A recent Pacific Standard article highlights a report from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that farmers in Colombia have been ramping up their coca planting and now seem ready to produce cocaine in unprecedented amounts.

With so much focus on the current opioid epidemic, cocaine, benzodiazepines, methamphetamine, and other drugs are slipping through the cracks and past the attention of authorities.

Pure cocaine production in the country has reached the highest levels ever recorded, according to DEA analyst Leah-Perle Bloomenstein. In past years, Colombian traffickers produced higher amounts of the drug, which led to more Americans to try it for the first time leading to more overdose deaths.

Estimates show that upward of 1.1 million Americans tried cocaine for the first time in 2017, up from 970,000 in 2015, and there were more than 10,000 deaths from overdoses in 2016 in comparison to 5,415 in 2014. Unfortunately, some of these deaths have been linked to the emergence of fentanyl throughout the country.

While it is more common to mix fentanyl with heroin for a stronger and cheaper high, drug dealers have become more desperate to turn a profit and have been combining the cheap and deadly opioid with cocaine.

Someone who has never used fentanyl before could die almost instantly because of the pure strength of the drug, not to mention one is a stimulant while the other is a depressant. There has been a spike in the Midwest and Northeast for cocaine and fentanyl combinations.

If fentanyl continues to spread into the illicit drug supplies, it could put many more at risk for overdosing on the drug. Unfortunately, it could also dig deeper into the population that has been less affected by the epidemic of opioid addiction and death in the United States.

If there is any silver lining to take from this situation, government studies estimate that regular cocaine use has remained steady over the past 10 years, which is less than 1 percent of the population, and those who seek treatment for stimulant addiction dropped steadily between 2006 and 2015.

The evidence supports the rise in cocaine abuse that is perhaps reaching epidemic levels, and all officials can do is be prepared. The extent to which the drug returns remains to be seen, but vigilance is our best tool at this moment.

History of Cocaine

Cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the leaves of the South American coca plant. It has been used for thousands of years by indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest and Andes Mountains. Their primary method of consumption was to chew the coca leaves for an energetic high.

The coca plant is one of the oldest cultivated plants in South America, and botanists think its cultivation may have started in the Amazon and Andes.  Many years after its discovery, the psychoactive drug was used in the late 1800s as medicine.

A German chemist by the name of Albert Nieman isolated cocaine from the coca leaves in 1860 and noticed that the powdery white substance made his tongue feel numb.

During this same period, a French chemist named Angel Mariani created a tonic made from Bordeaux wine and coca leaves calling it Vin Mariani. It was marketed to restore health and vitality and became very popular.

In 1886, the American pharmacist named John Stith Pemberton founded Coca-Cola, which was initially a beverage concoction of cocaine and sugary syrup. Due to obvious health concerns, it was removed from the products in 1903.

Cocaine has a long and colorful history, but it may be best known because of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Escobar made his mark on the United States and Colombia when he created one of the first known drug cartels and began his violent and deadly reign of terror.

Cocaine’s popularity began to skyrocket during the 1970s and 1980s when his cartel reportedly imported 80 percent of the drug in the United States.

Even after Escobar’s death, many other cartels were created to follow in his footsteps. Cocaine had exploded in popularity and became a status symbol for many of the upper echelons in our society. As the problem grew, there were many struggling with addiction, which leads to the question – can you get sober from cocaine quickly?

Getting Sober From Cocaine Fast

The purity of today’s cocaine is much less potent than in years past, and unfortunately, users must deal with the realities of tainted drugs. In the past, cocaine would be laced with inert products like baby laxatives, but today, the DEA is seeing more and more cases of fentanyl-laced cocaine leading to death. It makes the process of getting sober fast a tad more difficult because we seldom see pure cocaine.

When someone uses high amounts of impure cocaine, they are going to deal with the same withdrawals as someone who consumes smaller amounts of the pure drug. The most reliable method of achieving sobriety is to seek treatment.

“Cocaine addiction treatment is a process that involves medical treatment and psychotherapy. The goal is to help you abstain from cocaine use and begin to develop healthier habits. Addiction is a chronic disease with no known cure; however, with evidence-based treatment and experienced medical personnel, getting sober from cocaine fast is a feat you can achieve.  ”

Upon entering treatment, you will go through an intake process, in which they will assess your current needs and health to determine which treatment options are right for you. Depending on your medical needs, you may need a higher level of care.

If the doctors determine you need specialized care, they may place you in a residential program that aims at keeping you on-site for up to 90 days, and where you will receive more one-on-one attention. The team can adequately treat your medical needs as well as introduce you to therapies that will set you up for long-term sobriety.

If the staff sees fit, you could also be placed in an outpatient program that allows you to get treatment and leave afterward. This process typically involves fewer than nine hours of care weekly and will put you into the same therapy sessions as someone living on-site.

Outpatient level of care is ideal for someone that needs to stay working or in school. If you need to get sober from cocaine fast, treatment is going to be your best long-term option. It is not a wise choice to abstain from drugs like cocaine on your own, and if you are serious about your sobriety, it is time to get help.

Tips For Getting Through Cocaine Withdrawal

Cocaine withdrawal can cause uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, often called a comedown. Aside from exhaustion, the most intense symptoms you feel will be psychological. Still, there are a few things you can do to ease your comedown and set yourself on the path to recovery.

Here are some options:

  • Get plenty of sleep. Even though you may be exhausted, this is sometimes easier said than done. You may experience nightmares and discomfort that wakes you up or prevents you from falling asleep. However, stimulants make your body work overtime, especially if you binged for more than 24 hours. Sleep will help your body rest and begin to recover. Many people are so tired, they even experience hypersomnia, which is when you sleep for excessive periods of time. This is usually temporary.
  • Replenish nutrients. Not only did you deplete your energy reserves on cocaine, but you also expended a lot of specific brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Those chemical messengers need time to replenish, and you might experience psychological symptoms like depression while you wait. To help your body replace lost nutrients, you can try eating nuts, bananas, and drinking orange juice. These foods are rich in vitamins and nutrients that can aid your recovery.
  • Drink water. Stimulants often cause dehydration, which can leave you feeling lethargic, nauseous, and it can give you a headache. You also lose water while you sleep, which you may be doing a lot of while you go through cocaine withdrawal. Dehydration can even be potentially dangerous if you don’t get enough fluids in time. Drink plenty of water and pay attention to symptoms like dry mouth for signs of dehydration.
  • Recognize when you need help. Psychological symptoms may seem less dangerous than physical ones, but things like extreme depression should be taken seriously. Cocaine causes you to feel an intense dopamine rush that can go away quickly. As you come down, the loss of that pleasurable feeling and low dopamine levels can cause serious depression.

In some cases, you may even feel temporary anhedonia, the loss of the ability to feel pleasure. Depression can lead to thoughts of suicide or suicidal actions. According to one review in 1999, cocaine was found to be present in as many as 22 percent of cases of suicide. If you experience suicidal thoughts, speak to a professional as soon as possible.

Do I Need Addiction Treatment?

If you’ve used cocaine recently and you’re worried you might be developing a substance use disorder, you may need addiction treatment. But how do you know if your problem is bad enough to require addiction treatment?

A substance use disorder is a progressive disease that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. When you speak to an addiction specialist, your doctor, or an intake coordinator, they may assess you according to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for a substance use disorder.

This set of criteria involves factors like hazardous drug use, experiencing withdrawal symptoms, drug cravings, neglecting responsibilities and hobbies, and other signs.

“ In general, if cocaine use has started to negatively affect your health, relationships, financial stability, or legal standing, you may need help as soon as possible. However, if it hasn’t started to affect those areas of your life, but you’ve tried and failed to cut back or stop using.  ”

You might have some level of a substance use disorder that should be addressed. Even low-level substance use disorders can be addressed, and if they aren’t, they can lead to a more serious condition.

Addiction worsens over time, so the health risks only grow the longer you wait. One day, you could buy a tainted bag of cocaine that causes a deadly overdose. Or you may overdose on an especially pure dose that you didn’t expect to be so potent.

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