Heroin Addiction: Why the Recovery Rate is Better Than You Think

heroin addiction recovery rate

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an extremely addictive illegal street drug derived from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy plant. It was originally sold as a painkiller until it became apparent that heroin is highly addictive. It is sold on the street as either a brown or white powder or black tar heroin that users smoke, inject, or snort. More than 2000 people die each year from heroin use.

Why is Heroin So Addictive?

Because of the way that heroin affects the brain, it is extremely addictive. Once heroin enters the body, it is converted to morphine, which quickly attaches to opioid receptors in the brain. Activating these receptors blocks the production of the brain chemical GABA, which regulates dopamine production. Dopamine then floods the brain, producing feelings of pleasure and euphoria. The rush is relatively short-lived, lasting 15-30 minutes, but feels so good that users crave it and will use heroin again and again to reproduce that high.

Over time, the body builds up a tolerance to heroin, requiring more frequent or higher doses to achieve that high. Without heroin, the user will go into withdrawal, which includes unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Severe muscle and bone pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Cold flashes
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Racing heartbeat

Statistics on Heroin Addiction

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) estimates that 4.8 million Americans have used heroin, including 681,000 in 2014. Nearly 80% of heroin abusers began by abusing prescription painkillers. In recent years, heroin abuse has been on the rise, resulting in a more than six-fold increase in deaths from an overdose from 2002 to 2015, when more than 14,000 people died.

Can You Recover from Heroin?

Yes! While these numbers are daunting, and withdrawal from heroin is a challenge, heroin addiction can be overcome. The relapse rate for heroin addicts is high, estimated as high as 80%, but that does not mean it is impossible to recover from heroin addiction. Depending on the approach, the heroin addiction recovery rate ranges from 35-65%. 

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

The first step in kicking heroin addiction is detoxification to remove heroin from the body. This process causes withdrawal, which can be so uncomfortable that the addict may be tempted to use heroin again, just to curb the symptoms. A supportive recovery environment is important at this time when the risk of relapse is so high. Treatment can be inpatient or outpatient. A combination of counseling and medication-assisted treatment improves rates of recovery.

Medication-assisted treatment uses medicines to ease the discomfort of withdrawal. There are a few options available. Methadone binds to the same receptors as heroin, easing withdrawal symptoms and preventing the euphoric high heroin produces. It must be prescribed by a doctor and taken in a supervised clinic. Buprenorphine works similarly to methadone but can be prescribed by a doctor to be taken at home. Because methadone and buprenorphine bind to opioid receptors, there is potential for abuse. Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors so that if a person uses heroin, it will have no effect. Because it blocks the receptors instead of binding to them, naltrexone has no potential for abuse. Naloxone also blocks opioid receptors. It can be used on its own to prevent overdose, or in combination with buprenorphine to prevent buprenorphine abuse during treatment for heroin addiction.

While medications may help with withdrawal and the risk of relapse, counseling and support help the user deal with the problems behind their addiction and prepare for a sober future. Recovery is possible. Call 1-844-288-8037 for more information.

The Symptoms and Side Effects of Crack Withdrawal

crack withdrawal side effects

What is Crack Cocaine?

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that is derived from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Crack, or crack cocaine, is a form of cocaine that has been processed into a rock crystal. Users smoke the crystal, inhaling the vapors. Crack cocaine is the second most trafficked illegal drug in the world.

How Does Crack Affect the Body

The effects of crack on the body begin with the brain. Crack increases dopamine levels in the brain, creating a “high” feeling of happiness, alertness, and high energy. It does so by circumventing the brain’s normal pattern of recycling dopamine, creating a euphoric rush. This high is short-lived, lasting between 5 and 10 minutes. The vapors from crack reach the brain more quickly than snorting powdered cocaine, producing a more rapid, intense high.

Crack’s effects are not limited to the brain, however.  Side effects include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch.

