How to Help a Cocaine Addict
Help for Cocaine Addicts
If you're battling an addiction to cocaine, also known as coke, blow, and snow, you're not alone. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2013, there were 1.5 million current cocaine users in the US.
It's important to remember that you don't have to battle your addiction alone. Cocaine addiction help is available, and drug rehab centers help abusers fight their addictions every day.
How to Approach a Cocaine-Addicted Loved One
The number one thing to remember is to be understanding and compassionate. You want to make sure he knows that you fully support his recovery and that you recognize that addiction is a struggle that will not be easy to overcome. Emphasize that you will support him through the entire treatment process, including through potential relapse scenarios. This sort of encouragement and relief can make a huge difference for a cocaine user, who may already be feeling alienated by their drug habits.
Try to avoid language that stigmatizes your loved one or his addiction, and don't blame him for his addiction. As much as you can, try to speak to him as though he was suffering from any other disease. Addiction is widely recognized as a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain. While it may have been your loved one's choice to use in the beginning, the changes that take place in the brain make it extremely difficult for him to stop. Your loved one may express anger or rationalize his drug use; he may deny that it's even a problem. This is all common. Tell him clearly but without judgement or anger the ways in which you've seen his life and the lives of the people he loves worsen because of this disease. Express that you don't want to see him to suffer anymore, and ask if he'd be willing to get help. If he doesn't agree right away, don't blame yourself—give it time and ask again.
Coming to a cocaine abuser to talk about his addiction and potential treatment options can feel intimidating, but with proper preparation, you can make the most important difference in his life.
Professional guidance can be extremely helpful through this process, and Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is an approach with research to back it up. CRAFT involves meeting with a therapist to train in preparation for confronting an addicted loved one. You will learn:
- How to cope with stress relating to the person’s cocaine use.
- How to communicate effectively with the user.
- How to avoid enabling destructive behaviors.
- The best way to present and incite treatment enrollment.
No matter how you choose to approach a cocaine-addicted loved one, make sure you remember that addiction is a difficult thing to fight, but having a supportive network can make all the difference in the world for a person’s recovery.
Cocaine Addiction Treatment
There are currently no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction, so treatment for cocaine addiction focuses on behavioral therapy techniques that have been shown to be effective. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the following have shown success in cocaine addiction treatment:
- Contingency management, also known as motivational incentives, offers recovering users rewards for maintaining sobriety.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help you practice coping techniques to prepare you to resist future relapse temptations.
- The Matrix Model is an intense therapy that has been shown to be especially effective for stimulant abuse. In this therapy, you will engage in family and group therapy, addiction education, relapse prevention, and self-help groups. You will also take regular drug tests to guarantee sobriety.
Many types of outpatient treatment programs are available to cocaine users. During this time, you'll attend group therapy sessions and lectures on drug abuse, addiction, and recovery. If you choose to use an outpatient program, it's important that you have a strong support system at home to help ensure your recovery. If you believe you won’t be able to avoid triggers and will have easy access to drugs, however, you may wish to elect an inpatient program instead.
Inpatient cocaine treatment facilities are more structured. You are required to stay at the facility for the duration of your treatment. When you first arrive, you go through the detoxification process. Rehab centers have medical staff on hand to help you through any withdrawal symptoms you might experience, such as depression, mood swings, and fatigue.
When the detox process is complete, you attend individual and group therapy sessions and educational lectures and learn how live without cocaine. Your entire time spent at the facility focuses on your recovery and prepares you to face the outside world without using drugs.
The end of rehab doesn’t necessarily mean the end of treatment, however. You can transition from rehab to an outpatient program or to a sober living facility where you can live in a sober environment and enjoy a supportive environment where you’ll learn new skills to ensure you stay sober when you’re back home.
If you're attempting to find treatment for a loved one, you may have to do some calling around to different facilities. You may also call a helpline to discuss your treatment options. It can benefit you and save time if you have your loved one's insurance information on hand. The facility may be able to tell you right away if they accept your loved one's insurance, as well as if they offer ways to make treatment more affordable, such as financing, loans, or sliding scales. A sliding scale is an adjustment of cost based on the patient's financial need. Some programs even offer scholarships on a case-by-case basis.
Is Cocaine Addictive?
Cocaine is a powerful and short-acting stimulant drug produced from the coca plant. It can produce sensations of energy and euphoria, and is highly addictive with a heavy potential for abuse. It is most commonly snorted, smoked, or injected. Chronic use of cocaine can lead to cardiovascular problems as well as infections and other issues associated with injection drug use.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine is an addictive drug, but the effects of it differ from those of other intense street drugs. People who use cocaine-whether they inject, smoke or snort it-for an extended period of time may have trouble feeling pleasure outside of cocaine use.
When the cocaine usage stops, the user may feel:
- Unable to function properly.
- Intense cravings for the drug.
Smoking crack, the form that comes in small rock-like crystals, is particularly addictive.
Effects of Cocaine Addiction
Long-term cocaine use often leads to multiple health issues, including:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Damage to tissues in the nose.
- Significant weight loss.
- Tooth decay.
- Kidney damage.
- Lung damage (especially when smoked).
Addiction affects the way you act, think, and function. It's common for someone suffering from an addiction to neglect his or her home and work responsibilities. Work attendance might drop, because using cocaine becomes more important than going to work.
Addiction also affects personal relationships. Someone who is addicted to cocaine may find his or her marriage falling apart or have strained relationships with close family and friends.
Am I Addicted?
Before you decide what type of treatment program you want to complete, you need to determine whether you're addicted to cocaine. People who are addicted suffer from depression and irritability when they aren't using cocaine.
Most addicts also have a strong urge to use the drug when it isn't in their system. If you're addicted, you may show a lack of interest in activities that don't involve cocaine, because it's hard for you to have fun without being high.
You might also notice that your body has built up a tolerance to the drug, which causes you to use more of it to feel the same high.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). What treatments are effective for cocaine abusers?
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). The Matrix Model (Stimulants).
- Meyers, R. J., Smith, J. E., & Lash, D. N. (2005). A program for engaging treatment-refusing substance abusers into treatment: CRAFT. International Journal of Behavioral and Consultation Therapy, 1(2). 90-100.
- American Addiction Centers. 2018.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics.