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Medically Reviewed

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

- 9 sections

Medically Reviewed: January 23, 2024

Medical Reviewer

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.


Deciding to find help for cocaine addiction is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that, despite the associated risks, is commonly abused across America and the rest of the world. Many people experiment with cocaine, as it is a socially-acceptable drug in many party scenes, without any intention of becoming addicted to it. However, the drug produces intense euphoric and energizing effects that people become attached to. Once an addiction develops, people typically need help from a drug or alcohol rehab near them.

Treatment for cocaine addiction involves drug detox, residential treatment, and outpatient programming. Participation in evidence-based addiction treatment programs greatly increases the likelihood of a person staying sober in the long-term. Physical dependence and psychological addiction are never easy conditions to overcome, but with the help of professional clinical and medical guidance, you can recover from addiction.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that is derived from coca leaves. In the early 1900s, pure cocaine was the active ingredient in many medicinal therapies used to treat a variety of illnesses. Additionally, it was an ingredient in the popular soda, Coca-Cola. Although the drug was used to help block pain during surgeries before the development of synthetic local anesthetic, today it is a schedule II drug – indicating a high potential for abuse.[1]

The drug is typically sold as a white powder that people snort. However, people will also smoke the drug or dissolve it in water and inject it for a faster, stronger high. People refer to freebase cocaine as crack – the substance created when people process the drug with ammonia or baking soda to produce a pure, smokable substance.

Due to the illegality of the drug, street-dealers typically cut pure cocaine with other substances to increase its profitability. For example, cocaine found on the street is usually cut with substances like cornstarch, talcum powder, flour, baking soda, and other non-psychoactive substances. When buying cocaine,  you might hear it referred to as coke, snow, powder, white girl, or blow.

Cocaine acts by binding to dopamine receptors in the brain to amplify signals sent from one neuron to the next. As a result, dopamine receptors become overwhelmed and a buildup of dopamine occurs, leading to the pleasurable and euphoric effects of cocaine. As a stimulant, the drug leads to an increase of energy, feelings of excitement and connection to others, and other addictive feelings.

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

When a person ingests cocaine, the effects begin almost immediately and last a few hours. Since the drug is short-acting, many people use the drug periodically over a period of time.  While under the influence of cocaine, a person may exhibit any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Talkativeness
  • Mentally alert
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Decrease in sleep
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Large amounts of cocaine lead to less desirable side effects, such as erratic or violent behavior, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, paranoia, and muscle twitches.[2]

Anyone who abuses cocaine in excess is at risk for developing an addiction, which is medically diagnosed as substance use disorder. The criteria established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-V) can be used to diagnose cocaine addiction and expresses many signs that a loved one needs help.[3] These include:

  • Wanting to, or previously attempting to, cut down on how much a person uses but being unable to do so
  • Taking drugs in larger amounts than you initially intended to
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of drug use
  • Having cravings and urges to get high
  • Having troubles at work, school, or home due to substance abuse
  • Continuing to use despite the problems that drug use has on one’s relationships
  • Ignoring social, occupational, or other activities that a person used to enjoy
  • Using drugs even if it is putting your life in danger
  • Continuing to use drugs even if it is making a physical or psychological problem worse
  • Developing a tolerance, therefore, needing to use larger amounts of drugs
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms when not using drugs

If you or a loved one is experiencing two or more of these symptoms, you should consider speaking to someone about whether or not you should seek professional help for cocaine addiction.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is a dangerous stimulant that is responsible for over 1 million hospital visits each year. In fact, approximately one in three ER visits related to drug abuse involves the use of cocaine. [4] Although cocaine abuse ranges from recreational to compulsive use, any method of consuming cocaine can lead to serious long-lasting effects. Some long term consequences of cocaine abuse include:

  • Increased risk of heart attack, seizures, and strokes
  • Development of stress-related disorders
  • Poor decision-making abilities
  • Gastrointestinal complications
  • Disturbances in heart rhythm
  • Risk of coma or sudden death

Furthermore, many people who abuse cocaine do so by mixing it with other drugs or alcohol. For example, some people use cocaine while drinking so they are able to stay awake longer, socialize better, and drink more. Similarly, cocaine is often mixed with depressants like benzodiazepines or opiates, which is referred to as “speedballing.” When mixing substances such as these, people increase their risk of overdose because it’s impossible to ensure that what they are taking is safe. Polydrug use not only increases the risk of dangerous and potentially fatal side effects, but it also increases the risk of developing an addiction to cocaine.