Crack overdose can occur after the first use or any subsequent use. If treated immediately, recovery from an overdose is possible, but it can cause death by heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure, cerebral hemorrhage, or seizure. Crack users are also more likely to engage in risky behavior, putting them at higher risk for infection with HIV and hepatitis C.

Crack Cocaine Addiction

Frequent use of crack leads to both tolerance and addiction. The user will require a higher or more frequent dose to achieve the same high, will crave crack, and suffer symptoms of withdrawal without it. Crack is one of the most addictive forms of cocaine, leaving the user psychologically and physically dependent on it.

Crack Use During Pregnancy

When a pregnant woman uses crack, it can affect the pregnancy and the developing fetus. When taken in the first few months of pregnancy, crack can increase the risk of miscarriage or lead to placental abruption late in pregnancy. Placental abruption can cause severe bleeding, early birth, and even fetal death.

In pregnancies carried to term, crack passes through the placenta to the fetus, where it can cause brain damage and congenital disabilities. So-called “crack babies” may suffer:

  • Smaller than average head size
  • Reduced growth potential
  • Kidney, brain, and genital defects

Even in children who appear developmentally typical, exposure to crack in the womb can cause deficits in cognitive performance, attention to tasks, and information processing.

Symptoms of Crack Withdrawal

It is a challenge to overcome crack addiction, but it is not impossible. The first step is detoxification to allow all traces of crack to leave the body. Detox will cause symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms may begin within hours of the last hit of crack, and can include:

  • Aggression and violence
  • Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme cravings for crack
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Exhaustion
  • Flu-like symptoms

A supportive rehab environment can help the user during this time when the risk of relapse is high. Medications can be used to ease the withdrawal symptoms or to help the user gradually wean off of crack. Medications can include:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-seizure medications

Counseling can be helpful in determining the mental and emotional root of the drug abuse and prepare the user for a sober future. This may include understanding triggers for drug use and how to avoid them, new techniques for dealing with stressful situations, and how to structure a sober lifestyle.

If you or someone you loves struggles with crack addiction, call our toll-free number today.

The Side Effects of Oxycodone Use

opioid prescription drugs

What is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid prescription drug, also known as Percocet or Oxycontin, used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is an opiate, meaning that it is synthetically made but shares the same basic chemical structure as heroin and other opiate painkillers such as codeine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Even though it is a prescription medication, oxycodone is highly addictive. When taking oxycodone for pain management, it is critical to follow the doctor’s instructions as to how often and how much oxycodone to take. Even when taken as directed, it is possible to become addicted to oxycodone. If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has developed a dependency on oxycodone, seek treatment from a drug rehab like Choices Recovery.

How does Oxycodone Affect the Brain?

Oxycodone interferes with pain messages from the body to the brain, making it an effective medication for pain management. It binds to pain receptors in the brain and spinal cord to prevent the release of a chemical GABA. GABA signals the brain to stop production of dopamine, a chemical that produces feelings of pleasure. When a person is hurt, GABA production prevents dopamine release, creating pain. Oxycodone reverses this sequence and floods the brain with dopamine, preventing feelings of pain and producing a euphoric high sought after by abusers.

Oxycodone Addiction

Oxycodone is extremely addictive because of the way that it interacts with the brain to create such feelings of pleasure. The user becomes tolerant to the drug over time, meaning that a larger or more frequent dose is needed to produce the same effect; the current treatment will no longer work. Dependence begins when the body physically requires the drug and without it, the person will experience extreme cravings for oxycodone and may feel symptoms of withdrawal. Addiction can drive people to behave outside of their typical character, even going so far as to steal the drug or request multiple prescriptions from different doctors to obtain more oxycodone. Because people with an opioid prescription drug addiction tend to take a higher dose than a doctor would prescribe, the risk of overdose is even greater than with someone using it as directed.

People can become addicted to oxycodone when using it for a legitimate medical need or as a recreational drug. Between 21 and 29 percent of individuals using opiate painkillers medically misuse them, and 8 to 12 percent become addicted. These people are at greater risk to become heroin users because heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain. About 80% of heroin users began abusing prescription opiates.

