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Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is a widespread issue in the UK. Home Office figures in recent years estimate approximately 48 million people aged 16-59 as having taken powdered cocaine.  London has the largest amount of cocaine use in the UK at 23,000 grams per day. If you are struggling with cocaine use or know someone who is, Help Me Stop’s Dayhab programme can help with recovery.


Cocaine is a dangerous substance when used in connection with other substances and in excess. Commonly portrayed in the media, its use brings with it potential health issues. A powerfully addictive substance, cocaine use can draw a person towards the vicious and destructive cycle of addiction. Hospitals dealt with a record 15,423 cocaine abuse cases in 2018 and Home Office statistics showed deaths involving cocaine use have doubled in three years - and the trend is rising.

If you have concerns over your health due to use of cocaine or are worried about the damage it is doing to your life and loved ones, please get in touch with the Help Me Stop team right now. We’re here to offer advice at no obligation and no pressure and can direct you or your loved one to help in performing safe detox from the substance at issue.

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Available at one-tenth of traditional residential rehab costs, Help Me Stop’s breakthrough ‘Dayhab’ model fits more easily around the demands you likely have in your life, such as work and taking care of family and loved ones.

What is cocaine addiction like?

Cocaine is an extremely addictive substance and stimulant. It heavily affects the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a chemical primarily responsible for making us feel pleasure. Dopamine is released in measured amounts as a reward mechanism when we perform certain acts, such as exercising or having sex.

Cocaine addiction mainly causes psychological dependence, but many users continue their heavy use of cocaine to avoid withdrawal symptoms after its effects wear off. This causes cocaine to be a drug often used in large binges, bringing with it health risks and the increased likelihood of developing a pattern of dependence.

What is it like being on cocaine?

The key effect of cocaine is an intense burst of energy, alertness and often confidence. When snorting cocaine, the nose and face can feel numb. While many users do report a feeling of euphoria when taking cocaine, this is not a universal experience.  

The effect of cocaine is largely surmised by a strong release of energy. When high on the substance, particularly in social settings, it’s common for users to move, dance and talk excessively. The sense of energy can be described as somewhat similar to an extremely strong dose of caffeine. Feelings of wellbeing and positive emotions are common.

How does someone develop an addiction to cocaine?

Beginning recreationally for many, cocaine addiction often occurs over time and repeated use. Initial sessions with cocaine don’t produce strong feelings of addiction at first for most users, with it common for new users of cocaine to feel completely in control of their use of the substance.

Cocaine is often used in social settings, but this isn’t necessarily the case for all users. Many who heavily use cocaine do so in private. Social settings, however, often bring with them increased pressure to take the substance from peers and often increase the chances of binge sessions occurring and its use with other substances, particularly alcohol.

How can cocaine use affect the life of the user?

Over time and sustained use, the urge to consume cocaine at the expense of other commitments in life can build. Occasional recreational use often increases to weekly and daily consumption, impacting on work, health and home life.

It is important to get cocaine addiction treatment as soon as possible, not just because of the psychological, financial, and social hazards associated with it, but also because of long-term physical harm caused by the drug.

What are the health risks of cocaine addiction and use?

Cocaine is demanding on the body in use, bringing with it a strong physical rush of energy that usually increases your heart rate significantly. This makes it risky for any person who has pre-existing or undiagnosed heart conditions or high blood pressure, although even perfectly healthy and younger users can experience heart attacks or fits due to taking too much of the drug.

As cocaine is so often used in party and social settings, it’s often used alongside alcohol. Moderate or binge drinking of alcohol and consumption of cocaine together makes overdosing more likely and is very dangerous to users. Cocaine and alcohol are toxic substances that are harmful to the bodily tissues, and they are removed from the bloodstream and metabolised in the liver in order to eliminate them from the body. When an individual uses alcohol and cocaine at the same time, cocaethylene develops in the liver as a result of the metabolic processing of both alcohol and cocaine. The effects of cocaethylene in the liver and bloodstream can lead to strokes, heart attacks and liver damage.  Cocaethylene’s affinity to increase both dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain also increases the risk that an individual will engage in more impulsive behaviours, including potential violence.

Cocaine use can, with sustained use, also be damaging to the nose. Snorting cocaine, the most common method of ingestion, can deteriorate and damage your nose and the cartilage inside it. Heavy cocaine snorters can see this cartilage deteriorate entirely, leaving them with a single, larger nostril and a change to the shape of their nose.

Cocaine is also very dangerous if used during pregnancy, as it can lead to premature labour, low birth weight for the baby and potential miscarriage.

What are the dangers of injecting and smoking cocaine (crack)?

