Drug Use

What is cocaine?

What is cocaine?

Cocaine—also known as blow, coke, crack, flake and snow—is a potent stimulant drug derived from the processed leaves of the coca plant. “Crack” cocaine, which was produced and popularized in the early 1980s, is a powder that has been processed to form rock crystals that are usually smoked.

The dangers of cocaine addiction.

Cocaine is a highly dangerous drug, regardless of frequency of use. Far more addictive than many other drugs and alcohol, cocaine is classified as Schedule II drug, meaning it has high potential for abuse that may quickly lead to severe physical and psychological dependence.

Short-term effects of cocaine abuse.

Cocaine impacts users differently depending upon dosage, purity and method of administration. While all three methods of cocaine abuse—snorting, injecting or smoking—lead to addiction, each produces different effects due to differences in the amount of time it takes for cocaine to reach the brain. Injecting and smoking cocaine produces the most intense highs, but they last only five to ten minutes. Smoking is thought to increase compulsive use the most. Snorting produces a weaker high that can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Consequently, cocaine is often abused in binges, or repeated, increasingly higher doses taken in a short period of time to avoid the post-high crash.

Generally, cocaine’s short-term effects include

  • euphoria
  • hyperactivity
  • restlessness
  • feelings of invincibility
  • heightened sexual interest and pleasure

Cocaine-induced euphoria quickly escalates to discomfort. Short-term side effects of cocaine include:

  • bloodshot eyes
  • increased blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate
  • constricted peripheral blood vessels
  • dilated pupils
  • abdominal pain
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • depression
  • mania
  • anxiety
  • twitching
  • paranoia
  • impotence

Serious adverse cocaine effects can occur even in first-time users. Cocaine puts people at risk for heart attacks, strokes, respiratory failure and seizures—all of which can result in sudden death. Furthermore, mixing cocaine with alcohol increases the chance of sudden death by causing the liver to manufacture a third substance, cocaethylene, which intensifies cocaine’s effects.

Long-term effects of cocaine abuse.

Repeated cocaine abuse can lead to drug addiction and a host health and relational problems, including:

  • loss of appetite and dangerous weight loss
  • altered appearance: damage to nasal passage, tooth grinding, deteriorated tooth enamel
  • lung damage
  • asthma
  • an aching, flu-like syndrome
  • rare autoimmune diseases
  • connective tissue disorders
  • kidney diseases
  • renal failure
  • doubled risk of stroke and infractions
  • problems with work performance
  • tardiness or even job loss
  • money problems (caused by job loss and feeding the cocaine habit)
  • lying, cheating and stealing to support the need to get high on cocaine
  • violent behavior

Prolonged cocaine abuse may also lead to tolerance, or need to consume larger amounts to achieve the initial high. Cocaine withdrawal, can cause depression, making cocaine addiction very difficult to overcome.

Treatment Options


The first step in cocaine addiction treatment is detoxification, which is often medically supervised. Once the body is ridded of all drugs and alcohol, a comprehensive rehabilitation program that addresses all aspects of addiction (psychological, biological, social, physiological, occupational, etc.) should be implemented.


While there are no specific pharmacotherapies available for the treatment of cocaine addiction, some studies have shown that, especially in serious cases, medications such as amantadine and bromocriptine effectively reduce cravings, normalize sleep and increase energy.

Behavioral therapy

Most successful drug rehab plans will incorporate some form of behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy and addiction counseling, for example, focus on identifying the underlying causes of addiction and teaching the addict to identify, avoid and cope with relapse triggers. Behavioral therapy is an important step toward long-term cocaine abstinence.

Cocaine Support Groups

Many support groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), have proven to benefit treatment and ongoing recovery.

The importance of inpatient rehabilitation programs.

Though not all cocaine addicts need to enroll in a residential treatment program in order to successfully recover, inpatient rehabilitation programs can be an effective choice for individuals with cocaine problems. These programs are able to manage all aspects of a comprehensive treatment plan, including detoxification, cognitive-behavioral therapy, addiction counseling, family therapy, pharmacotherapy (when possible) and relapse prevention. In addition, residential treatment programs are able to provide patients with professional, 24-hour care in a safe, calming environment.

In general, residential treatment programs also have higher success rates than outpatient treatment programs, because they take the addict away from the environment and friends that fueled the drug problem. Caron’s residential programs offer a comprehensive range of treatment services that focus on the medical, psychological, clinical, physical and spiritual aspects of one's recovery.

Struggling with cocaine addiction? Help is here.

No one should have to face cocaine addiction alone. Contact Caron today for more information on how to get help and recover from cocaine addiction for good

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