Side Effects of Oxycodone

Oxycodone is very effective as a painkiller, but unfortunately, it comes with a host of side effects. The greatest danger is an overdose, which can be fatal. Oxycodone can cause breathing rates so slow as to cause death. Thankfully, there is a medication available, naloxone, which can reverse overdose when administered in time. Other short-term side effects of oxycodone include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Appetite loss
  • Mood changes

Long-term abuse can have a lasting, negative impact on the body, such as:

  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Brain damage

Chronic overuse of acetaminophen (Tylenol) damages the liver, so people who abuse use oxycodone with acetaminophen have a greater risk of liver failure.

Treatment for Addiction to Opioid Prescription Drugs

Treatment for oxycodone addiction begins with detoxification at a drug addiction rehab center. Treatment can be either inpatient or outpatient and may use medications to ease the withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle aches

After detox, it is easy to relapse, especially if oxycodone is readily available. The support of a rehab center can help during this difficult time. Call Choices Recovery today if you need help for an addiction to opioid prescription drugs or if you would lilke more information about the side effects of oxycodone.

Cocaine and its Highly Addictive Properties

cocaine addiction

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an illegal stimulant, sold on the street as a fine white powder. It is derived from the leaves of the South American coca plant.  Users snort cocaine, rub it on their gums, or mix it with water to inject into the bloodstream. Sometimes cocaine is combined with other stimulant drugs, such as amphetamine, or dealers may mix it with other powders, such as flour or cornstarch, to increase profits. It is a commonly used recreational drug that can have devastating side effects, from instant death to long-term damage to the body.

What is Crack Cocaine?

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive form of cocaine that has been processed into crystals. Users smoke the crystal, inhaling the vapors. Crack cocaine is the second most trafficked illegal drug in the world.

Cocaine and its Effects

How ever it enters the body, cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain, creating a “high” feeling of happiness, alertness, and high energy. It does so by circumventing the brain’s normal pattern of recycling dopamine. The brain usually releases dopamine as a response to a pleasurable stimulus and then recycles it. Cocaine causes the brain to release dopamine, but instead of recycling it, allows it to build up, creating a euphoric rush. This high can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the method used.

Cocaine’s effects are not limited to the brain, however. As a stimulant, cocaine causes:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate

Other side effects include paranoia, irritability, and hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch. The various methods of using cocaine damage the body in different ways:

  • Oral ingestion: damage to bowel from reduced blood flow
  • Needle injection: increased risk of hepatitis C, HIV, and other bloodborne pathogens
  • Snorting: loss of sense of smell,  chronic runny nose, nose bleeds, difficulty swallowing

A cocaine overdose occurs when the user takes in more cocaine than the body can handle. An overdose can occur after the first use or any subsequent use. If treated immediately, recovery from an overdose is possible, but it can cause death by heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure, cerebral hemorrhage, or seizure. Cocaine users are also at risk for infection with HIV and hepatitis C, even if they are not injection users because they are more likely to engage in risky behavior.

Signs of Addiction

Frequent use of cocaine leads to both tolerance and addiction. Tolerance to cocaine means that the user will require a higher or more frequent dose to achieve the same high. Addiction means that the user will crave cocaine and suffer symptoms of withdrawal without it. Cocaine and crack addictions are some of the most devastating addictions, leading people to act in ways they would never have before their addiction. Addicts will go so far as to commit a crime, all to obtain the drug.

The first step in treating cocaine and crack addiction is to recognize the signs of addiction. A person addicted to cocaine may show the following symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Mood change
  • Insomnia
  • Denial
  • Poor hygiene
  • Loss of interest
  • Extreme weight loss

Treatment for Cocaine and Crack Addictions

Overcoming an addiction to cocaine is possible. Inpatient treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy can be very effective. In this type of treatment, the user will aim to understand the cause of the addiction and learn how to approach the future more healthily, avoiding situations that may trigger drug use. We can help you or someone you love to overcome a cocaine and crack addictions. Call us at our toll-free number today.

