Medical detox is commonly the first step a person will take before receiving treatment for addiction involving cocaine due to the powerful psychological withdrawal symptoms that often occur when the drug wears off.
Medical detox offers a safe and secure environment where individuals are supervised around the clock to avoid a return to drug use or engage in self-harming behaviors.When someone suffers from cocaine dependence, and suddenly stops using the drug, withdrawal symptoms that can include suicidal thoughts and actions and very powerful cravings are typical. This can encourage a return to using the drug, known as relapse.
Cocaine overdose after stopping use of the drug for any length of time is a serious threat and can have life-threatening consequences. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) publishes that in 2014 around 5,000 people died from cocaine overdose in 2014. When treating addiction involving cocaine, cravings and fluctuating emotions often need to be attended to first, commonly through a medical detox program. Only after a certain level of stability is reached can in-depth treatment begin. Individuals should undergo a thorough assessment prior to admission into a treatment program in order to better understand what level of care will be best.
Treating Cocaine Withdrawal First
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 1.5 million American adults used cocaine in the month leading up to the 2014 survey. Cocaine is a stimulant drug that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports has very few medical uses and is primarily a drug of abuse, either in powder or rock (“crack”) form. It raises energy levels while producing an intense “high,” or burst of happiness. Heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and respiration rates all increase as appetite and the need for sleep are suppressed.
Cocaine is often abused in a binge pattern that can quickly lead to physical and psychological dependence and addiction. When someone comes down from a cocaine high, the “crash” can be significant. Fatigue, lack of energy, increased appetite, depression, and anxiety are common.
Regular use of cocaine creates a dependence that can bring difficult withdrawal symptoms, when use is stopped. Per the National Library of Medicine (NLM), these include:
- Significant depression
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Suicidal ideations
- Appetite and weight changes
When other drugs or alcohol are used at the same time, or co-occurring mental health or medical issues are also present, specialized care during detox and treatment is even more important. A drug screening is generally part of the initial assessment protocol to ensure medications used in detox, and the treatment provided, is optimal. Following detox, treatment for addiction involving cocaine includes behavioral, supportive, and pharmacological methods for recovery.
- Lack of energy, motivation, and decreased concentration abilities
- Irritability and agitation
- Sluggish movements
- Disturbed sleep and vivid dreams
- Powerful cravings
NIDA recommends that people stay in a treatment program for at least 90 days to optimize recovery and minimize relapse. Aftercare services and participation in a 12-Step peer support group can enhance long-term recovery. Cocaine cravings and depressed moods may continue for several months after stopping use of the drug so ongoing support is needed.
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