Helping a Loved One Who Is Abusing Cocaine
There is a roughly 5% chance that an individual will become addicted to cocaine after the first use—and that number steadily climbs with each high. If your loved one is abusing cocaine, the best thing you can do is encourage them to seek evidence-based addiction treatment.
What You Need to Know About Cocaine
A powerful and highly addictive stimulant, cocaine is made from the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine works by increasing the brain’s levels of dopamine to create feelings of energy and alertness.
In the early 1900s, cocaine was the main ingredient in many medicinal tonics and elixirs. It was even used as an ingredient in early formulations of the Coca-Cola soft drink. Today, however, the medicinal uses of cocaine are much more limited. It is sometimes used as an anesthetic during procedures involving the upper respiratory tract but is considered a Schedule II drug due to the extensive research showing a high potential for abuse.
On the street, cocaine is commonly sold as a fine white powder or a solid rock crystal. It can be snorted, injected, smoked, or rubbed into the gums. Some of the many popular street names for the drug include coke, crack, rock, snow, and blow.
One of the main dangers associated with cocaine use is the risk of unknowingly obtaining contaminated drugs. Cocaine is often cut with caffeine, creatine, laxatives, boric acid, or other substances to increase a dealer’s profit margins. Contaminated drugs increase the possibility of adverse side effects, including poisoning and organ damage.
Recognizing a Cocaine Addiction
Addiction isn’t always easy to recognize. The media portrays people who are addicted to cocaine or other drugs as having hit “rock bottom” and no longer being connected to the world around them. While some individuals fit this description, many are still able to maintain a semi-regular routine and will insist that their drug use is just a way to relax and have fun. They don’t realize that addiction is a progressive illness that will eventually spiral out of control if left untreated.
Some signs that your loved one might be abusing cocaine include:
- Thinking they must use cocaine to feel normal
- Craving cocaine and planning their daily routine around drug use
- Using cocaine with alcohol or other addictive substances to get a stronger high
- Having withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, agitation, and trouble concentrating when they’re unable to use the drug
- Sudden weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Appearing to need little or no sleep
- Poor personal hygiene
- Increased risk-taking behavior
- Increased talkativeness
- Sudden mood swings
- Involuntary muscle twitching
- Becoming angry or defensive when questioned about their activities or new friends
- Dressing in seasonally inappropriate clothing to cover needle marks (if the drug is being injected)
- Persistent runny nose or nose bleeds (if the drug is being snorted)
Only a trained healthcare professional can make a diagnosis, but spotting multiple signs of addiction indicates that immediate action is necessary.
Harm Reduction Doesn’t Eliminate the Danger
In recent years, the harm reduction approach to drug use has grown in popularity. This school of thought aims to protect users by teaching safer ways to use the substance of their choice. For cocaine, this includes avoiding sharing the supplies, using with someone who recognizes the signs of an overdose, refraining from bingeing, and planning ahead for the crash that occurs after a high.
The problem with harm reduction is that it doesn’t address the widespread negative effects of prolonged addiction. Someone who is addicted to cocaine and doesn’t seek treatment may experience:
- Worsening of pre-existing mental health disorders
- Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease
- New seizures or worsening of existing seizure disorder
- Sexual dysfunction
- Respiratory failure
- Permanent cognitive impairment
- Loss of child custody and visitation rights
- Estrangement from friends
- Legal problems related to criminal charges from drug use
- Job loss or a decline in work performance
- Financial problems due to the amount of money spent on the drug
Your Loved One Needs Treatment to Move Forward
Addiction isn’t caused by a lack of willpower, nor is it an innate character defect. It’s a biologically based illness with complex environmental triggers that requires professional care. If your loved one isn’t responding to your attempts to convince them to seek help, planning an intervention might be the best option. Working with a professional interventionist can help you tailor your approach for maximum effectiveness.
At Waypoint Recovery Center, we provide personalized care designed to help our clients develop the skills they need for a lasting recovery. All clients receive an individual assessment to identify their unique needs, followed by intensive therapy, 12-Step support, and holistic treatments to promote a wellness-focused lifestyle. Graduates of our South Carolina residential treatment program have access to a wide range of continuing care and alumni services to ease their transition back to independent living. We believe that recovery is always possible and seek to provide the resources necessary for this journey of growth and personal development.