Helping a Cocaine Addict

Quickly finding its way to the United States through many sources, including in the beverage Coca-Cola, cocaine soon became popular as a recreational drug.

Content Overview

How to Help a Cocaine Addict?

The regular use of cocaine can damage chemical pathways in the brain, and those changes can make clear thinking difficult. People with a cocaine addiction may not even know they have a problem. Families can raise awareness through interventions, and when treatment begins, they can provide love and support, so the person stays in treatment. When the program is complete, families can also watch for signs of relapse, and they can spur reentry into treatment as needed.

Cocaine was first extracted and purified from the South American native coca plant in 1860 by a graduate student in Germany, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. (NCAAD) publishes.

Quickly finding its way to the United States through many sources, including in the beverage Coca-Cola, cocaine soon became popular as a recreational drug.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that produces an intense high by blocking the reabsorption of dopamine in the brain while keeping users awake, focused, and alert for hours. Approximately 1.5 million Americans over the age of 11 abused cocaine in the month leading up to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2013. Cocaine is currently classified in the US as a Schedule II controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Although it does have a few medicinal uses, as a local anesthetic for instance, it also has a high incidence of abuse and potential for addiction.

Addiction is a disease with several potential triggers and causes that ultimately affect the entire family unit. Genetics, trauma experienced at a young age, mental health issues, and someone’s individual biological makeup can all contribute to substance abuse and the potential onset of addiction. Regular abuse of cocaine actually changes the way a person is able to feel pleasure by making changes in the chemical pathways in the brain. Fortunately, there are several treatment options that work to help reverse some of the negative changes to the brain and psyche made by cocaine abuse and dependency.
When loved ones are addicted to cocaine, they may not understand that a problem even exists or that treatment is necessary and may not seek help on their own. Families may need to work to convince loved ones that help is needed to turn things around. Drugs like cocaine can interfere with individuals normal thought processes, making it hard for them to understand that change is necessary for their emotional and physical health as well as for the good of those around them. Family members and loved ones can help to facilitate this realization.

Role of the Family

role of the family

Family members and loved ones may be the best able to pinpoint when someone has a problem with cocaine abuse.

Spotting and recognizing the signs of addiction and problem drug abuse is key to knowing when it is time to get help. When someone is addicted to cocaine, much time may be focused on finding a way to get the drug, using it, and then coming down and recovering from the drug’s effects. The person may shirk normal duties and be unreliable. Loved ones may notice a decline in work production or a slide in school grades. Physical health may also be affected as cocaine use can decrease normal appetite, resulting in weight loss and disrupted sleep patterns. Mood swings and irrational behavior may be apparent in someone regularly abusing cocaine as well.
It is important to take care of yourself first when dealing with someone potentially addicted to cocaine and not to let the addiction take over your life as well. If a loved one presents a danger to anyone, seek immediate professional help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimated that 855,000 Americans age 12 and older had a substance abuse disorder due to cocaine use and abuse in 2013; you are not alone.
Some tips for dealing with a loved one addicted to cocaine include:

  • Educate yourself on the disease of addiction, specifically on the mental and physical effects of cocaine abuse as well as potential treatment and support options. Remember that cocaine addiction is a brain disease and not a willful choice.
  • Be patient and persistent while not enabling drug use or abuse. Make it clear that you do not support the drug habit but you do support the person. Do not make excuses for a loved one’s drug abuse or offer financial support.
  • Set boundaries and be consistent in upholding them. Help the person to understand that drug use is not acceptable to you and that actions have real consequences without making idle threats.
  • Open the lines of communication about drug abuse. Try to have any conversations about a loved one’s drug use when the person is sober and relaxed. Help your loved one to understand the way addiction affects everyone in tangible ways without being confrontational.

Many times, the key to starting a positive conversation about treatment and addiction can be aided with the input and experience of a trained professional through an intervention.


Staging an Intervention

support group

An intervention is generally a meeting of family, friends, and loved ones that is often planned without the knowledge of the person struggling with drug abuse or addiction.

In this meeting, loved ones typically highlight specific behaviors and instances wherein the individual’s drug abuse has affected them personally. The overall goal of an intervention is to motivate someone addicted to cocaine, or other substances, to enter into a treatment program voluntarily.
More than 40 percent of all emergency department visits due to illicit drug abuse involved cocaine, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report of 2008. Cocaine abuse has many health risks and dangers that can be minimized with early intervention. There is a common misconception out there that someone needs to hit rock bottom before an intervention can be successful, but this is not true. Many people also believe that if someone does not desire to enter into treatment, then treatment will not work. This is also not necessarily the case. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published studies showing that just being in a substance abuse treatment program, no matter how the person got there, was often enough to motivate someone to make positive changes.


An intervention should be carefully planned in order to maximize its effects while minimizing its risks.


