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How Cocaine Abuse Throws the Brain Off Balance

How Cocaine Abuse Throws The Brain Off Balance Resurgence Behavioral Health

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that is made from the leaves of a coca plant. It is usually in the form of fine white powder that can be snorted, smoked, or injected in a solution, and is one of the most addictive drugs in the world.

It was first used in western medicines in the late 1800s for anything from anesthesia to eliminating symptoms of the common cold, and by the early 1900s was proven to have negative health effects and was made illegal for recreational use. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, cocaine use exploded, with a cheaper form of cocaine, crack, made available, leading to over 1.4 million Americans struggling with cocaine addiction today.

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Some other names for cocaine include:

  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Rock
  • Snow
  • Blow
  • Rail
  • C
  • Sniff
  • Bump

This drug causes a rush of euphoria through the mind and body that feels energizing, providing a sense of power and alertness that is powerful but short-lived, with a terrible comedown that may feel like:

  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Shakiness
  • Exhaustion

These comedown symptoms are the reason why people begin to abuse cocaine; it is difficult to face the comedown and users will continue to use the drug to avoid this feeling, quickly developing a dependence, just to feel “normal”. This physical dependence can lead to addiction.

What Does Cocaine Do to the Brain?

Cocaine and its counterpart crack cocaine both cause damage to brain structures, affecting the reward circuits and dopamine systems by affecting the production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the brain’s chemical messengers that send and balance electrical signals between the cells in the body.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that signals “feel good” emotional responses, giving feelings of pleasure. Some natural reasons the brain may send out small amounts of dopamine to the body include exercising, having sex, eating good food, enjoying music or a live performance, or playing with cute animals. These actions give us sensations like joy or amusement.

When you abuse cocaine, a large amount of dopamine floods your brain in abnormal amounts. There is so much dopamine that there are not enough receptors to take it all in at a normal rate, so they begin to over-activate. Once this happens, a normal amount of dopamine no longer causes them to respond the way they used to, throwing the brain’s perceptions off when it comes to what it considers “pleasurable”. This means you may not be able to experience feelings of happiness, joy, or pleasure without the anomalous increase of dopamine that cocaine provides.

Physical Brain Changes from Cocaine Use

Cocaine abuse can create serious physical brain changes including:

  • Raising the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, among others, can permanently raise blood pressure and damage the cardiovascular system. This can lead to other organs being damaged, including the brain itself
  • Damage to the linings of the veins and arteries, leading to a blood-flow restriction which can lead to chronic headaches, cause blood clots which can lead to stroke
  • A lower functioning in your orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the part of your brain associated with decision making, which can make you less capable of making rational decisions
  • Seizures occurring during cocaine use when bingeing or through chronic use. You can also develop a seizure disorder requiring long-term treatment, even after you quit using the drug
  • Higher stress hormone levels lead to anxiety disorders and aggressive behavior and can cause additional heart and stress-related issues in the body
  • The possibility of developing reduced levels of glucose metabolism in the brain, a symptom of dying or poorly performing neurons
  • Certain neurotransmitters being suppressed, including norepinephrine, leading to memory loss, and serotonin, causing obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior
  • Changes in gene expression, the process that allows your DNA to turn into a protein, determining how cells function in the body. Specifically, changes to the cells in the hippocampus, telling them to associate cocaine with love and pleasure, reducing your ability to distinguish these feelings from love of a family member or trusted sources of pleasure

How Cocaine Affects Mental Health

Cocaine abuse affects mental health, sometimes in long-term ways, by interfering with the dopamine’s ability to be reabsorbed by brain neurons, creating mood or emotional disturbances. Over time, if you abuse cocaine, you may begin to experience other serious long-term changes to mental health and mood including:

  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Severe depression
  • Mood swings

People with genetic predispositions to schizophrenia or psychosis may be pushed over the edge with cocaine use, with latent mental illness being triggered by snorting powdered cocaine or freebasing crack. Other issues that may develop over time include:

