Can My Brain Heal after Cocaine Use?

Cocaine use has a tremendous effect on the human body, and according to the U.S. government’s 2010 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report, it is the most common illicit substance found in drug-related emergency room visits. With advanced imaging equipment, researchers can see the following physical effects of cocaine on the brain:

  • Sluggish blood flow as the vessels constrict
  • Desensitized reward pathways that demand higher doses
  • Sensitivity to anxiety increases, as well as mood swings
  • Diminished cognitive function and concentration levels
  • Increased risk of strokes and seizures

Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels increase during cocaine highs and create sensations of euphoria and energy. With constant abuse, the brain conforms to these elevated neurotransmitter levels and establishes a new “normal” in which cocaine use exclusively stimulates the pleasure center in the brain. With addiction treatment, one of the goals is to heal the brain by reversing this neural conditioning.

Healing an Addict’s Brain

The healing needs to start with the mesoaccumbens dopamine (DA), the midbrain pathway that controls a person’s sense of reward, and this can only start when a person stops abusing cocaine. Professional rehab uses several methods to help break an addiction and heal the brain, including the following:

  • Medically supervised detox to flush the toxins out of the body
  • Holistic treatments like meditation, acupuncture, massage, and hypnosis
  • Address co-occurring mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and mania
  • Group therapies and individual counseling

Healing also involves the return of normal blood flow levels in the brain. In addition to drug abstinence, there are several natural ways to help facilitate this healing, including the following:

  • Eat more brain-healthy foods and supplements, like fish oils
  • Stimulate the mind with various mental activities
  • Encourage overall health with exercise and yoga
  • Refrain from any intoxicating substance, not just cocaine

How long does it take for the brain to heal? Each person recovers at a different rate, but long-term addiction generally requires more time to heal. Nevertheless, significant recovery usually occurs within the first six months. Does the brain completely heal? It is possible but uncertain. What is certain, however, is the damage only gets worse the longer a person continues to abuse cocaine. Furthermore, cocaine abuse also damages the heart, the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, and the kidneys.

Building a Strong Recovery

A relapse can quickly undo whatever healing had already taken place. For this reason, addiction treatment also utilizes therapies such as the following to strengthen recovery:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy shapes the way patients process information to produce more positive mental and emotional responses.
  • Drug Trigger Counseling determines cocaine use triggers, which can include individuals, access, settings, activities, memories, social pressure, and emotional and physical states.
  • Psychoeducation empowers patients by giving them a better understanding of how addiction works, what to expect, and the dangers of relapse.

For an effective recovery, counseling and group support should continue after rehab treatment.

Cocaine Abuse Helpline

Our counselors are available 24 hours a day to discuss cocaine abuse, including the risks, warning signs and treatment options. Health insurers often cover addiction rehabilitation, and we can check your policy for treatment benefits. Do not let cocaine do more damage to your health and lifestyle. Call our toll-free helpline now.

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