Is Cocaine Addictive?

young man using cocaine

There are those who claim that cocaine is either not addictive or is not as addictive as other drugs because its withdrawal symptoms are different from those of some other illicit drugs. To make any kind of determination of addictiveness, it’s necessary to look farther than one narrow band of withdrawal symptoms to see what does happen when one comes off prolonged cocaine use.

Addiction can be defined as follows: It is a condition characterized by repeated, compulsive seeking and use of drugs, alcohol or similar substances despite adverse social, mental and physical consequences. It is usually accompanied by psychological and physical dependence on the abused substance and the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the use of the addictive substance is rapidly decreased or terminated. Addiction is also marked by a severe craving that addicts find difficult or impossible to resist.

Some experts also consider that addiction includes the phenomenon of tolerance—when a body gets used to the presence of a drug and more and more must be used to get the same effects as were previously achieved with less.

So what criteria can we use to determine addictiveness of cocaine?

  1. Tolerance: According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse: “With repeated use, tolerance to the cocaine high also often develops. Many cocaine abusers report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure.”

  2. Damaging effects, but the person continues to use the drug: When physical damage occurs as a result of cocaine use but the person continues to use the drug, this fits the definition of addiction. Unfortunately, it is very common for a person to suffer adverse health effects that they are largely unaware of, just due to the impairment that accompanies drug use, especially heavy drug use.

Cocaine is a stimulant, and as such, it creates stress on the heart and blood vessels. An enlarged heart is a very common finding among cocaine addicts, and it can lead to sudden death. In December 2010, a top aviation lawyer was found dead after a cocaine binge in London. An autopsy found that the 58-year-old man had an enlarged heart and an inflamed liver. Most cocaine deaths occur in young people between the ages of 18 and 29, many of whom are unaware of this damage being done.

3. Withdrawal symptoms: Cocaine does not usually result in the severe and highly visible withdrawal symptoms of addiction that mark heroin or opiate and alcohol use. But it does have its own symptoms.

As it is a stimulant, when use stops, the former user normally experiences a crash accompanied by a strong craving for more coke. They may also feel fatigue, a lack of pleasure from any source, anxiety, sleepiness, and paranoia. This state can also be followed by a deep depression and irritability. Some people may feel suicidal. While cravings may be intense at the beginning of the withdrawal period, they may be even worse in later withdrawal.

4. Damage to one’s life: Illicit drug use is associated with high levels of crime, arrest and incarceration, domestic abuse and child abuse and children entering the foster care system. Drug use in general and cocaine use, in particular, are associated with emergency room visits and admissions to addiction treatment. Cocaine was the top drug mentioned in statistics for admissions to emergency rooms and in tests among male arrestees in a 2008 survey that collects information from law enforcement agencies in ten US cities. In 2007, 22 percent of all addiction treatment admissions in the US were due to cocaine use.

Anyone who claims that cocaine is not addictive is not telling the truth. There is damage on every front: health, relationships, legal standing, employment and one that is not normally mentioned in reports on addiction: Finances. Powder cocaine is expensive and stories abound of people who used up tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the drug. Crack cocaine is associated with high levels of crime committed in the distribution of the drug or to get the money to buy the drug. In the UK, one report stated that users often need 15,000 to 30,000 pounds a year ($25,000 to $50,000) to keep them supplied with crack cocaine.

Narconon Offers a Holistic Method of Cocaine Addiction Recovery

The medical staff of some addiction recovery programs may look at the withdrawal symptoms of cocaine recovery and see conditions that they think require medication. Anti-anxiety medications or tranquilizers may be prescribed which keep the recovering addict chained to more drugs that are themselves addictive.

Cocaine addiction can be recovered from without further medication. At every Narconon drug and alcohol recovery center around the world, cocaine addicts seeking recovery receive around-the-clock nutritional supplementation that helps alleviate anxiety, depression and the crash that can follow the cessation of cocaine use. Narconon staff also use a variety of calming and reorienting processes and exercises to help each recovering person experience a more tolerable withdrawal from cocaine.

But this is just the beginning. Once the withdrawal phase is done, each recovering addict has the chance to rebuild the life that cocaine destroyed, through counseling and thorough life skills training to help each person develop new, drug-free pathways and behaviors. There is even an innovative sauna detoxification program that enables each former cocaine user to flush out the residues of past drug use that, being stored in the fatty tissues, can be involved with trigger cravings.

Cocaine addiction can be left behind completely, replaced by a fresh, new drug-free life, at any of the Narconon centers located on six continents.

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