it goes by many ‘street’ names including coke, blow, snow, crack and rocks. Utilised by healthcare professionals for medical purposes as anaesthesia and for pain management in surgery with controlled dosage it is, however, an illegal street drug.

cocaine abuse

 

What is Cocaine?

The illegal street version of cocaine varies in strength and potency because it is mixed with other agents and drugs to bulk out the product and increase profit for dealers. Cocaine in powder form looks like flour or talcum powder and is a fine crystal-like powder. With prolonged use of cocaine, the effects or ‘high’ are reduced, so higher doses are required to achieve the same effect. This causes your brain to become rewired making it more dependent on the drug even after stopping usage.

Why is Your Brain Affected by Cocaine?

Your brain is affected by cocaine usage because cocaine increases the dopamine levels in your brain. Dopamine is the brains messenger, or neurotransmitter, that controls how your brain receptors interpret pleasure. Moreover, it affects your brains reward sensors causing a dependency on your brain for managing pleasurable feelings. 

So with stimulated and fluctuating dopamine levels causing chemical imbalances in your brain, cocaine abuse causes real psychological damage. Particularly:

The Dopamine Effect: Your brain controls the release of the chemical dopamine in your brains reward circuitry when preparing for potential rewards. This normally motivates and encourages you to complete a task or work towards a goal. Dopamine also provides pleasurable feelings when you are participating in events that are important to you or you enjoy, like going on a date or the birth of a child. Dopamine makes you feel good doing the things that are satisfying and rewarding to you.

The Dopamine Cycle: Dopamine is a naturally occurring brain chemical that once released, is then recycled back into the brain. This process shuts off the brain signal, and the effect of dopamine wears off with time. This is a natural process, and therefore you cannot have dopamine being released constantly in your brain without it affecting your brain.

Cocaine and Dopamine: Cocaine activates and stimulates the brain cells that release dopamine and therefore increases your brains dopamine supply. Cocaine also stops the natural dissipation of dopamine while you are experiencing a cocaine high. So the simple act of snorting cocaine provides a feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment as your brain falsely through stimulation experiences reward and pleasure.

Break the Cycle & Halt the Dopamine Flood: Cocaine increases the dopamine levels in the brain by maintaining the desensitisation and halting the natural dissipation or dispersal of dopamine in the brain. The brain then becomes flooded with dopamine as it does not dissipate resulting in a dopamine overload in the brain nerves. As the effects of the cocaine fade, your brain craves the sensation.

The Dopamine Deluge: This flooding of dopamine causes disruption with the normal function of the brain and how the brains reward mechanism works. The ‘false’ pleasure, however brief, causes a reduction in the brain’s motivation for real reward.

Using cocaine causes your brain activity to change in the way that your brain communicates with your body. Feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and achievement are falsely provided by the cocaine, making cocaine the mental replacement for true success and achievement.

Methods of Cocaine Usage

 cocaine abuse

Due to the short-lived effects of cocaine, cocaine usage is taken in ‘binges’, where the drug is consumed over and over again, in a short time frame and in ever-increasing dosages. This happens because the effects of cocaine weaken and reduce over time and with prolonged usage.

Cocaine can be consumed and introduced into the body and brain in many different ways, including:

  • Snorting Inhalation – taken by snorting up a nostril from a line of cocaine using a straw, typically a rolled up paper banknote.
  • Rubbed into Gums – dissolved through the gum membrane via saliva.
  • Dissolved then Injected – dissolved in water then injected into the bloodstream.
  • Speedball Injection – cocaine when combined with heroin, and injected into the bloodstream with more potent and stimulating high with the potential for overdosing.
  • Smoking by Crack Inhalation – Cocaine is processed into a rock crystal and consumed via a ‘crack pipe’ and also known as crack and freebasing. Crack because of the crackling sound the drug makes when heated in the pipe, creating vapours that are inhaled.

 

Cocaine Abuse Affects Your Mental & Bodily Functions

cocaine abuse

Recreational cocaine usage is dissimilar to alcohol consumption in that it is not taken responsibly or moderately and due to the illegal and unregulated nature, people tend to abuse cocaine seeking the initial high. This over-consumption and usage leaves the brain and body at risk of neurological damage that can affect your quality of life. Cocaine usage is categorically connected to the following:

  • Loss of Behaviour Control: Cocaine usage over an extended period causes an altered mental state leading to lack of control over your behaviour including impulses, patience and emotional maturity.
  • Loss of Movement Control: Cocaine works at a neurological level affecting your bodies movement with involuntary shaking and twitches including your ability to walk, sit and stand properly.
  • Loss of Stimulation: Cocaine desensitises your brain to normal stimuli, leaving you feeling bored and unresponsive to normal stimulation from experiences.
  • Inability to Perform Daily Activities: Cocaine affects your brain and body altering normal daily routines like getting up from a bed, brushing your teeth, eating at a dining table or performing other rudimentary tasks
  • Inability to Make Decisions: Cocaine affects your attention span, your sense of cognition and your decision making abilities, especially for long term cocaine abuse.

