Cocaine is a type of drug that increases the availability of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with the generation of ‘euphoric’ emotions, regulation of movement, and processing reward cues. However, it is also associated with a significant potential for addiction and abuse. Cocaine is linked to an increased risk of:


  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Disease
  • Death


Those who provide treatment for cocaine use need to understand that drug addiction is a complex disease that involves changes in the brain, as well as a wide range of social, family, and other environmental factors; therefore, treatment of cocaine must address wider context, as well as any other mental disorders when they occur that require additional behavioral or pharmacological interventions.


Behavioral interventions Many behavioral treatments for cocaine have proven effective in both residential and outpatient settings. Behavioral therapies have shown as the only available and effective treatment for many drug problems, including stimulant addiction. However, the integration of behavioral and pharmacological treatments may subsequently be shown as the most efficient access.

Behavioral therapy is psychosocial treatments that deal with the reasons, motives and possible underlying psychological problems related to persons who abuse substances.

Current research suggests that behavioral therapy techniques are especially effective in patients affected by cocaine abuse and addiction.


An example of behavior treatment on effective abstinence from cocaine is contingency management (CM). This treatment is based on incentives (e.g. reward or money) for abstinence, or other positive parameters, such as improving social interactions. This treatment has shown promising results, but long-term effects are less certain because it seems to lose efficiency over time.


Another form of behavioral treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy is concerned with the reasons for substance abuse and helps to change maladaptive ways of acting and thinking that contribute to the certain problem of cocaine.


Pharmacological interventions


Pharmacological (or drugs based) therapy refers to drugs administered to treat cocaine addiction by physiological means.


This type of treatment uses the drugs that can mimic the essence of ill-treatment in question, or at a reduced or different extents. The doses of these drugs are reduced (or “tapers”) over time, thus “weaning” the patient off the drug or allowing them to work on recovery and abstinence from addiction.

Emerging forms of pharmacotherapy for cocaine dependence treatment is methylphenidate. This medication is prescribed for the treatment of ADHD, and similar to cocaine in terms of neurological effects. However, the stimulative effects of methylphenidate act on the brain for a long time, but cause the less extreme reaction in relation to cocaine. The hope is to soften the “need” for cocaine dependence over time.


It is important to note that medically assisted treatment of any kind is a very special program, but does not offer universality in most cases.


Community-based recovery groups – such as cocaine Anonymous, 12 Step program and the similar ones, can also be helpful in maintaining abstinence. Participants can benefit from the support of the community and share experiences with those of the common problems and questions.

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