While rates of cocaine abuse have remained stable over the last few years, it’s still a significant public health problem, especially because it disproportionately affects young people. According to U.S. government statistics, young adults aged 18-25 have the highest rate of cocaine abuse than any other segment of Americans, with nearly 1.1 percent of them saying that they used cocaine in the last 30 days.
Like other addictive stimulants, there are a variety of cocaine withdrawal symptoms, but unlike drugs like heroin, cocaine users do not usually experience visible physical symptoms like vomiting, shaking, or tremors. Because cocaine acts strongly on parts of the brain’s pleasure centers, many users experience an inability to feel or experience pleasure during the cocaine withdrawal process.
Other common cocaine withdrawal symptoms can often include:
- Strong cravings for the drug
- Fatigue, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety and irritability
- Agitation and extreme suspicion or paranoia
- Depression and persistent negative thoughts
- Increased hunger and appetite
- Slowing of activity
- General malaise
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Suicidal thoughts (in some individuals)
Research indicates that at least half of all individuals addicted to cocaine have a concurring mental disorder– most commonly, depression or attention-deficit disorder (ADD.) Considering the fact that many patients may be using cocaine to ‘self-medicate’ for these conditions, it’s no surprise that when cocaine addiction patients get treatment for their underlying psychological disorders, they experience significantly lower relapse rates than those who do not.
‘Self-medicating’ Withdrawal Symptoms: A Common, Yet Ineffective Cocaine Addiction Recovery Strategy
For individuals who were addicted to cocaine, and have not sought out professional treatment, it can be tempting to use other substances to help reduce the withdrawal symptoms of long-term addiction. Many former cocaine users turn to alcohol, hypnotic, or sedative anti-anxiety medications, such as the benzodiazepine medications Valium or Ativan to temporarily reduce the feelings of anxiety and depression that they so often experience during cocaine withdrawal. Unfortunately, this strategy can only provide temporarily relief, as those who turn to other addictive substances to alleviate the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal will now have two addictions to face. Sadly, instead of helping, these unhealthy coping mechanisms often only make a patient’s recovery more challenging in the long run.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment Starts With a Medical Detox
Much like facing an addiction to other drugs, like benzos, opiates, or methamphetamine, the first step to treat an addiction to cocaine is to undergo a medically supervised detox. Detoxing under medical supervision can be safer, more comfortable, and more effective than a home-based detox, as it removes the temptation to relapse on cocaine or to turn to other drugs, like benzos or alcohol, for withdrawal symptom relief.
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