  • Panic disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Violence and aggressiveness issues
  • Increased risk for Parkinson’s Disease and bipolar disorder
  • Seizures and other neurological conditions
  • Cognitive decline, leading to mental confusion and disorientation

How Cocaine Ages the Brain

Aging in the brain is a natural occurrence that happens to everybody over their lifespan. It involves a loss of gray matter, which can eventually lead to:

  • Memory problems
  • Changes in cognitive ability
  • Dementia

When people abuse cocaine, they are more likely to lose twice the amount of grey matter as those who do not have a history of substance abuse, causing aging to occur much more quickly than is natural. Brain cells may even begin to cannibalize themselves through “autophagy”, eating themselves from the inside out as a stress reaction, meaning cocaine use can kill your brain cells. Studies have shown that cocaine users in their 30s and 40s have more brain changes than people over 60 years old.

Restoring Brain Health at Resurgence

Cocaine Detox

The first step to restoring health in the brain is to stop using cocaine. At Resurgence, we offer a medically assisted detox program that can help. Although there are no medications that can treat a cocaine dependency, we can provide you with FDA-approved prescription medications that can help you manage specific withdrawal symptoms and reduce your drug cravings, while being medically supervised 24 hours per day to ensure you stay safe. Some physical issues that may need monitoring include cardiological issues, high blood pressure, severe sinus issues, as well as psychiatric conditions like drug-induced psychosis or underlying mental health issues and trauma.

Staying in our inpatient detox center will help you avoid relapse and keep you safe during the most difficult first few days of detox. Because cocaine addiction is very psychological in nature, we will begin your therapy and counseling programming on day one. Our caring staff will help you adjust and remain comfortable as your body rids itself of the toxins present in your system.

Cocaine Rehab

Inpatient and outpatient drug rehab are the next step in any cocaine treatment program after stabilizing from detox. You will have a clear mind and your body will be strong enough for you to move into a program that can help you work on yourself, with access to therapies and programs such as cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, group therapy, one-on-one psychotherapy, experiential therapy and more. At Resurgence, we see you as a whole person, not just “a cocaine addict”, and will treat you with the respect you deserve throughout your treatment.

Inpatient Rehab

In inpatient rehab, you will stay in our comfortable, serene rehab center for 30 to 90 days amongst peers, away from the temptations of the outside world, as you focus on your own healing. Your days will be structured with therapy, education, counseling, doctor’s appointments, and other treatment, and in the evenings, there will be plenty of time for recreational activities or resting in our 100% sober facility.

Outpatient Rehab

In outpatient rehab, you will live at home or in a sober living home, and commute in for treatment, with a schedule that suits your lifestyle. At Resurgence, we recognize that every addiction is different, and each person has unique treatment needs, so there are inpatient and outpatient programs that can be molded to suit your individual requirements. You will be able to try out your recovery skills learned in rehab in real-world situations such as at work or hanging out with friends while being fully supported by our professional staff and your peers. Outpatient rehab is an excellent way to transition back to work, school, and other responsibilities after spending time in inpatient detox and/or rehab for this reason.

Aftercare Programs

Aftercare programs are especially useful for anybody recovering from cocaine addiction, as the psychological aspects of cocaine addiction can be especially daunting. Even the thought or the sight of the drug can bring back strong drug cravings, even years after rehab is complete. It is important to have a strong relapse prevention plan in place, along with a connection to a sober community and the knowledge of which 12-step or SMART recovery groups are available in your area. At Resurgence, our outpatient plan can last for as long as you need, so you will always have somewhere to turn during difficult times.

If you are interested in learning more about the cocaine treatment plans we can provide to you at Resurgence, do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you stop using cocaine right away, in a comfortable and judgment-free facility. You are not alone; we can help you. Call us today.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

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At Resurgence, we accept most PPO insurance. Verify your insurance now.