If a loved one is prone to violent outbursts or extreme mood swings, or may suffer from a mental illness, it is best to seek advice and input from a medical or mental health professional when planning an intervention.
A professional can help as much or as little as the family desires. A pre-intervention meeting may be held with the families and loved ones of the person who is addicted to cocaine in order to form a detailed action plan. This meeting can help family members and loved ones to organize chaotic thoughts and focus swirling emotions in a more useful manner.
helping a cocaine addict
It may help to write down actual events where a loved one’s drug abuse specifically and directly had a negative effect. It is important to use “I” statements and be assertive rather than aggressive. Have clear and concise consequences laid out that will be enforced if the loved one does not decide to enter into treatment and discontinue using cocaine after the intervention. Be prepared to follow through. Research treatment options and consider having something set up ahead of time.

At the end of an intervention, the hope is that the person addicted to cocaine will enter into the chosen treatment program.

Understanding Different Treatment Models and Methods

Addiction is personal, and different treatment plans may be more effective for some individuals than others. Knowing what the options are can help families decide what models will be best for their specific circumstances. There are two main treatment models, inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment, and there are several variations of both of these models.
In outpatient treatment models, those battling drug abuse and addiction may attend a variety of sessions, meetings, and workshops each day while returning home at night. These programs are generally more flexible, although they require a tight support network focused on treatment and recovery. Inpatient treatment models are typically more comprehensive as individuals stay on site for a period of time in order to escape any potential outside stressors that may hinder recovery. Inpatient care generally offers a more intensive treatment regime for those with long-term or more severe addictions. There is no exact timeline for addiction treatment as care and recovery are highly individual.
Regular abuse of cocaine may lead to a dependence on the drug that can have both physical and psychological side effects. As a stimulant, cocaine tends to speed body systems and functions up; therefore, when it is suddenly removed, withdrawal may begin with a significant drop in energy, emotions, and focus levels, resulting in irritability, trouble concentrating, depression, and fatigue.
Cocaine has a fairly short half-life. According to the Australian Department of Health, withdrawal symptoms and cravings can start within a few hours of the last dose. For many people addicted to cocaine, medical detox is the first step in a treatment program. During medical detox, individuals are monitored around the clock to ensure that all medical and mental health needs are attended to immediately, and sometimes medications are used to help with specific symptoms and drug cravings. After cocaine is safely removed from the body, a comprehensive treatment plan ” that will likely include therapy sessions, support groups, educational opportunities, and counseling ” can be implemented.
Some of the treatment methods for cocaine addiction may include:

  • Motivational Interviewing (MI): This is a method where random negative drug tests are rewarded with prizes or vouchers. A study published by the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reported that 54.4 percent showed a reduction in drug use with MI as opposed to 38.7 percent in the control group.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This research-based therapy model focuses on the relationship between thoughts, actions, and behaviors. It helps individuals learn new and more effective ways for managing stress, and it is noted by NIDA as being effective at preventing relapse.
  • 12-Step programs: Support and 12-step groups exist for family members as well as those addicted to cocaine. These groups include Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous.
  • Pharmacological treatment: There are no specific drugs to treat cocaine dependency; however, topiramate, primarily an epilepsy drug, has shown promise in a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

An assessment is generally done before entering treatment and then periodically in order to ensure that the right level of care is being administered. Individuals may move between levels of care as needs may change during treatment. Professionals trained in substance abuse and dependency can help families decide on the best treatment method and model for your loved one.

Sustaining Recovery and Family Influence

Therapy and Aftercare Support
Families and loved ones play a large role in cocaine addiction recovery. Beyond a potential intervention and getting a loved one into the necessary treatment program, there are many things loved ones and family members can do to support addiction recovery and help to maintain a life free from cocaine. Loved ones may help prevent relapse by watching for potential warning signs and triggers that may have led to cocaine abuse in the past. It may be best to make sure that loved ones stay out of situations and away from people that they associate with previous drug use.

Loved ones can also make sure that all meetings, treatment sessions, and therapy groups are attended as directed.

Family counseling and education can be very helpful in restoring a healthy family dynamic and understanding each person’s role in recovery. Take up a creative outlet, exercise activity, or hobby together in order to keep the mind busy while doing something constructive and fun. Consider alternative and holistic healing methods while keeping to a regular schedule for eating and sleeping. By ensuring that everyone gets enough sleep as well as a nutritious diet and healthy dose of exercise, minds can be clearer and recovery may be smoother. Physical health can help promote mental health and clarity.


Being supportive, positive, and patient while making sure to attend to your own needs during recovery can go a long way toward mending relationships with a family member or loved one that may have been damaged by drug abuse and addiction.


By supporting your loved one, you can help that person to achieve a healthier, more balanced life.

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