Do You Know Someone Who is Addicted to Prescription Drugs?

Addicted to prescription drugs

Do you have a friend or family member who is addicted to prescription drugs? Prescription drugs play a vital role in health care, addressing conditions as diverse as high blood pressure, diabetes, and infection, as well as countless others. While there is no doubt that these medications benefit many people, some of these drugs have a downside which is the potential for dependency and addiction. While we do need prescription drugs to manage both chronic and acute pain, some of the more commonly abused medications include prescription painkillers.

As many as 1 in 5 Americans admit to abusing a prescription drug at some point. For some, it is an isolated incident, but for too many, that abuse develops into an addiction. If you know someone who is addicted to prescription drugs, please help them see that they need professional help immediately. Addiction to opioids and opiates (painkillers) is at epidemic proportions in the US today.

Prescription Drug Addiction

Addiction occurs when a person feels compelled to take a drug, even when it will cause them to suffer adverse side effects. The person physically craves the drug and will go to great lengths to obtain it. But how does a person become addicted to prescription drugs in the first place?

Some people start out taking medication for a legitimate medical need, but some people just decide to use prescription drugs recreationally. Many prescription painkillers give the user a feeling of euphoria and well-being.Either way, over time the body becomes accustomed to the drug and becomes tolerant to the current dose. This tolerance requires a higher or more frequent dose to achieve the same effect. The body becomes dependent on the drug, and the user may experience symptoms of withdrawal without it.

Addicted to Prescription Drugs

Prescription painkillers are among the most commonly abused prescription medications. Opioid painkillers, which share the same basic chemical structure as heroin, carry the highest potential for abuse and dependency. They work by binding to receptors in the brain and spinal cord to prevent the release of a chemical called GABA. GABA normally regulates dopamine production, so when painkillers block GABA, dopamine floods the brain. This combination blocks pain messages to the brain and produces a pleasurable high.

Because opioids carry such a strong potential for habit formation, it is critical to take these drugs only when necessary. To prevent becoming addicted to prescription drugs, you must follow the doctor’s instructions for timing and dosage. The greatest risk is that an overdose of opioid painkillers can cause coma or even death. Accidental overdose is the number one cause of mortality in prescription drug addiction today.

Dangerous Prescription Drugs of Abuse


Vicodin is an opioid used to manage short-term pain. It is a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen (known over-the-counter as Tylenol). Vicodin is a tablet to be swallowed so that it will affect the brain slowly, but abusers may use other means to speed up the body’s reaction. Crushing the pills to snort or mix with water to inject into the veins provides a more rapid but more dangerous high. The most dangerous side effect is death from overdose. Other adverse side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Decreased heart and breathing rate
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Drowsiness or loss of consciousness

Long-term Vicodin abuse can also lead to liver failure. Prolonged use of the acetaminophen in Vicodin damages the liver, leading to failure, and that failure can be fatal.


Fentanyl is a highly powerful painkiller, reserved for pain that will not respond to other medications. It is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Physicians prescribe fentanyl under the brand names Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. As a painkiller, doctors administer it as either an injection, a transdermal patch, or a lozenge, but abusers will modify that form to speed up absorption. For example, an abuser may break open the transdermal patch and directly consume the gel orally or inject it. The fentanyl dose that is intended for slow release over many hours rushes to the brain in a matter of minutes. Because fentanyl is such a potent opioid, rapid absorption can be deadly, and most often is. Fentanyl can lower breathing rate so quickly as to cause instant death.

Choices Recovery can help with prescription drug addiction. Call to speak with a professional counselor if you have a loved one or friend who is addicted to prescription drugs. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Life After Addiction Recovery – How to Start Again

life after addiction recovery

Making the decision to begin treatment for a substance abuse disorder can be incredibly difficult for some people, as can actually putting in the hard work at rehab, but returning home after addiction recovery isn’t easy either. It’s natural to feel anxious when thinking about life after rehab, and returning to a challenging environment after the security of a treatment facility, but there are steps you can take and decisions you can make to stay sober long after you’ve completed treatment. If you are in recovery, and you want to know how you can successfully transition into life after rehab, call Choices Recovery at (844) 288-8039 to learn how you can start fresh and overcome urges to use.

