Recovery roadmap: How to stop taking cocaine

Around 2% of adults between the age of 16 to 59 used cocaine in 2022. This rises to 4% among young adults (those between 16 and 24).
Previously, cocaine was associated with a particular ‘type’ of drug user; it was thought to be a ‘white collar’ drug, a substance used by professionals working in office-based or other corporate settings. But with cocaine becoming increasingly popular and pervasive throughout society, the impact of cocaine in the UK is perhaps more prevalent than ever before.

The Class A drug is notorious for its heavily addictive properties, largely due to the ways it can ultimately restructure the dopaminergic systems in the brain. But, if cocaine affects the way the brain works – which subsequently makes you crave more – what steps can you take to stop taking cocaine?


Cocaine addiction

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Addiction manifests in various ways. And the impact of a cocaine dependency can be experienced differently from person to person, meaning that identifying addiction is not always as straightforward as it might initially seem.

That being said, addiction can typically be identified through a set of key symptoms; these can be organised into two categories:
behavioural, emotional, and physical.

If you’re struggling with cocaine use, there may be a chance that, at times, you may feel the need to deny your addiction. However, addiction is a serious, chronic disorder that has a set of specific signs and symptoms. If you experience any of these in connection with drug use, it’s highly likely that you are addicted to cocaine.

Behavioural symptoms are signs of cocaine addiction that can be seen through actions. Some examples include:

  • Obsession – frequently thinking about cocaine and subsequently feeling distracted


  • Denial – rationalising cocaine use in order to ‘minimise’ the reality of what may be occurring


  • Secrecy – hiding, obscuring or lying about cocaine use


  • Social withdrawal – isolation and reduced engagement with friends and family; potentially engaging with new groups of people who may also use cocaine


  • Financial issues – sudden unexplained issues with money (needing to borrow money regularly, missing bills or payments)

Emotional symptoms are typically down to the way cocaine – or, withdrawal from cocaine – makes someone feel, such as:

  • Issues with mood stability – intense emotional changeability that may resemble ‘mood swings’, moving from feeling very confident and talkative to appearing ‘touchy’, on edge, or quick to anger


  • The development of longer term mood disorders – many people who use cocaine regularly can experience depression, paranoia and anxiety as a result


  • Lethargy – feeling very weary of tired in between uses of cocaine


Physical symptoms are more about how addiction can impact the body. It has the potential to do so in the following ways:

  • Disturbed sleep – feeling restless, finding it difficult to relax


  • Dilated pupils


  • Runny, sore, or red nose


  • Reduction in sense of smell


  • Change in appetite and subsequent weight loss


  • Lack of attention to personal hygiene

Cycle of addiction

Understanding The Cycle of Addiction

Addiction is a phenomenon that occurs following a series of complex psychological processes. Once you have admitted that you have issues with your use of cocaine, you can begin to take the steps you need to tackle the cycle of addiction.

The cycle of cocaine addiction takes place in 3 key stages:

  1. Binge or intoxication
  2. Withdrawal or negative affect
  3. Preoccupation or anticipation

The intoxication phase happens when you use cocaine and begin to feel high. For most people, this is when the pleasurable effects of cocaine are felt, which can lead to an association forming; cocaine equals feeling good.

This kind of association is dangerous and is often driven by the way that cocaine acts on the brain, stimulating the dopaminergic systems that help us to feel happy, relaxed or rewarded.

During the withdrawal phase, you will start to feel tired, run down, and generally unwell. It’s common to experience issues with cognitive flexibility, perception, anxiety, reduced focus and agitation.

Because the withdrawal stage can feel so unpleasant, this is another way in which you begin to associate cocaine with positive feelings, as, in its absence, you can feel sick or run down for some time, and then come to perceive cocaine as a kind of ‘medicine’.

This leads to the third stage, anticipation. This happens when you begin to think about using the drug again. This can be very overwhelming; thoughts of the drug can begin to encompass all other aspects of your life. This can be difficult to fight, which then leads back to cocaine use, ultimately beginning the cycle again.


Practical Steps & Sources of Support to Help You to Stop Using

When you are in the clutches of addiction, it is not as straightforward as it seems to simply break free immediately. Recovery from cocaine addiction will not happen overnight. But that does not mean that you are powerless. If you take the relevant steps towards sobriety, it is entirely possible to move towards a future without cocaine.

Know the Signs of Withdrawal

One of the most important things you can do is educate yourself on what cocaine addiction is and what it might look like. Knowledge is power. Once you know what to look for, you can start to put in the appropriate motions to combat it.

Perhaps one of the key things to identify is what withdrawing from cocaine looks like – what it may feel like if you stop using, and what it can do to your body and brain. If you then experience these, you can remind yourself that it is a withdrawal symptom, that your body does not need cocaine to remedy it. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms need to be waited out, not reinforced or delayed with further use.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms you may experience include:

  • Anxiety or agitation


  • Paranoia


  • Low mood


  • Lack of concentration or ‘fogginess’


  • Difficulty sleeping


  • Strong cravings


  • Increased appetite


  • Feeling low, tired or run down


One of the best ways to handle withdrawal symptoms is by undergoing a cocaine detox with a specialist provider. This way your risk of relapsing early is limited, and you will have access to clinical professionals during this typical time.

Identify Triggers

We go through life not knowing what is going to be thrown across our path. We will all face grief, stress at work, complications in our relationships of financial pressures, but unfortunately, these kinds of things cannot be foreseen or controlled. However, we all have certain triggers that we can avoid more successfully.

Triggers can be people, places, situations or things that can lead to us feeling uncomfortable, unsafe, or more likely to engage with maladaptive behaviours such as using drugs or large amounts of alcohol.

Potential triggers may be:

  • Spending time in environments where drugs are more likely to be mentioned or a place where you have previously used (such as a club, bar, a friend’s house)


  • Spending time with people who you know use drugs


  • Feeling lonely


  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control


  • Feeling physical pain


  • Receiving a diagnosis for a medical condition


  • Issues with family


Once you have identified your triggers, you can establish ways to try and avoid them. Whilst it is not possible to avoid all of these – for example, we are not able to choose if or when we feel pain – what we can do is put measures in place to help lessen their impact. For example, if you find that using drugs helps to distract you from pain, then you can reduce the risk of this trigger by seeking medical support for your pain. For example, receiving regular physiotherapy.

Be Honest

Addiction can be insidious; it creeps into our lives and can soon start to dismantle our mental health, social lives, work and relationships. But addiction is something that can be fed by silence. The longer you tackle addiction on your own, the deeper it can sink its claws in. This then risks increased social withdrawal, with one study indicating that 79% of individuals seeking support for substance use report feeling lonely.

If your use of cocaine is becoming worrying, then the best thing that you can do is to talk to someone about it. This may be a spouse, a friend, a family member, a teacher or a medical professional. It doesn’t matter who you speak to, as long as you share your experience with someone.

Once we’ve shared, two things can happen: we start to feel less alone, but we can also feel empowered to take more steps to tackle the addiction head on. In this sense, talking about cocaine is the first step of gradually committing to recovery.

Think About Your Reasons for Using

A lot of the time, addiction can be a kind of ‘self-medicating.’ It can be, for many people, a way of masking difficult experiences, such as:

  • Memories of trauma


  • Emotions related to grief


  • Emotions related to a difficult breakup or conflict


  • Financial concerns


  • Struggles with physical health


Often, drugs are turned to as a way of alleviating distress. This is thought to be why a high percentage of individuals with substance use disorders also have a diagnosis of a mental health condition. This is known as a dual diagnosis.

Once you start to identify what might have led you to using cocaine, you can hopefully recognise that there are ways to address your situation without using drugs to blunt the pain. There are avenues of support out there that can help you to move forward – without the dangerous implications of cocaine that can be masked by the short term high.

Write a Letter to Remind Yourself Why You Are Trying to Get Clean

When things get tough, we can often forget why we are doing them in the first place. Recovery is no different. There may be times when it feels as though it would be easier to continue to use – this is where you need to have reminders of why you are aiming for sobriety.
It can be helpful to write a letter to yourself, clearly stating the following:

  • How using cocaine makes you feel


  • How using cocaine negative effects your life


  • What your life may be like without it (how you might feel, what you may be able to achieve, etc)


  • What your main goal is (to aim for a year clean, etc)


This can be very powerful to return to when things are rocky. Having these things clearly set out before you- alongside a very clear treatment goal – can often be the push of motivation needed when rehab feels a little harder.

Find a Professional Support System

Rome wasn’t built in a day – and an addiction will not be cured in that time either. But with the right support system on your side, you can take each day as it comes with the knowledge that you have all the right tools to move forward.

There are many places where you can access support for cocaine addiction, including:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous


  • Narcotics Anonymous


  • 12 Step Facilitation Therapy


  • Addiction or mental health charities


  • Your loved ones


  • Primary care providers such as GPs


  • CQC accredited expert support

Cocaine Rehab: Accessing Formal Support

Every person deserves a strong support network. At UKAT, we are proud to offer gold-standard treatment at all of our centres across the country.

Our team comprises industry experts: psychologists, psychiatrists, medical practitioners and therapeutic specialists. You can make a referral to learn how we can help you.

Following referral, cocaine rehab at UKAT takes place in several stages:

  • Assessment


  • Admission


  • Detox


  • Rehab


  • Aftercare

Get Support

If you are ready to get help for cocaine addiction, we would be more than happy to chat with you about the options available at our UKAT centres. Our dedicated team can talk you through the different types of intervention we offer to help you decide what form of support would best suit you.
Contact us today if you would like more information on how we can help you to move towards a life without the weight of addiction.

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