Can long term habitual cocaine use permanently alter your brain chemistry?
I used for about 5 years. Like many people I went through phases, sometimes using much more heavily than others and at times staying clean for as much as a couple months. The last year I was definitely a much heavier user, getting high every other day to every two days, depending on how long it took me to recover from my previous binge. Binges would usually last 24 to 36 hours and I would generally do between 1 and 3 grams in a binge. Sometimes a little more, but not usually any less than a gram.
I have been clean for a relatively short time (about 6 months). I have gotten my life much closer to normal than it has been in quite a long time. I certainly feel much more normal mentally, however I do experience some things that I never had a problem with in the time before I started using. The thing that affects me most noticeably is my anxiety. So far I have managed it without medication, although I do strongly consider talking to my doctor every time I am in the middle of a bout with it. Though they are pretty occasional, there are times when it feels like it has gotten a bit beyond my control. I never experienced any anxiety prior to using. I also have somewhat frequent feelings of paranoia. Its not all that severe and I can keep a good handle on it. I always recognize that the feelings are illogical and unfounded. I find it usually manifests itself as mild hypochondria. When these feelings pop up I immediately start focusing on and worrying about little physical things that might be out of the ordinary.
I realize that I haven't been clean for a very long time, but because I never had issues of this sort prior to my use, I am curious if this is something that will most likely fade away after more time, or if I could potentially be dealing with this on a longterm basis. Any input would be much appreciated.
I am sorry but the title struck a funny bone! (sp) :)
6 months IS a good amount of time. Congratulations on this! Anxiety can stick around but it seems that it should've stabilized by now. Maybe someone with experience on coke will chime in. In my journals there is an amino-acid post. There are 2 books mentioned that have formulations to address specific mood problems. As always heed taking anything if you are on other meds.
well im not sure if your around still, but if you snorted the coke and your 6 months clean, mentally you should almost back to normal, but if you smoked it, that can be a different story. i know many that could never find the same life again after smoking it for a long time without going to therapy and counselling. although there is a chance you could still have anxiety from the use, it is possible you could have just developed it on its own. my mom didn't start having anxiety until she was 40. i think your best bet is to visit your doctor and be honest with him, they are there to help.
It does take time for "normal" brain chemistry to return and it doesn't happen all at once.
I'm just past 2.5 years. At different times over the course of my Recovery I have had the sudden insight, or recogonition, that things were different (and improved) in how my mind was working. The closest I can come to explaining what it is like is to compare it walking outside one day and just KNOWING that "it's changed" - the calendar might say it's still summer, but I know that fall has arrived.
I can't quite put my finger on exactly what's different. Everything's pretty much the same as it was the day before, when I knew it was summer. But that doesn't matter, SOMETHING is different and now I know it is fall. When I pause to think about it, I become aware that this day is much different from that day when I first KNEW it was summer (even though the calendar said it was still spring). It's a lot different and in ways that are easy to identify. I just hadn't become consciously aware of those differences (until now) because from day-to-day there seemed to be no change.
That's about what it's been like for me. The first time I noticed a change in my season was right at 3 months. At that time I was at my second rehab, where I spent exactly 4 months. Nothing was different from the day before (or from that morning), but I suddenly KNEW. I was shocked and and I whispered to myself "Oh my God, THIS is how I need to be to make it." I quickly thought "I'm ready to go home - I can make it now." But just as quickly became almost certain that what I needed more time in that safe place to get used to being that way - to make sure that when I left I would be able to hold on to it. Within minutes I ran inside to run my thoughts by the Director and had the first and the last confirmed.
I wish I had a such clear memory of the subsequent changes in my memory, but I don't There have been a bunch, but none had the dramatic, almost mystic quality of that first time. Instead, when I became aware of a new season it was more of a pleasant surprise – pleasant because it confirmed to me that things were well with my Recovery – a surprise because after the first few I somehow took the notion that I should be done with season changes.