How to Deal with Triggers

Returning home after substance abuse treatment means learning how to deal with an environment full of triggers that once compelled you to use, and may tempt you to use again. Some addicts may be surrounded by friends and family members they once used drugs or alcohol with, and others may have to pass by the spots where they used to score. Some triggers you can learn to prevent or avoid, but others are inevitable, and coming up with ways to deal with them is key. By being prepared for triggers or stressors, and learning how to handle them as they arise, you can prevent a relapse and improve your chances of life-long sobriety. The following are some ways you can deal with triggers:

  • Leave the situation
  • Call your sponsor
  • Practice self-talk (remind yourself that you’re not alone in experiencing triggers and that you can avoid using)
  • Distract yourself by engaging in a positive behavior
  • Go to therapy or counseling
  • Practice patience
  • Have a support system
  • Remind yourself of negative consequences of substance abuse

Sober Living Environments

Recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction is an ongoing process, and for some recovering addicts, returning to their home environment is not conducive to sobriety. For these individuals, living in a sober living community after rehab may be a good way to gradually transition into life after addiction recovery, without the stressors and temptations they might face in their home lives. These safe, drug-free environments help ensure abstinence by administering regular drug tests and many offer additional recovery services, such as support groups, job placement, and sober recreational activities for recovering addicts to participate in. If a sober living home isn’t an option for you, consider asking a sober friend or family member if you can stay with them temporarily, until you can ensure that you won’t be tempted to begin using again.

Reconnecting with Loved Ones

With drug abuse and addiction often comes anger, aggression, and destructive behavior and for addicts whose alcoholism or drug use has fractured their relationships with loved ones, reconnecting with friends and family members can be a difficult but rewarding process. Once you have completed drug treatment and proven that you are no longer using, it may take a while for you to earn the trust of your loved ones again. Just because you are sober doesn’t mean your friends and family members have forgotten what you said or how you acted while you were using, and rebuilding those relationships may take time. Over time, they will adjust to your new way of life, and your recovery will only benefit from rebuilding these positive and healthy relationships.

Benefits of Addiction Recovery

For addicts who want to start fresh and turn their life around, drug rehabilitation at a facility like Choices Recovery is an effective method for overcoming addiction and achieving lifelong sobriety. At Choices, founder and CEO Per Wickstrom, who struggled with substance abuse in the past and is in recovery himself, is committed to helping others beat their addictions and recover in an environment that addresses every contributing factor in addiction. If you or a loved one is facing a substance use disorder, and you believe Choices Recovery can help, contact the rehab facility today at (844) 288-8039 to speak to a certified recovery counselor about your options.

The Signs and Effects of Vicodin Abuse

signs of vicodin abuse

What is Vicodin?

Vicodin is a prescription painkiller, typically prescribed for short-term pain management. It is a combination of the opiate painkiller hydrocodone and acetaminophen (known over-the-counter as Tylenol). Often, people mistakenly think that medications prescribed by a doctor must be safe, but Vicodin is highly addictive and one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Addiction can begin with a valid medical need for a strong painkiller that develops into dependence and addiction. For this reason, it is critical to use Vicodin under medical supervision. Only take it at the prescribed dose and frequency.

How Does Vicodin Affect the Brain?

The hydrocodone in Vicodin blocks pain messages to the brain. It binds to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, preventing the release of a chemical called GABA. GABA normally regulates dopamine production, so when GABA is blocked, dopamine floods the brain. This dopamine rush “kills” the pain while at the same time producing a euphoric high. The acetaminophen increases the effect of hydrocodone on the brain. This combination makes Vicodin highly addictive (http://drugabuse.com/library/vicodin-abuse/).