In summary, your sleeping pattern, attention span, the perception of reality, frame of mind, emotional balance, indulgences, memory and other cognitive abilities will become impaired with cocaine usage.

Distinct Adverse Effects of Cocaine Abuse on the Brain

Cocaine abuse causes changes to the chemistry of the brain, directly affecting your behaviour and causes psychological withdrawal symptoms if not taken. These alterations are related to the cocaine users increased requirement to consume more cocaine each time they use, leading to addiction easily and the desensitisation effect.

Cocaine altered brain chemistry can be noticeable in the form of behavioural abnormalities including unusual and erratic behaviour. Cocaine addiction can make you behave erratically, causing issues with others including family and friends.

Spotting the Signs of Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are less intense that the withdrawal symptoms of other drugs like alcohol and heroin; however cocaine withdrawal presents its own set of issues to overcome for a successful recovery.

cocaine abuse

Withdrawal from alcohol addiction, for example, may involve extreme physical symptoms on the body that can be life-threatening. In contrast, cocaine detoxification concerns the psychological withdrawal effects and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Physical symptoms like chills, tremors, nerve pain and body aches
  • Restlessness, exhaustion, slowed activity and fatigue
  • Slow thinking and difficulty concentrating
  • Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Inability to feel pleasure, including sexual arousal
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased craving for cocaine

When is Cocaine Medical Detox Required?

This depends on the individual circumstances of the user’s addiction. Cocaine detox can be performed through outpatient therapy; however residential medical cocaine detox is required in certain instances. This is especially the case if the person in recovery has relapsed during any prior attempt at recovery and 24-hour medical supervision is required.

This type of detox is recommended for cocaine withdrawal to ensure patient safety, specifically if:

  • Co-occurring Mental Conditions Exist: If the user suffers from various co-occurring mental conditions, that is someone with a substance use disorder as well as mental health disorders, then any medical detoxification should intentionally be followed by a comprehensive inpatient addiction rehabilitation treatment.
  • Increased Suicide Risk: Increased suicidal thoughts or actions is one of the most problematic symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, and this is what makes cocaine addiction essentially difficult, despite the withdrawals lacking severe physical bodily withdrawal symptoms.
  • An Addictive High: Another issue for cocaine addiction is mental health issues like mood swings, depression and anxiety. This is caused by the continual flood of dopamine that causes disruption with the normal function of the brain and how the brains reward mechanism works.

Timeline for Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms usually resolve themselves within a week to 10 days; however, like many addictive substances, cocaine cravings may occur many years after detoxification. The alterations to brain chemistry from cocaine abuse are harder to undo. Typical withdrawal cravings can occur as soon as 90 minutes’ after the last high, but the withdrawal symptom timeline depends on the individual’s current health and constitution and may also be affected by other factors including:

  • Drug Purity: Cocaine is cut with differing bulking agents to expand the product, and therefore the strength varies and the amount absorbed by the user varies. The purer the cocaine consumed then usually, the longer the withdrawal symptoms and psychological complications will last.
  • Dosage Amount: Heavy users will undoubtedly suffer withdrawal symptoms for longer periods of time compared to lighter users because there is a larger build-up of the drug left in their symptoms and their brains have become altered due to the more intense usage.
  • Length of Usage: Cocaine users who have been using for a short period will have a proportionately shorter duration for withdrawal symptoms than people who have been using for long term or many years, who will have a longer period of withdrawal due to the build-up of cocaine in the system.
  • Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions: The withdrawal process can become complicated and long for someone who has any additional needs or co-occurring conditions like an eating disorder, personality disorder, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Environmental Factors: If someone’s cocaine usage is triggered by environmental factors like a stressful workplace or relationship then stress can become the triggering factor to induce relapse. The psychological withdrawal process is, therefore, more complicated due to stress causing cravings.

What Now?

If you want to stop using cocaine, then you will soon discover that it may be easier said than done. This is due to the psychological and emotional impact of withdrawal. An individualised holistic cocaine treatment plan catering for your needs is required covering physical, mental and emotional requirements.

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