Cocaine Addiction


Cocaine is a white powder. It can be snorted up the nose or mixed with water and injected with a needle. Cocaine can also be made into small white rocks, called crack. Crack is smoked in a small glass pipe.

Also called: Blow, C, Coca, Coke, Crack, Flake, Snow

Cocaine is a white powder. It can be snorted up the nose or mixed with water and injected with a needle. Cocaine can also be made into small white rocks, called crack. Crack is smoked in a small glass pipe.

Cocaine speeds up your whole body. You may feel full of energy, happy, and excited. But then your mood can change. You can become angry, nervous, and afraid that someone’s out to get you. You might do things that make no sense. After the “high” of the cocaine wears off, you can “crash” and feel tired and sad for days. You also get a strong craving to take the drug again to try to feel better.

No matter how cocaine is taken, it is dangerous. Some of the most common serious problems include heart attack and stroke. You are also at risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, from sharing needles or having unsafe sex. Cocaine is more dangerous when combined with other drugs or alcohol.

It is easy to lose control over cocaine use and become addicted. Then, even if you get treatment, it can be hard to stay off the drug. People who stopped using cocaine can still feel strong cravings for the drug, sometimes even years later.


Pharmacological Approaches

Presently, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat cocaine addiction. Consequently, NIDA is working aggressively to identify and test new medications to treat cocaine addiction safely and effectively. Several medications marketed for other diseases (e.g., vigabatrin, modafinil, tiagabine, disulfiram, and topiramate) show promise and have been reported to reduce cocaine use in controlled clinical trials. Among these, disulfiram (used to treat alcoholism) has produced the most consistent reductions in cocaine abuse. On the other hand, new knowledge of how the brain is changed by cocaine is directing attention to novel targets for medications development. Compounds that are currently being tested for addiction treatment take advantage of underlying cocaine-induced adaptations in the brain that disturb the balance between excitatory (glutamate) and inhibitory (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmission. Also, dopamine D3 receptors (a subtype of dopamine receptor) constitute a novel molecular target of high interest. Medications that act at these receptors are now being tested for safety in humans. Finally, a cocaine vaccine that prevents entry of cocaine into the brain holds great promise for reducing the risk of relapse. In addition to treatments for addiction, medical treatments are being developed to address the acute emergencies that result from cocaine overdose each year.

Behavioral Interventions

Many behavioral treatments for cocaine addiction have proven to be effective in both residential and outpatient settings: contingency management, or motivational incentives.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective approach for preventing relapse.

Therapeutic communities (TCs), or residential programs, offer another alternative to persons in need of treatment for cocaine addiction.

Community-based recovery groups—such as Cocaine Anonymous.

It is important that patients receive services that match all of their treatment needs. (NIH).


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