Cocaine is probably the most widely used illegal drug in Spain, and every year it leads to addiction for thousands of people.

Unfortunately, this reality contrasts with another: this substance is, at the same time, one of the most standardized among adults, especially in nightlife contexts. Often, when one reacts to put a stop to this dependence on cocaine consumption, it is already very strong and professional help is needed to overcome it.

In this article we will see a summary about how is the treatment of cocaine addiction , to understand the way in which patient and therapist are putting a stop to this disorder.

How does drug dependence occur?

There are at least two ways to understand the way addictions develop: one neurological and one psychological.

The Neurological Perspective

On a neurological level, addiction to a substance such as cocaine begins to emerge when, after consuming it several times, our nervous system becomes accustomed to the presence of these new molecules that enter the body.

This substance comes into contact with our neurons and, by interacting with their membrane, triggers nerve reactions that activate the areas of pleasure, that is, those that predispose us to repeat the action that has resulted in experiencing that sensation. In this case, the behavior that has triggered that experience is snorting a line of cocaine, for example.

With the passage of time, cocaine consumption is transforming the way in which the neurons in our brain interconnect with each other, and little by little these neurons are organized in such a way that the consumption of this drug becomes one of the person’s most important priorities. Thus, other pleasurable experiences such as eating or reading a good book take a back seat at the cost of focusing psychological activity on obtaining and consuming the addictive substance.

In addition, another effect of cocaine on the brain is that while it triggers what is practically the only pleasant sensation for the person, it is increasingly fleeting, and the person needs more and more of the drug to feel his or her need satisfied.

The psychological perspective

If treatment for cocaine addiction includes psychotherapy, it’s because psychology has a lot to say about this disorder. The fact is that dependence on a drug is not only a neurobiological phenomenon, but also something that is important for the way in which the addicted person interacts with the environment, and the environments to which he or she is usually exposed .

If a person who is having a hard time quitting cocaine always parties in the same places and mixes with the same people, it is almost impossible for him or her to overcome addiction.

On the other hand, there are some people who, without going to therapy, overcome their addictions after moving, almost spontaneously. This was proven by a very radical case: the heroin addiction crisis of soldiers sent to the Vietnam War. When they returned home from the United States, a very high percentage of them had managed to stop depending on heroin use.

Obviously, the vast majority of people will never go through the experience of developing an addiction restricted to an environment radically different from that of their home town and in a context of war, so in the vast majority of cases professional intervention is necessary.

The keys to treating cocaine addiction

Here we will see the main key ideas to understand how the treatment of cocaine addiction is carried out .

1. Medical examination and follow-up

Substance addiction involves very delicate biological processes, especially because it involves a set of organs as important to survival as the brain.

For this reason, the teams of experts in the treatment of addictions work with doctors who supervise patients , something that is especially important in the detoxification phase but which is also relevant in later phases, especially if the patient feels discomfort from other health complications and tries to “compensate” for it with the pleasant sensation of taking drugs.


The first days after stopping cocaine use are the hardest for patients, as it is at this stage that withdrawal symptoms emerge most intensely. This is why the detoxification phase, in which the body eliminates the remains of the drug in the blood and tissues, is delicate and requires special attention from specialists .

3. Recognition of consumption history

As with any other disorder of this type, cocaine addiction is expressed at times when the person feels the urge to get the drug and relieve the discomfort that comes from not using.

In this phase thoughts and feelings arise that indicate when there is a greater risk of giving in to the temptation to relapse , and for this reason professionals of intervention in addictions train patients so that they are able to identify very well these psychological processes that serve as a warning. In this way, it is much easier to stop their effects, preventing them from leading the person to consume.

4. Searching for new incentives

There is little point in curbing the urge to use drugs if no alternatives are offered. For this reason, in the treatment of cocaine addiction the context in which each patient lives is analysed case by case , as well as their interests, personal characteristics and potential tastes, in order to offer them many other activities on which to concentrate and with which to eclipse the power of influence of the addictive disorder.

5. Searching for new contexts

Another key to the success of therapy against cocaine addiction is to help the patient generalize the results obtained in the therapy sessions to different areas of his or her life. This includes guiding them in patterns of behavior that they can follow to avoid exposing themselves to the temptation to use again , or directly to not feel interested in that activity again. For example, this happens by not being limited to a group of friends in which most people have addiction problems, or to nightlife plans in which not using psychoactive substances is almost an eccentricity.

It also helps him to discard harmful beliefs that facilitated the existence of addiction: beliefs that maintained a low self-esteem, that led him to believe that the drug does not have too many adverse effects on health, etc.

Are you looking for professional support to overcome addiction?

If you live in Barcelona or its surroundings and are interested in addiction therapy services, we invite you to come to our facilities in Barcelona or in Dosrius (Mataró).

At CITA Clinics we specialize in the treatment of addictions , and we offer therapeutic treatment and hospitalization services in a space surrounded by nature and with many activities to do. If you are interested in knowing more, visit this page.

Bibliographic references:

  • Asociación Americana de Psiquiatría (APA). (2013). Manual diagnóstico y estadístico de los trastornos mentales (5ª ed.). Arlington, VA: Publicación Psiquiátrica Americana.
  • Centro de Tratamiento de Abuso de Sustancias. (1999). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Rockville (MD): Administración de Servicios de Salud Mental y Abuso de Sustancias: Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 33.
  • Goldstein, R.A.; DesLauriers, C.; Burda, A.M. (2009). Cocaína: historia, implicaciones sociales y toxicidad… una revisión. Disease-A-Month. 55(1): págs. 6 a 38.
  • Kalivas, P.W., Volkow, N.D. (2005). La base neural de la adicción: una patología de la motivación y la elección. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 162 (8): págs. 1403 a 1413.
  • Centro Nacional de Colaboración para la Salud Mental (2008). Uso indebido de drogas: Intervenciones psicosociales. Leicester: Sociedad Británica de Psicología; Directrices Clínicas NICE, No. 51.