If cocaine is abused long-term, it’s likely to progress into cocaine addiction. Both the body and mind become dependent on these rewarding substances after chronic abuse, so the body demands more and more of the substance to maintain balance. When these substances are suddenly removed and the user stops getting high, he or she will experience uncomfortable physiological withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine Detox and Withdrawal

Since cocaine abuse impairs the brain from producing dopamine in a healthy, natural way without the substance, people who are dependent on the drug experience withdrawals when they don’t use it. For a period of time, the brain needs the drug to feel normal and this adjustment period is when withdrawals occur.

Cocaine is a short-acting drug, so people who are dependent on it may experience withdrawal symptoms shortly after taking their last dose.[5] Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Slowed activity and thinking
  • A general feeling of discomfort

People who are withdrawing from cocaine typically experience intense cravings or desire to use more the drug. As a result, many people continue using to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Since cravings are common and suicidal thoughts are possible, nobody who is addicted to cocaine should detox at home. Drug detox centers provide safe environments staffed by medical professionals who can ensure the safety and comfort of individuals throughout their detox.

Treatment for Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

There are various types of treatments available to people seeking help for cocaine addiction. However, no two treatment programs are the same. Those looking for guidance should consult with an addiction specialist to determine which type of program is best suited for them. The most popular stages of treatment for drug addiction include inpatient rehab and outpatient programming.

Inpatient Drug Rehab

Inpatient cocaine rehab is the go-to treatment option for people with moderate to severe substance use disorder. These residential programs offer supportive housing, around-the-clock supervision, and a protected environment that separates people from their drug-seeking behaviors. Most inpatient rehabs are covered by insurance and last between 30 to 90 days, however, some may last for several months if the patient requires further care.

Inpatient rehab utilizes the following techniques and therapies to help people recover from cocaine addiction:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • 12-step facilitation
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Holistic therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Recreational and leisure activities

The ultimate goal of residential programs is to teach patients how to live sober. This is accomplished through therapies that help uncover, address, and heal the underlying causes and conditions of a person’s addiction. While inpatient treatment provides the solution to substance abuse, it’s important to keep practicing the new skills acquired in rehab and establishing a firm footing in early recovery with the help of outpatient programs.

Outpatient Programming

Since substance use disorder is a disease that requires ongoing treatment, inpatient programs are only the beginning of recovery. Most patients are encouraged to participate in outpatient treatment after leaving residential rehab. Intensive outpatient (IOP) and outpatient (OP) programming are less-intensive forms of treatment for people with mild substance use disorder or for people who are leaving an inpatient rehab center.

These programs last for varying lengths of time and require patients to attend a number of therapy sessions each week. Sometimes, outpatient programs are accompanied by participation in 12-step groups or sober living homes. The goal of this less-intensive care is to help patients adjust to life in sobriety, practice new coping skills, and prevent relapse.

Upon completion of a cocaine rehab program, patients are encouraged to find a support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Cocaine Anonymous (CA). These free support groups help people prevent relapse by connecting like-minded individuals who share their experience, strength, and hope. Support groups are a great and effective way to stay sober after detox and rehab.

Find Help for Cocaine Addiction Today

If you or a loved one is seeking help for cocaine addiction, look no further. Our stimulant detox in North Carolina is the perfect place to start. As a family-owned and operated drug and alcohol treatment provider, we are dedicated to helping patients and their families heal from the chaos of substance abuse. Staffed by a team of expert clinicians and physicians, we are ready to meet all of your detox and rehabilitation needs.

Contact us today to start your journey to recovery.