How Does Vicodin Affect the Body?

As a painkiller, Vicodin is meant to produce changes in the body by:

  • Lowering pain
  • Suppressing cough
  • Creating feelings of euphoria, calm, and relaxation

However, as with any drug, it can also produce adverse side effects. These side effects can occur whether the Vicodin is taken as prescribed or when abused. They include:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Decreased heart and breathing rate
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Drowsiness or loss of consciousness
  • Liver damage or failure

Long-term Vicodin abuse can lead to liver failure by two different mechanisms. The first is that the acetaminophen in Vicodin causes liver damage over time. The second is that abusers may use intentionally couple Vicodin with alcohol for a greater effect, but that combination is especially damaging to the liver. Either way, the liver damage may be irreversible and cause to liver failure.

A Vicodin overdose can cause death. More than 15,000 people die each year from an overdose of prescription painkillers, including Vicodin.

Tolerance and Addiction

Vicodin tolerance occurs when the current dose no longer produces an effect on the body, whether that effect is pain management or an intentional high. To achieve the desired result, the user will need to increase the dosage or the frequency of Vicodin use. Addiction occurs when the user experiences negative side effects from Vicodin use but continues to use it anyway. People addicted to Vicodin may feel so compelled to use it that they will go to great lengths to obtain it, such as “doctor shopping” by requesting prescriptions from multiple different doctors, or even stealing it.

Signs of Vicodin Abuse

Signs of Vicodin abuse can be physical or behavioral. Physical symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Behavioral changes that indicate Vicodin abuse include:

  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Loss of focus
  • Obsessive focus on obtaining and using Vicodin
  • Using it for non-medical reasons, such as emotional escape or to feel normal
  • Mood swings


A person who stops taking Vicodin will experience symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms can begin within 6 to 24 hours of the last dose and may last for a few weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle pain
  • Poor sleep
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression

Addiction Treatment

Treatment for Vicodin abuse can be outpatient or residential, depending on the individual’s needs and situation. A blend of behavioral and medical treatments will address both the physical drug dependence and the emotional cause underlying the addiction. Call our toll-free number to seek help for Vicodin abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of a Cocaine Addict

cocaine addict

Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that can result in an overdose with just one use.  Or, it can lead to a lifelong addiction to the drug. Sadly, cocaine addiction remains a serious problem in the United States, affecting more than one million Americans and their loved ones. If you or someone you know is addicted to cocaine, don’t hesitate to contact Choices Recovery for help. With guidance from Choices’ addiction recovery experts and the aid of the rehab’s innovative treatment programs, you can develop the skills you need to overcome your cocaine addiction and finally begin on the path to recovery.

How is Cocaine Abused?

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that is most often found in powdered form.  It is known as “coke” or “blow,” or as a solidified, rock-like substance known as “crack cocaine.”  Powdered coke is consumed by snorting it or dissolving the powder in water to be injected, Crack cocaine is used by heating the rock crystal in a pipe and inhaling the vapors this process produces. The most dangerous thing about cocaine is that a person can overdose on the first use or anytime thereafter.  Obviously, there is no “safe” way to use the drug. A cocaine overdose occurs when the person uses too much of the drug. This causes a toxic reaction that can result in serious adverse health consequences or death.

How to Recognize a Cocaine Addict

Cocaine has become the drug of choice for individuals looking for a rush of pleasurable feelings, called a “high,” which is a result of changes in the way the brain functions. The intense euphoric feeling users get from cocaine occurs because the drug affects the central nervous system  It increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for regulating feelings of pleasure. Over time, cocaine abuse interrupts the natural process of dopamine production in the brain.  It prevents the chemical from being recycled back into brain cells causing a build-up among nerve cells. As a result, users develop a tolerance to the drug, requiring more and more cocaine to produce those same feelings of euphoria. This possibly leads to a cocaine dependence and addiction. Some common signs of a cocaine addict include:

