The effects of cocaine addiction normally occur immediately after ingestion and can last from a few minutes to a few hours. The duration of the drug’s effects depends on how it is ingested. Snorting cocaine produces a slow onset of effects that can last from 15 to 30 minutes, while the effects of smoking cocaine last from 5 to 10 minutes and produce a more intense high. Cocaine produces euphoric effects by building up dopamine in the brain, causing the continuous stimulation of neurons.
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug. A tolerance is often developed when a user, seeking to achieve the initial pleasure received from first use, increases the dosage to intensify and prolong the euphoric effects.
Users of cocaine or crack cocaine often feel euphoric, energetic, talkative and mentally alert after taking small amounts of cocaine. Cocaine use can also temporarily lessen a user’s need for food or sleep. Short-term physiological effects include constricted blood vessels, dilated pupils and increased temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Ingesting large amounts of cocaine can intensify the user’s high, but can also lead to bizarre, erratic and violent behavior. Users who ingest large amounts may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches and paranoia. Other possible effects of cocaine use include irritability, anxiety and restlessness.
Detox or withdrawal symptoms from cocaine or crack cocaine may include severe depression, fatigue, generalized malaise, vivid and unpleasant dreams, agitation and restless behavior, slowing of activity or increased appetite.
During detox or withdrawal from cocaine, there can be powerful, intense cravings for more cocaine. However, the “high” associated with ongoing use becomes less and less pleasant and can produce fear and extreme suspicion rather than joy. Just the same, the cravings remain very powerful.
The craving and depression can last for months following cessation of long-term heavy (particularly daily) use. Withdrawal symptoms can also be associated with suicidal thoughts in some people.
The withdrawal from cocaine may not be as unstable as withdrawal from alcohol. However, withdrawal from any chronic substance abuse is very serious. There is a risk of suicide or compensatory overdose.
Symptoms of cocaine addiction and withdrawal usually resolve completely over time with treatment. People experiencing cocaine withdrawal often attempt to self-medicate with alcohol, sedatives, hypnotics or anti-anxiety agents such as diazepam (Valium). Self-medication is not advised, because it simply shifts addiction from one substance to another.
Problems Other Than Cocaine Addiction
Because at least 50% of all cocaine addicts have a co-occurring disorder (particularly bi-polar disorder, depression and attention-deficit disorder), these conditions must be considered and treated aggressively when treating cocaine addiction.
Relapse rates are dramatically reduced when these co-existing conditions are treated appropriately. All prescription drugs should be monitored carefully in patients who abuse substances.