Exploring the Signs of Cocaine Addiction
“Mark … when are you coming home?” my mom asked. I don’t want to visit home. I also don’t want to stay here … I am stuck. I don’t feel like I can share with my mom how much I’ve really been struggling and how alone I feel. To be honest, I don’t think I can recall everything up to this point to be able to accurately retell it to her. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I know I’m not living up to the expectations she had set for me. I know I am not living up to the expectations I had set for myself.
The truth is, I have been struggling with cocaine and alcohol use for the past few years. I am 25 years old, but my body signals to others that I am much older in age. I guess that’s what happens when drugs start to take over your body … I regret ever starting down this path. How do I get back on the right track? Where do I even begin?
What Is Cocaine?
In college, I drank with my buddies. That was it. The casual beer and hang. I had a bad breakup, and then I wanted more to drink. I started doing shots after shots with the goal of forgetting all my memories of pain and loss. As soon as the alcohol binge was over, my memories would all come back, and I’d be ready to use again.
When booze wasn’t enough to numb the pain, my buddy asked me to hang out with him in a separate room. He pulled out a small baggie from his pocket that had white, powdery fluff in it. Little did I know how addictive and hooked I would quickly become to this substance.
I thought one hit wouldn’t hurt, but it wasn’t enough. I had a failing grade in a class I hated, hit. I was depressed when my mom told me she and my dad were finally getting a divorce, hit. I had to spend some extra time looking at my aged reflection in the mirror, hit, hit, hit. So many hits and it gets harder and harder to quit.
The funny thing about that fluffy, white, powdery consistency of cocaine is it evokes a sweet memory for me. I used to love sledding with my dad as a kid. When it snowed outside, everything became quieter and more magical. Those times spent sledding with my dad are some of my best childhood memories. My mom wasn’t there to argue with. It was just me, my dad, and the snow coming down. A simpler time in life that I truly miss. I wonder if I’ll ever get to experience that joy and sense of being carefree again.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant derived from coca plant leaves. The coca plant is native to South America. Cocaine can be used for medical purposes such as local anesthesia for surgeries. However, the recreational use of cocaine is illegal.
Cocaine has the appearance of a fine, white, crystal powder. Dealers may add other ingredients such as cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour to cocaine in an effort to boost their profits. There may be additional drugs mixed into the cocaine powder such as stimulant amphetamine or synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Cocaine that has additional drugs mixed in may contribute to the increasing number of overdose deaths.
How Is Cocaine Used?
“What is your method of use?” asks the addiction counselor. “Snorting,” I respond without making eye contact. I feel ashamed. I inhaled the white powdery stuff until I couldn’t anymore.
The high was so very, very high. All this snorting led to frequent nosebleeds that I would try my best to cover up when around family and friends. It was difficult to be able to hide my other life from the people closest to me. I felt like an actor in my own life.
Cocaine may be snorted through a person’s nose, rubbed on gums, or powder may be dissolved in water and injected intravenously. If a person is injecting both cocaine and heroin, this drug cocktail is referred to as a “speedball.”
Cocaine may be smoked from a rock crystal form. This rock crystal form is referred to as “freebase cocaine” or “crack.” The rock crystal is heated, vaporized, and is then inhaled into the lungs. When rock crystal cocaine is heated, there is a crackling sound made by the rock as it is heating up. This is where the term “crack cocaine” comes from.
How Common Is Cocaine Misuse?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2016-2017, in California, there were 868,000 people ages 18 and older that had engaged in cocaine use in the past year.
According to a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2020, there were more than 39 million people or 14.2% of the population ages 12 and older that had used cocaine in their lifetime. Also in 2020, there were more than 5 million people or 1.9% of the population ages 12 and older that had used cocaine in the past year.
Signs of Cocaine Addiction
When I am high on cocaine, my heart is pounding, I am sweating, and my pupils become wide as saucers. It is very trippy. In my high state, I try my best not to look in the mirror. If I accidentally catch the reflection of myself, I see a person that looks lost and desperate. Desperate for a high to balance out all of life’s lows. This is not who I want to be.
Physical Signs of Cocaine Addiction
According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders Fifth Edition” (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, those under the influence of stimulants such as cocaine may show the following physical symptoms:
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate) or bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Pupillary dilation (black center part of eye is bigger in size than normal)
- Elevated or lowered blood pressure
- Perspiration or chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Evidence of weight loss
- Psychomotor agitation (i.e., pacing, tapping, talking quickly) or retardation (sluggish body movements)
- Muscular weakness, respiratory depression (slowed breathing), chest pain, or cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- Confusion, seizures, dyskinesias (uncontrolled, involuntary muscle movement), dystonias (involuntary muscle contractions), or coma
On one of my particularly bad trips, I punched the bathroom mirror. To be honest, I think I was just trying to feel something. So many times growing up with my parents arguing, I felt out of control. I blamed myself. I convinced myself that I was the reason they were arguing. Punching that mirror was punching all those feelings of shame I felt. The problem is, punching only helped for a minute, and the pain remained.