  • Paranoia
  • Panic
  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of superiority
  • Irritability
  • Nosebleeds
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Long-Term Cocaine Effects

Because the high associated with cocaine use only lasts for a short period of time, people abusing the drug often fall into a binge and crash pattern, where they repeatedly use cocaine to experience those euphoric feelings brought on by the drug, and to avoid the depression, exhaustion and other negative symptoms brought on by a crash. Sadly, frequent cocaine abuse can result in a cocaine addiction, which can have an adverse effect on the individual’s body, mood, and personal relationships. Some possible long-term cocaine effects may include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Coma
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic headaches
  • Tremors
  • Overdose
  • Death

Contact Choices Recovery for Help

According to national statistics, 1.9 million people use cocaine each month, with the highest rate of use occurring among adults 18-25 years of age. Unfortunately, many users don’t realize that cocaine is highly addictive, and by the time they begin to experience adverse cocaine effects, they may already be addicted to the drug. If you or a loved one is facing an addiction to cocaine, the addiction recovery experts at Choices Recovery can help. The founder and CEO of Choices Recovery, Per Wickstrom, struggled with an addiction to cocaine and other drugs for more than 22 years before getting clean and is now committed to helping others do the same. Contact Choices Recovery today at our toll-free number to speak to a certified substance abuse counselor about your addiction.

Which are the Deadliest Drugs for Americans Today?

Which are the deadliest drugs today

What does the phrase “deadliest drugs” mean to you? You might think of street drugs such as cocaine or heroin, or highly addictive prescription painkillers such as OxyContin. Alcohol and tobacco might not come to mind at all. In truth, legal or illegal, prescription or recreational, all of these drugs can be deadly. Many times, the deadliest drugs are not those we hear about the most.

Some of the Deadliest Illegal Drugs


Cocaine is an illegal stimulant which dealers sell on the street as a fine white powder. Users snort cocaine, rub it on their gums, or mix it with water to inject into the bloodstream. Crack cocaine is a crystallized form that users smoke.

However it enters the body, cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain, creating a “high” feeling of happiness, alertness, and high energy. Adverse side effects include paranoia, irritability, and hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch. As a stimulant, cocaine causes increased heart rate, restlessness, and muscle twitches. A cocaine overdose can cause death by heart attack, stroke or seizure. Cocaine users are also at risk for infection with HIV and hepatitis C.


Heroin is an incredibly addictive illegal street drug derived from morphine. Alarmingly, more than 2000 people die each year from heroin use. It sells on the street as either a brown or white powder or black tar heroin. Users smoke, inject, or snort it. The body converts it to morphine, which binds to receptors in the brain and spinal cord. Dopamine then floods the brain, blocking pain messages and producing a pleasurable high.  A heroin overdose causes hypoxia or reduced breathing rate, which deprives the brain of oxygen, leading to death, coma, and brain damage.

Heroin users can also suffer from:

  • collapsed veins
  • liver and kidney disease
  • other infections

Deaths From Prescription Painkiller Overdoses

Prescription Drugs

A common misconception is that medication prescribed by a doctor must be safe, but even prescription drugs have the potential for abuse. Opioids affect the brain in the same way as heroin and carry the highest risk of abuse and dependency. Common opioid painkillers include:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin)
  • Hydrocodone with acetaminophen
  • Oxycodone (such as OxyContin)
  • Oxycodone with acetaminophen
  • Fentanyl
  • Morphine

The greatest risk is that an overdose of opioid painkillers can cause immediate death from hypoxia. Furthermore, long-term use or abuse can lead to bowel problems, liver damage or failure, kidney damage or failure, and heart damage. Opioid abuse is on the rise, with deaths from overdose increasing each year. In 2015, more than 33,000 people died from opioid use. Opiates and opioids are today the deadliest drugs in the US.

