While there has been some controversy involving the potential for physical dependence on cocaine, it has been established that use of the drug can result in withdrawal symptoms, which is a sign of physical dependence. Cocaine use causes the brain to release certain chemicals in higher amounts than it normally would, which can bring on pleasurable effects. According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, when a person stops taking cocaine it often brings on a “crash,” which can result in the body craving more of the drug.
Physical dependence and addiction are not necessarily the same thing, but one often accompanies the other. A physical dependence on cocaine can actually alter the functionality of neurological pathways in the brain, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In such cases, cocaine becomes the only source of pleasure for an individual, thus resulting in dependence on the drug. Depression and the inability to experience pleasure are common symptoms of a physically dependent user without access to cocaine.
Symptoms of Physical Addiction
The symptoms of a physical addiction to cocaine become apparent when a user is going through withdrawal, which occurs when they don’t have enough of the drug in their system to satisfy the physical need for the substance.These symptoms include:
- Agitated behavior
- General discomfort
- Increased appetite
Exhibition of these symptoms could mean a person is suffering from cocaine withdrawal, which can be a very dangerous situation. The depression someone may feel as a result of the withdrawal process can increase their risk for suicide. Cravings for the drug can become rather intense, even if the effects of the drug become less pleasurable as time goes on. Sustained use of cocaine can result in more paranoid feelings than positive feelings, but cravings may remain intense due to the physical addiction.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Detoxification is often the first step toward recovery from cocaine addiction. Powerful cravings for cocaine can fuel the desire to relapse during the withdrawal process. Since the potential for relapse is high during withdrawal, medical detox is recommended to ensure the individual successfully completes withdrawal and can proceed into therapy to address the reasons behind the substance abuse.
The length of withdrawal will depend on a multitude of factors, such as the duration and frequency of abuse as well as personal factors, such as metabolism and history of substance abuse. There are currently no FDA-approved medications that can treat cocaine dependence. There are some medications that can help to neutralize withdrawal symptoms or the effects of the cocaine high itself, but time itself appears to be the only thing that can truly eliminate a physical addiction to the drug.
Many people who suffer from addiction to cocaine have some kind of co-occurring mental health disorder, so professional treatment is recommended. During the intake process, professionals at a treatment facility will assess the new client to diagnose any co-occurring disorders. Then, a treatment plan will be devised to allow for safe withdrawal from cocaine and the treatment of all present issues.