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Cocaine addiction is one of the most common and dangerous drugs in the world, given the fact that it triggers the greatest known psychological dependence after methamphetamine. There are tens of thousands of people who consume cocaine on a regular basis in the US, unaware of the fact that they can quickly become tolerant to the drug, thus requiring an increasingly higher dose in order to satisfy their cravings.
One of the many aspects that make this drug so dangerous is that it is often used in conjunction with other high-risk drugs, such as heroin, or even with tranquilizers and alcohol ' all of which are known to increase the dangers and risks that are commonly associated with the long-term cocaine use. Unfortunately, the relapse rate is very high for this highly addictive drug, and it is very difficult to predict whether an individual can abstain from using cocaine in the future, even after having successfully completed a recovery program.
Cocaine addiction triggers a series of long-term and short-term effects that will take their toll on the physical, emotional and mental well-being of the individual. The short-term effects include high blood pressure, a dangerously high heart rate, fever or dilated pupils ' however, if the user has overdosed on cocaine, then this can result in a violent, erratic behavior combined with extreme anxiety, restlessness and even paranoia. It is not uncommon for those who resort to high doses of cocaine to also experience muscle twitches.
Overdosing on cocaine is often lethal, unfortunately, as the user usually experiences heart attacks, strokes, seizures or coma. Cardiac arrest and respiratory failure are known to be the most common causes of cocaine-induced death ' however, one does not need to overdose on drugs all at once to put his life at risk, as long-term consumption often has the same outcome.
Repeated cocaine consumption affects the neural pathways and what is known as "neuroplasticity". The human brain is said to be the most complex machine in the Universe, and it is known to be highly adaptable: when somebody uses cocaine over an extended period of time, not only will that person become more and more tolerant to it, but the toxic effects of the drug will also have a severe impact on the brain. Gradual loss of smell due to snorting, a perforated or severely irritated septum, nosebleeds, swallowing issues, significant weight loss (resulting from the loss of appetite) or bowel gangrene are only some of the long-term risks associated with prolong use of high-risk drugs, such as this one.
In spite of being one of the most addictive drugs, it is possible for people to overcome this addiction with professional help and with a combination of treatments that usually involve a behavioral and a pharmaceutical approach. Having said that, some of the most serious withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, increased appetite, generalized fatigue, depression, panic attacks and nervousness. These symptoms can vary greatly from one patient to another, depending on certain factors such as their tolerance to the drug, or for how long they have been taking cocaine. Generally speaking, long-term addiction is more difficult to overcome, as the body has slowly accustomed to the drug.
It is not uncommon for those who suffer from cocaine addiction to experience depression, intense craving and even suicidal thoughts for several months after the treatment ended ' this is precisely why the relapse rate is so high. For this reason, it is extremely important for patients to be under close supervision throughout the entire recovery period.
As mentioned above, the treatment plan usually involves a combination of medications and behavioral interventions, along with group therapy sessions and individual therapy. At the time being, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any specific medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction, although many professional centers rely on drugs designed to treat alcoholism and other addictions, in order to limit the cravings and to make the recovery process as comfortable and as bearable as possible.
Group therapy and behavioral treatments commonly used, as it is important to counsel the patient and to fully explain him or her all the risks related to drug consumption. These therapy sessions can be done either in outpatient or inpatient settings. Contingency management is one of the most commonly used types of behavioral therapy for the treatment of severe drug addiction: as the name suggests, this form of treatment involves "rewarding" the patient for every drug-free urine test, it has been used for decades and proven to be highly effective.
Group sessions and community-based recovery groups (the well-known 12-step programs that are often used for those who suffer from alcohol addiction as well) are also very helpful during the recovery process. Last, but not least, CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is widely used at the end of the recovery process, in order to prevent relapse. It often happens that one of the most difficult phases of treating cocaine addiction is not overcoming the addiction per se, but preventing the patient from relapsing. The purpose of CBT is to help patients truly understand, to recognize and to avoid the effects of cocaine consumption.
Every cocaine addiction treatment plan emphasizes on a set of "recovery skills" that every patient should acquire: it is important for the patients to always be honest about their drug use, to know how to relax and when to steer clear from high risk situations that may lead to relapse. The risk for relapse is of almost 70% during the first year of recovery, and then it gradually drops to less than 20% after more than five years of being drug-free.
The bottom line is that for the best results, a cocaine addiction treatment program should start easily and should be less restrictive at first, only to become more aggressive as the patient slowly distances himself from the drug. The withdrawal symptoms are often uncomfortable, and the patient may feel like it is impossible to overcome the carvings and urges, however with persistence and the right treatment plan, individuals can recover and rebuild a happy, responsible, drug-free life.