What Does Cocaine Addiction Help Look Like?

Struggling to break free of any addiction can feel like an uphill climb. Cocaine addiction, with its intense and persistent cravings, can be particularly difficult to work through. By addressing and understanding how cocaine affects the brain, you will come to see how treatment can break the cycle of addiction. You will also learn how to create positivity in your life by paving the road to recovery through a comprehensive treatment program.

Media representations portray cocaine addiction in a very dichotomous way—it’s either glamorous parties frequented by the American elite, or complete poverty and desolation, barely making ends meet just to get another “last” hit. In reality, there are many people in the throes of addiction that don’t fit neatly into either of these categories. These are people who might seem like they have their lives together, but behind the scenes are trapped in a life defined by the repetition and feelings of helplessness that so often walk hand-in-hand with addiction.

Although seeking help with your cocaine addiction certainly comes with its fair share of struggles, taking that first step toward recovery be the start of a new path defined by healing and optimism. Wondering what treatment will look like on your unique journey? At a residential treatment center, you can learn how to cope with, and ultimately move past, your addiction through a combination of psychological assessment, standard and holistic therapies, and positive lifestyle changes. In the words of Socrates, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Understanding How Cocaine Affects the Brain


The immediate effects of cocaine are an increase in dopamine, the neurotransmitter most associated with feelings of reward and pleasure, and increased activity in the brain’s reward pathways. These paths normally activate in response to things like food, sex, and drugs. But when you use cocaine, especially for long periods of time, these reward pathways become less active, making it harder to feel pleasure. And the flip side is this: when you’re dependent on cocaine and exposed to small amount of it, or even cues associated with the drug, these pathways become hyperactive.

Cocaine’s close ties to our brain’s reward pathways, which are ancient from an evolutionary perspective, means they have a strong influence on our behavior. This is why it can feel so hard to stop—in the face of cues connected to drug use, it feels impossible to ignore the urges and the primal hyperactive arousal system that pushes us to use. They’re the driving forces of what feels like a never-ending cycle, but if you can find it in yourself to take action in spite of them—even temporarily—and seek help, you will mark the beginning of a new cycle that begins and ends with optimism.

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How Treatment Can Help Break the Cycle of Your Addiction


The first step in any treatment program is medically supervised detox. But while this is still a crucial step for cocaine users, it is the psychological symptoms that make it such a hard habit to break. Although feeling physically sick does happen during detox, the symptoms that drive you to use (unlike some of the nastiest physical withdrawals, like opiates) are largely psychological, including:

  • A general sense of unease
  • Depression
  • Vivid dreams and nightmares
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Paranoia

Experiencing these symptoms during withdrawal, when every cue reminds you of cocaine and sends your brain into a frenzy, can make it very easy to relapse. This is why residential treatment is so necessary: it allows you to detox at a comfortable pace in a healthy, adaptive environment free of drug-related cues. When detox is complete, you’ll move into treatment, which will ensure that any time you get a craving, you will be connected to professional and peer support networks to help you through the roughest time.

In terms of medication, of the most promising drugs for treating cocaine addiction is disulfiram, which is also used to treat alcoholism. Since many people who abuse cocaine also abuse alcohol, this can be a very useful medication. Data is still limited, but research is promising and suggests it can increase abstinence in people struggling with cocaine addiction. Other medications, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), are also commonly used during treatment—while they do not tend to reduce cocaine use directly, they are often used to treat other disorders, such as cocaine-induced panic disorder, that can hinder recovery.

Arguably the most important part of cocaine addiction treatment, however, is learning how to control your urges to use. Once you head back into the pressures of everyday life, you won’t have the safe, secure environment of treatment to ease your fears. It’s these pressures that probably make you feel stuck in an endless cycle, but what you will have upon reentry are the coping skills that you learn in treatment. Through a broad spectrum of therapies, you will learn how to address and control your addiction, and develop a sense of confidence and strength in the face of your worst times. Consider mindfulness meditation: it has been shown to reduce stress, and stress reduction is known to help curb cocaine cravings. With tools like this at your disposal, you’ll begin to see that cocaine isn’t the only way, or even the most effective way, to set your mind at ease.

Paving the Road to Recovery


A comprehensive residential treatment program isn’t a magic ticket to success. You will likely stumble along the way, but the key is learning from these stumbles and using this knowledge to continue growing as a person and healing from your addiction. And with the help of continuing care and family support, you will always have someone to fall back on and talk to along your constantly evolving path to recovery. This will be a lifelong journey, but it’s never too late to start. It will help you gain control of your struggles, live a life free from the clutches of your addiction, and give you tools and connections that you can always hold onto for strength as you continue moving forward.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.