Legal but Two of the Deadliest Drugs


While legal for adults over the age of 21, alcohol causes serious adverse side effects, including death, when used to excess. The liver metabolizes alcohol but can only process a certain amount at a time. Whatever the body cannot process goes directly into the bloodstream.  Alcohol acts as a depressant to the brain and central nervous system, impairing reaction time, motor skills, balance, and judgment. Death can result from:

  • Car accidents
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Drowning
  • Falling
  • Violence

Long-term alcohol abuse can also be fatal by leading to chronic illnesses such as:

  • Liver cirrhosis and failure
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer

Deaths resulting from alcohol total 80,000 per year.


Like alcohol, tobacco use is legal for adults, in this case, adults over the age of 18. Tobacco use, whether it is cigarettes or chewing tobacco, causes many illnesses leading to disability and death. Nearly every organ in the body is affected, causing diseases such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Lung diseases
  • Diabetes

These effects are not limited to the user. As a matter of fact, secondhand smoke causes roughly 41,000 deaths per year among non-smoking adults and 400 deaths in infants.

Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery

While addiction to any of these substances is a challenge, recovery is possible. Choices Recovery can help. Call for yourself or someone you care about.

Knowing the Basics of Drug Addiction for Rehabilitation

drug addiction

Substance abuse costs Americans more than $700 billion a year in increased health care costs, crime, and lost productivity. Furthermore, it contributes to the deaths of almost 100,000 citizens, tens of thousands of those from accidental overdoses. Drug addiction is so prevalent in our society, it behooves all of us to understand this enemy of prosperity.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the drug addiction definition is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the structure of the brain and how it works. These changes can be long-lasting and can lead to harmful, often self-destructive, behavior.

Drug Addiction Anatomy

All drugs, alcohol included, disrupt the brain’s reward system. Most addictive drugs flood the circuit with dopamine, a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The overstimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces the euphoric effects sought by people who use drugs and teaches them to repeat the behavior.

Long-term usage can cause changes that influence the brain’s ability to function, affecting areas that tie to decision-making, memory, learning, and control of behavior.

Drug Abuse vs. Drug Addiction

Substance abuse is the act of either (a) using illegal drugs, or (b) inappropriate use of legal drugs. The latter includes taking prescription medications for recreational purposes such as pleasure, relaxation or altering of reality, using someone else’s prescription, and alternate forms of ingestion, such as crushing and snorting tablets meant for the user to take orally.

Drug addiction occurs when a person cannot control the impulse to use drugs despite adverse consequences—the defining characteristic of addiction. This behavioral change is accompanied by changes in brain functioning, especially in the natural inhibition and reward centers. At this point, drug addiction is a disease.

Dependence vs. Addiction

Physical dependence may occur with regular use or abuse (usually daily) of any substance, whether legal or illegal. It occurs as a result of the body’s adaptation to daily exposure to a substance, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when it is taken away because the body has to re-adapt. It can lead to a craving for the substance to relieve those symptoms.

Addiction will include this physical dependence factor, but there are additional factors, usually psychological.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) lists impairment or distress factors indicating a substance use disorder when occurring within a 12-month period:

  • Taking the substance in larger amounts or for a longer period than intended
  • Unsuccessful efforts/persistent desire to reduce use of the substance
  • Significant time spent in obtaining the substance or recovering from its effects
  • Powerful desire or urge to use the substance (cravings)
  • Failure to fulfill obligations as a result of use of the substance
  • Continuing to use the substance despite its creating or contributing to social or interpersonal problems
  • Abandonment of activities previously held as important
  • Recurrent use of the drug in situations in which it is physically hazardous
  • Continuing use despite knowing it is harming one physically or psychologically
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms


Addiction is a chronic disease, similar to diabetes and asthma, which also have both physiological and behavioral components. Treatment is possible, and there are many options.

The treatment center must tailor an individual program for each client. Per Wickstrom, himself a recovered addict, founded several treatment centers to help others find their way to rehabilitation.

Note that a relapse does not mean treatment has failed. As with any chronic disease, treatment involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors. Lapses indicate that the client may need an alternative treatment program or need to adjust their current treatment.