These methods of cocaine consumption bring with them very real and unique risks. Smoking cocaine, also known as doing ‘crack’, can lead to pains in the chest of the user and can lead to breathing problems in addition to risks associated with overdosing.

Injecting cocaine is potentially very dangerous, sharing the same health risks as the injection of heroin. Injecting cocaine can lead to permanent damage to your veins and can cause life-threatening health complications such as ulcers and gangrene. The risk of infection is also present, particularly if needle use is unhygienic or if needles are shared with other users. In these cases, the spread of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV are possible.

Are there mental health risks from cocaine use and addiction?

Yes. Because cocaine heavily affects the release of dopamine in your brain, it can bring with it many mental health complications. Our brain’s release of dopamine naturally is a carefully measured act, with it rewarding us with the pleasure of small releases of dopamine in response to doing positive and healthy acts, such as exercise or having sex.

Cocaine essentially releases a flood of dopamine on demand when used. This is dangerous for mental health, as the brain adjusts itself and its response to dopamine the more it is released. Excessive dopamine release, such as is experienced when using cocaine, essentially dulls the brain’s response to it. This leads to the user needing to take more of the drug to get the same high.

Worse still, however, is the fact that this excessive dopamine release and subsequent dulling of response affects the brain when the user is not high on cocaine. As the brain adjusts to experiencing such an excess of dopamine, the general mood of the user changes accordingly. Common mental symptoms of regular cocaine use include depression, paranoia and general feelings of anxiety and lethargy.

This makes cocaine particularly dangerous to any user who has pre-existing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorders. Cocaine use is also known to bring mental health issues to the surface that were not presently being experienced.

Can you overdose on cocaine?

Yes. Cocaine overdoses are very dangerous and can be fatal. Cocaine overdose is generally described medically as when cocaine intake causes the substance to reach toxic levels within the body, causing a serious reaction. In these cases, cocaine essentially acts as a poison in the body.

Cocaine overdose levels can vary; some users have reported overdose to toxic levels from as little as a few hundred milligrams, whereas other users (particularly heavy users) are able to consume several grams without overdosing. Due to this fact, it’s generally accepted that the limit at which overdosing occurs varies from user to user.

Symptoms of overdosing on cocaine include severe nausea and vomiting and an increase in your body’s temperature. The elevated heart rate common to general cocaine use can worsen, leading to physical tremors and strong pains in the chest and body. In many cases, overdoses bring strong psychological symptoms such as feelings of panic and anxiety, or delirium and paranoia.

What are the risks of overdosing?

Cocaine overdoses are sometimes fatal. Government statistics for 2018 show deaths related to cocaine use in the UK have doubled in three years. As cocaine potency varies significantly from dealer to dealer, it’s very difficult to ever know exactly how much cocaine would cause you to overdose.

As cocaine so heavily affects the heart, serious overdoses often cause heart attacks and strokes, which can be fatal. In such cases, cocaine overdoses can begin with the aforementioned sensations of chest pain and pressure. As the heart is starved of blood and access to oxygen due to the inadequate flow of blood to it, the heart has to pump faster and harder to compensate. Due to constricted arteries, however, this effort is futile and may lead to heart attacks and strokes.

How does Help Me Stop treat cocaine addiction?

Cocaine is a strongly addictive substance, making it challenging but possible to be free from addiction to it. A drug-free life without cocaine use is possible and Help Me Stop’s breakthrough Dayhab treatment model is effective in helping addicted users to understand their addiction and recover from it.

Most of our therapists at Help Me Stop have experienced addiction at some point in their own lives. This gives them a grounding in the reality of drug and alcohol addiction that makes for a more connected service to anyone going through our programme.

We combine a range of therapeutic methods alongside the 12-Step approach to deliver effective treatment, not only for the cocaine use but for underlying issues. We call this combined behavioural intervention, and it includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other forms of therapy. This combination has proved extremely effective in dealing with depression, anger, anxiety, self-esteem, relationship and assertiveness issues as well as negative thoughts and behaviours.

Does the Dayhab model work?

Yes. Available at one-tenth of the average price for traditional residential rehab, the Help Me Stop model matches or exceeds the success rate of traditional programmes. Unlike residential treatment and traditional day programmes, our 160-hour programme is available on a more flexible basis, working around the commitments of family and work.

Upon enquiring and going through a pre-admission phase with Help Me Stop a schedule is arranged and agreed with each individual. This is to ensure that the programme works for them and is able to be met alongside other commitments in their lives.

In this way, we support individuals with cocaine addiction or addiction to other drugs and alcohol. We are affordable, effective and transparent in all we do and in the details of our programme.