When you aren’t high, things tend to be sequential and orderly. For example, if you want to make a frozen pizza, you unwrap the plastic wrap off the pizza, preheat the oven, put the pizza in when preheated, and pull out the pizza when it’s done. Same task while high, you’ll be lucky if you don’t wake up hours later with a plasticy pizza that nearly sets your apartment on fire. At least that was the case for me.
Behavioral Changes Related to Cocaine Addiction
People that take stimulants such as cocaine can experience an instant feeling of well-being, confidence, and euphoria (great happiness). Those with long-term stimulant or cocaine use also show dramatic behavioral changes rapidly that include the following:
- Chaotic (disorderly) behavior
- Social isolation
- Aggressive behavior
- Sexual dysfunction
Emotional Changes Related to Cocaine Addiction
“Did you hear that?” my thoughts ask when I’m high. “It’s getting closer … ” I quickly scan the room back and forth, back and forth. If I wasn’t high, I would understand that those noises are simply my upstairs neighbors’ footsteps walking around like they always do in the evening hours. In my high state, I think the cops are finally coming to take me away to jail for using cocaine. I am truly terrified to the point of sweating and shaking.
Then, there’s the low after the high. I’m like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. My head is low, my speech is slow. The fetal position on my bed seems like the best option for me. I stay there for a few hours that turns into all night and most of the morning. I think, “What’s even the point of getting up anyways?” So there I lay until I absolutely can’t anymore.
People that are under the influence of cocaine may show the following emotional and psychological changes:
- Paranoid ideation (suspicious feelings, paranoid thinking)
- Auditory hallucination (hearing things that are not really there)
- Tactile hallucination (feeling things that are not really there)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Anhedonia (lacking feelings of pleasure)
- Emotional lability (emotion/mood changes)
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
I took my last hit before coming into treatment. And now my body is beginning to slow down. I want to eat everything. The addiction counselor grabs me a lunch box. I plow through it quickly without coming up for air. I am embarrassed. This isn’t who I was raised to be. I feel out of control as my body is slowly letting go of all the damage I’ve caused it over the last few years. I am hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me.
The DSM-5 reports that stopping or reducing cocaine use may lead to the following symptoms:
- Fatigue or feelings of being tired
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams
- Insomnia (can’t sleep enough) or hypersomnia (sleep too much)
- Increased appetite
- Psychomotor retardation (slowed body movements) or agitation (restlessness)
Treatment at Pathways Recovery
My friend recommended Pathways Recovery. They shared that Pathways Recovery not only helps you address your addiction issues but also prioritizes your mental health care. From my research, I know not all treatment centers focus on both addiction and mental health care. For me, I know a lot of my addiction issues stem from my mental health challenges like depression. I think this may be the right fit for me. It’s local to me, too, in California.
I was nervous to go inside the facility to be assessed and get confirmation that I do indeed have a cocaine and alcohol addiction. The counselor I interacted with was empathetic, a great listener, and very knowledgeable about addiction and treatment options. I felt like I made a decision that was difficult but ultimately the next right step for me to take.
I am looking forward to the knowledge and tools I will gain in treatment. I feel like I will be set up for success. I am excited to reclaim my life again. I am hopeful for the first time in a while.
There is cocaine addiction treatment available at Pathways Recovery. Pathways Recovery offers cocaine detox treatment in Roseville, California, which is close to Sacramento. The cocaine detox treatment has medical staff ready and able to assist you. Your safety and comfort will be prioritized by our caring and knowledgeable team.
The length of stay for the detox program will depend on what substance(s) the patient has used, frequency of use, and duration of use. Then, we will provide medically supervised cocaine detox within a residential home. We are staffed 24/7 and have a team of certified addiction counselors here to assist you or your loved one.
During the detox program, we prioritize nutrition by providing clients with healthy foods. Often, those with a substance use history are lacking a nutritionally rich diet. We offer healthy whole foods such as fruits and vegetables and provide superfood smoothies.
Upon completion of detox, we offer additional care options, including an intensive outpatient program (IOP). We will provide ongoing assessment to determine what treatment plan would best meet your personal goals. Our goal is to provide you with quality, compassionate care from the beginning to the end of your treatment journey with us.
Contact Pathways Recovery
If Mark’s story is reminding you of your own addiction journey or a loved one’s addiction journey, please act now to gain access to quality, compassionate care. You are worth it; the time is now.
To access care for you or a loved one, please reach out to the caring staff at Pathways Recovery at (916) 735-8377.