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Coping with Cravings in Cocaine Addiction Treatment

While opiate and “club drug” abuse rates seem to be capturing most of today’s headlines, cocaine abuse rates continue to run high all the same. According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, as of 2013, an estimated .6 percent of the population, 12 years old and older, abused cocaine on a regular basis. This equals out to 1.5 million regular users.

Cocaine exists as one the most aggressive addictive substances, quickly overpowering one’s ability to manage intake amounts, let alone stop using altogether. Once a person enters cocaine addiction treatment, overcoming persistent drug cravings remains the biggest challenge in recovery for years to come. Ultimately, coping with cravings in cocaine addiction treatment has as much to do with a person’s individual treatment needs as it does his or her day-to-day choices.

The Source of Cocaine Cravings

Cocaine exerts its greatest effects on the brain’s dopamine chemical output. according to Bryn Mawr College, dopamine plays a central role in regulating pain and pleasure sensations and essentially dictates activities within the mesolimbic system, commonly known as the brain reward system.

The brain reward system coordinates inputs from the cognitive and emotion-based centers to determine what drives a person’s motivation, priorities and overall lifestyle. In effect, cocaine addiction develops out of the drug’s cumulative effects on brain reward system functions.

Stages of Cocaine Craving

cocaine cravings

Behavioral treatment can help with cocaine cravings.

Drug cravings run highest throughout the first 90 to 120 days in cocaine addiction treatment. The symptoms experienced during this time are the exact opposite of cocaine’s “high” effects, leaving a person in a negative emotional state. This emotional state acts as the catalyst for cravings.

Cocaine cravings develop in stages, with each stage working to intensity the urge to use. Stages of cocaine craving include:

  • Stage 1: Drug-based thinking patterns and emotional responses
  • Stage 2: Events that trigger old patterns within the brain reward system
  • Stage 3: Dwelling on drug-based thinking in response to event triggers

For the most part, recovering addicts set themselves up for cravings on an unconscious level. Ultimately, the more the mind dwells on cocaine the greater the risk of relapse.

Coping With Cocaine Cravings

Identify Cues

Staying alert for cues that trigger drug-using behaviors can a long way towards stopping the cocaine cravings cycle in its tracks. Cues can take any number of forms depending on the routine you engaged in when using the drugs.

Cues to watch out for include:

  • People you used to use with
  • Places where drug use took place
  • Stress level increases
  • Moods
  • Activities engaged in when using cocaine

Coping with cocaine cravings means avoiding these cues and/or developing ways of dealing with drug-using cues when they can’t be avoided.

Is Cocaine Anonymous Right for Me?

Establish New Behaviors & Routines

Establishing new behaviors and daily routines becomes the overall goal of cocaine addiction treatment. In the process, a person builds the type of lifestyle that makes continued abstinence possible.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine cravings typically run for no longer than hour, so devising a plan made up of alternative choices and activities ahead of time enables you to be prepared to cope with cravings when they surface. Alternatives choices to consider include:

  • Going for a walk
  • Getting together with friends (non-drug users)
  • Attending a support group
  • Taking up yoga or meditation

Treatment Options

In cases of long-term cocaine abuse, cravings may well be too much to bear without medication and/or behavioral treatment help. In effect, people coming off severe cocaine addictions stand to experience considerable emotional distress in recovery. Antidepressant medications may be prescribed combined with ongoing behavioral therapy treatment until a person becomes more grounded in the recovery process.

Ultimately, coping with cocaine cravings becomes a day-by-day, choice-by-choice process. While cocaine addictions can be difficult to overcome, it can be done.

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