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Why is Cocaine So Addictive?

Jan 2, 2022

Any conversation about drug addiction must mention the brain’s ability to build tolerance. This is a key part of how addiction begins and grows. Cocaine use is no different.

Connect with us to take the first step in cocaine treatment—561-841-1033.

Why are so many people drawn to cocaine? What makes it enticing to try, use, and keep using? Today, we’ll look at the factors that make cocaine highly addictive, even after only a few uses.

Why Is Cocaine So Addictive?

Cocaine is highly addictive for several reasons. Cocaine stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers, resulting in dopamine release. This creates positive reinforcement in the form of euphoria, excitement, and alertness. Cocaine’s intense but brief high is another as it can lead to additional use immediately.

As a person’s tolerance to the drug increases, their use of higher amounts can also contribute to developing a substance use disorder.

Four Reasons It’s Hard to Say No

1. Cocaine’s addictive quality comes, in part, from positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement from cocaine use can show up in a variety of ways. Five to 30 minutes after snorting cocaine, an individual may feel excited, wide awake, energetic, and confident.

These results may be desirable for someone in a job where being “on” non-stop is considered important. For someone who’s shy or withdrawn, these results may make them confident enough to talk to strangers. In either case, there’s a sense for the user that something good happened that could only occur through the drug use itself. Unfortunately, these feelings are often followed by a “crash,” where feelings of depression, anger, and irritability can be magnified.

2. Cocaine’s high, especially from snorting, typically lasts only a short time.

The high from snorting cocaine begins within five minutes to 30 minutes. Once it starts, it can feel quite intense. The intensity begins to wane after about 30 minutes. The high can be over very quickly.

The pattern of behavior to get that intense high back is to snort more cocaine immediately or a short time later. It can become repetitive anytime the drug is used, especially if it’s not in short supply. Repeated use can increase the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.

3. Cocaine tolerance can increase quickly, leading to the use of higher amounts.

With regular cocaine use, tolerance builds over time. The result can be someone using more cocaine in each instance to achieve the same high. They may even begin using the drug more frequently during the week.

Tolerance to any drug is pivotal in developing a substance use disorder. With cocaine, the dependence can be both physical and psychological. The body and brain seem to crave the substance. Also, a person may feel compelled to use drugs to deal with certain social situations or stressful circumstances.

4. Cocaine often gets mixed with other highly addictive drugs.

Cocaine users tend to use other addictive drugs, including heroin or alcohol, at the same time. The use of multiple addictive drugs can be a recipe for polysubstance abuse. These other drugs can increase the seemingly positive short-term effects of cocaine use.

Symptoms and Effects of Cocaine Use

The symptoms of cocaine addiction are wide-ranging. They can include:
• Anxiety
• Paranoia
• Mood swings
• Insomnia
• Panic attacks
• Cognitive impairment

Other symptoms may include high blood pressure, nausea, excessive sweating, and breathing problems. Mixing cocaine and heroin can be especially dangerous for a person’s respiration as breathing can slow to a dangerous level.

Cocaine Addiction is Treatable

It’s important to emphasize the need for treatment to recover from cocaine addiction. A medically-supervised detox as a first step can help a patient prepare for a residential program. Working in individual therapy and group sessions are fundamental parts of cocaine addiction treatment.

People whose substance use is connected to mental health needs can also benefit from inpatient treatment. Treating both substance use and mental health simultaneously in an integrated program can improve the chances of sustaining recovery beyond the end of a residential stay. Dual diagnosis treatment provides care for a patient with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, or another mental health concern.

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond, located in beautiful West Palm Beach, Florida.

Our primary mission is to provide a clear path toward a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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