Cocaine comes from the coca plant and has been used by the natives of South America for over a thousand years. This plant, erythroxylon coca, is common to many parts of South America. Cocaine use is common in much of the world and has been for centuries. Coca leaves were used by native populations to alleviate the rigors of high altitude and to diminish fatigue (1).
Cocaine causes addiction or dependency in the brain in a dramatic fashion. This drug increases several neurotransmitters in the pleasure center of the brain. The most important of these neurotransmitters are norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine. Dopamine is the major neurotransmitter providing the feeling of euphoria, which centers in a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens in the prefrontal cortex. This area is rich in dopamine receptor sites and is the main site for euphoria and pleasure. Cocaine withdrawal also gives the user significant energy and flight of ideas. Pressured speech and paranoid behavior are also common. The euphoria is frequently the dominant effect and responsible for ongoing cocaine use, abuse, addiction or dependence.
“Crack cocaine” is obtained by mixing cocaine powder with baking soda. This “cocaine bicarb” got its name from the crackling sound it makes as it is smoked. Crack cocaine has a lower vaporization temperature and can be smoked easily. This explains why these “rocks” are so addicting. Approximately 25 million people in the United States use cocaine at least once in their lifetime (2).
Detox, withdrawal and cravings from cocaine are not dangerous or life threatening. Individuals go into a “crash phase” once stopping cocaine after prolonged use. This crash phase is characterized by extreme fatigue, lack of pleasure and increased appetite. The crash phase lasts for a few days to a week. These symptoms are related to decreased levels of various neurotransmitters or chemical agents in the brain that were depleted during cocaine binging. The withdrawal symptoms from cocaine use generally depend on the individual, frequency and amount of cocaine that was used. Withdrawal, detox and cravings from cocaine are usually diminished over a few weeks.
Cocaine dramatically increases blood pressure and heart rate. This can cause varied health problems: strokes, heart attacks, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias and possibly things we do not know about as yet. Cocaine, when mixed with alcohol, forms the compound cocaethylene. This is toxic to the heart muscle and may seriously damage the liver.
Cocaine can cause a multitude of psychological effects. Paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion and psychotic behavior are some of the possible effects. Cocaine is particularly destructive to family and social relationships. Individuals who use become addicted or dependent and may go to extremes to support their addiction. The potential legal ramifications with cocaine use, dependency or addiction are dreadfully serious. There are many individuals doing life prison sentences due to cocaine usage. Keep in mind that, in the United States, the Courts have historically taken a fervent stance against cocaine offenses.
This drug stays in the urine for about 3 – 5 days. Heavy users test positive for longer than that. Treatment or therapy for cocaine use, dependency, addiction, detox, withdrawal and cravings is wide-ranging. The majority of medications used to help with cocaine treatment/therapy provide symptomatic relief. Inpatient care is ideal for individuals strung out on cocaine; but it is, unfortunately, very costly. Probably every antidepressant known to man has been used to treat cocaine addicts with varying degrees of success.
Home treatment, including therapy for detox, withdrawal and cravings for cocaine, is an affordable option to inpatient treatment. Individuals frequently seek alternative treatment for cocaine addiction. There are herbal formulations and supplements available to help addicts. These non-addicting, natural treatments provide individuals with a confidential alternative recovery option. Herbal/supplement home treatment for cocaine addiction should be continued for at least 2 years. It can take that long to normalize the electrical and chemical changes that occurred in the brain during the course of addiction.
Cognitive and behavioral therapies are very important in recovery from cocaine addiction or dependency. Support groups are necessary, especially in early recovery. Relapse is common with cocaine addiction/dependency and the recovering addict must be aware of multiple relapse triggers. Certain people, places and things can cause immense problems for an individual in recovery from cocaine addiction/dependency.