Cocaine

Although overshadowed in recent decades by the rise of methamphetamine and opioid addiction, cocaine addiction remains a severe problem in the United States. Part of the problem is that many no longer view cocaine as a “hard” drug, and lose sight of its addictive nature and the health risks it poses.

If you are looking into a cocaine rehab center for yourself or a loved one, make sure that you are getting all of the facts before making this important decision. Treatment for cocaine addiction can represent a significant investment of time and resources, so it is critical that you gather as much information as possible regarding treatment options. An important factor in the treatment of cocaine addiction is the residence where patients will live. Altus Treatment Center offers modern and welcoming facilities that provide our patients with opportunities to attend world class addiction treatment, focusing on the whole body’s health and wellness. Our highly trained and dedicated psychologists work with patients to determine the best course of action to impact addiction, and the staff to patient ratio is low for a treatment center of this kind.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a drug derived from coca plant leaf and acts as a powerful stimulant when ingested. In many cases, health care practitioners employ it for legitimate medical reasons, such as a local anesthesia. Outside of these medical uses, however, illegal cocaine usually comes in the form of a fine, white, crystal powder.

In its pure form cocaine has a distinctive chemical odor and taste. Alkaloid, the active ingredient in cocaine, is extracted from coca plant leaves and synthesized into a powder form using sodium bicarbonate and bleach. When sold on the streets, it is frequently mixed it with substances such as cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour for the purposes of stretching the supply. More dangerously, it is also sometimes combined with other drugs, such as amphetamine. As a result of using this “cut” cocaine, users are put at greater risk of either developing an addiction or overdosing, as it is usually unknown what other ingredients are present and how hazardous they may be.

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How do you identify cocaine?

In today’s illegal drug market, more and more substances that have a white powdery form can be found on the streets. It has, therefore, become harder to identify cocaine just by sight alone. Some traits you might look for are its distinctive white color (as opposed to other substances that may have a slightly darker shading) and its smooth texture that is somewhat like that of laundry detergent. When ingested, the powder is cut into lines and snorted.

Street dealers usually package cocaine in small plastic baggies, or sometimes just plastic wrap that has been twisted up. It should also be noted that since cocaine is typically one of the more expensive drugs sold illegally, so the amounts purchased are usually quite small. Typically, units are measured in grams or ounces, although sometimes larger quantities packaged in plastic wrap, referred to as bricks, are sold.

How does cocaine affect your brain?

Our brains have a number of pleasure centers that have evolved for the purposes of our survival. These systems are designed to reward us when we engage in behavior that promotes our health and continued existence. The most obvious examples are eating and sexual activity. When we do things of this nature, our brains release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives us a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction. It is our brain's way of telling us “good job.”

Initially, cocaine is able to elicit this dopamine response from the brain. The brain responds to the stimulation it receives with a reward to the user. The presence of cocaine, however, causes the dopamine released to remain in the brain longer than it normally should. The drug is blocking a natural process known as reuptake, and this is what causes the user to experience a high.

With habitual cocaine use, though, the brain becomes less receptive to the presence of the drug. The initial level of intake will no longer trigger the same response, and the user has therefore developed a tolerance. Regardless, the user will continually try to recreate the initial euphoria, although it cannot be achieved. The size of dosages and the frequency of use will escalate as the user chases this high. It is this nature of cocaine use that can make it such an addictive substance.

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How is cocaine treated?

Pharmacological approach

At this time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs targeted to treat cocaine addiction. Researchers, however, are exploring a variety of neurobiological targets. One promising candidate, still in clinical trials is disulfiram, which is also used in the treatment of alcoholism.

Researchers are also in the early tests stages of a cocaine vaccine that could mitigate the risk of relapse. The approach is to stimulate the body’s natural immune response to creating antibodies that bind to cocaine and prevent from ever reaching the brain. The staff at Altus Treatment Center is well aware of the impacts that treating cocaine addiction can have on patients, and they work hard to ensure the rehabilitation process is as smooth as possible for patients; understanding that the withdrawal surrounding cocaine can be quite painful and overwhelming for most.

Behavioral approaches

Many residential and outpatient programs have been shown to be an effective treatment for cocaine addiction. In fact, when it comes to many stimulant addictions, behavioral therapies are often the only effective treatments that are available.

Contingency management (CM), also called motivational incentives, is one type of treatment used in cocaine rehab centers, such as Altus Treatment Center have shown to have positive results. Programs like the ones at Altus Treatment Center reward patients who maintain their sobriety with vouchers or other such prizes.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often employed for preventing relapse. The goal is to teach the patient recovery skills designed to achieve long-term abstinence.

Therapeutic communities (TCs) are drug-free residences that emphasize interaction among those in recovery to help each other to understand their behaviors and what is driving their addictions.

When a patient has identified they need help, the sooner they can access it, the better off the patient will be. We round the clock supervision at our residential facilities, and a low staff to patient ratio at our day treatment centers during regular business hours.

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