Often in Recovery they talk about “peeling away another layer of the onion.” In that vein, I kept thinking “ahhh, now I’m down to the core.” Finally, I gave up on the notion that there is a core – the whole damn onion is just layers. But I figure that’s a good thing - and another example of lucky I am that life doesn’t actually work according to my ill conceived notions.
I’m convinced that time alone would not have fully corrected my brain chemistry. I think mine was a bit off before I abused my first substance. The rehab I was at followed the nutritional supplement program of Dr. Charles Gant. That program is outlined in Gant’s book End Your Addiction Now.
To greatly summarize, it’s a program of providing the specific amino acids that a given individual needs to correct the specific neurotransmitter deficiencies of that individual. I was on Gant’s full program for about the first 8 months. I’m still on L-Tyrosine and if I go more than a couple of days without it, I get that same feeling of being restless, irritable and discontent that characterized much of life before Recovery.
Two other good books with related approaches to the brain chemistry aspect of Recovery are Seven Weeks to Sobriety, by Joan Larsen (Joan should take a title-writing lesson from Gant) and The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross. These two are more diet (i.e. a healthy, balanced diet is an absolute must for Recovery brain chem) intensive, while Gant’s is more supplement intensive. I don’t view them as alternative, but as complimentary approaches.
I think that without affirmatively addressing brain chemistry in Recovery with supps (at last initially) and diet (from then on), a return to “normal” can take a very long time.
Something else that could account for the things you’re experiencing is PAWS - Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. According to a good source on PAWS (which is available at http://www.tlctx.com/ar_pages/paw_part1.htm) these are the major symptoms of PAWS:
This is actually a hugely debated issue right now. Let me start by saying there are NO studies that have been done that can show that damage from drug abuse is permanent. All evidence is inferential.
The main drive of the "permanent damage" group is that as a drug addict with permanent damage, you need to be medicated for life. This side has strong backing from medical and government oriented groups, as it supports their entire methadone/suboxone treatment program system which is HUGE money for...coincidentally, the groups who claim the damage is permanent.
I prefer to look at it like this;
The brain changes ANYWAY as you get older and go through life regardless of drug addiction. It's a highly adaptable organ, and as long as you treat your body/mind right, it will adapt (in normal cases) and adjust in the most successful way it can.
So addiction will cause your brain chemistry to change. BUT, not using will cause it to change as well. Of course your brain chemistry will be different from when you used drugs. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just...change. If you give it time to heal and adapt, you should eventually be fine.
In answer to a couple people's comments, I snorted it. I would smoke it once in a blue moon for a laugh but not regularly by any means... Its so weird to look back on the things I used to find fun and/or funny!
Thanks for all the feedback so far. Its been very difficult trying to come up with a solution on how to deal with this. I've visited two doctors now and have been up front about my history and what is going on currently. Unfortunately the solutions they did give me didn't really address the core problem. They both told me it was stress and lack of sleep. At the time that seemed to make sense as I had lost my job, was trying to stay sober, and was going through a very bad break up with my live in boyfriend who I found out had moved from blow to heroin.
It's been five months since my last doctor visit and I now have a normal work schedule, my sleep pattern is totally normal, my stress level is very low, yet the anxiety and paranoia persist. I have considered going back to my regular doctor again, but when it comes down to it I really don't want to take medication. After more research im thinking about going to a naturopathic doctor to see if they can help me come up with a more holistic solution. I'll probably try to combine that with therapy. Just waiting to see if my insurance will cover any of it!
Hopefully I can come up with a solution. I'll post some updates as I try different things as I am sure other people are struggling with similar problems.
In regards to PAWS, they say symptoms can actually peak around 4-6 months. It is also said that symptoms can return every 30 days or so, with each episode being a little less severe than the last. Anxiety and depression are the biggies. I am 5 mos clean from opiates, and STILL not quite right-- but feel I'm getting progressively better. You can use up your "feel-good" neurotransmitters with natural highs, over an extended period of time--- or you can use them all up with drugs in a short period of time, and then pay the price while your body builds more. It takes time for your body and brain to get right again.
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