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Cocaine Addiction: Rehab or Going It Alone?

answered 07:23 PM EST, Sat January 28, 2012
How do I know if I need to go to drug rehab or not? I am addicted to cocaine. I am a technical writer. I lost my largest client of many years last week for what they called erratic performance. It was a shock to me and it has me scrambling to make ends meet. Now I really can’t afford all the coke I’m buying but I am buying it anyway and using my savings to do it. Obviously I have a bigger problem than I thought.

I have tried to quit on my own but I cannot last more than a few days. I need to get some help but I am not sure if I need to go to a drug rehab (which would be expensive and embarrassing) or if I can get effective treatment on an outpatient basis. How can I know if I am so addicted that I need the rehab treatment?

Delisted Expert Says...

The major issues that I perceive from your request are (1) how serious is my cocaine addiction, (2) how embarrassment and shame can serve as obstacles to seeking help, and (3) after failing to quit on my own, do I really have to seek professional assistance?

According to the mental health clinicians’ Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-IV):

Substance dependence is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring any time in the same 12-month period:

  1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: (a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect or (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
  2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance or (b) The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
  5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
  6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
  7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (for example, current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

If you continue to have doubts about your progressive addiction to cocaine, you may want to take the “Self-Test for Cocaine Addiction.” For this test, go to http://www.ca.org/literature/selftest.htm

Usually with most substance dependency, there is impairment in different areas of the addict’s life; i.e., the physical, emotional, mental, employment, social, friends, family, and spiritual. You have already admitted that your work, work reputation, and finances have suffered as a result of your continued use of cocaine. You mentioned having a strong concern about depleting your saving account due to reduced income and perhaps increased usage. Buying cocaine when you can’t afford it is a sign of progressive addiction to cocaine. When you talk of being “shocked” about the current consequences to your addiction, it may be that you are beginning to become more aware of how much you addiction is costing you in most or all areas of your life. To better understand the cycle and harm of cocaine addiction, please go to this website: http://www.thegooddrugsguide.com/cocaine/addiction.htm.

Most addicts live secret lives to some or more degrees. You stated that “embarrassment and shame” would result from you admitting to others and yourself that you have are addicted to cocaine. Most people use this as an obstacle to seeking treatment. However, honesty or honest self-disclosure about an addiction is the first act of recovery. To be able to walk away from your cocaine addiction will require honesty and the help of others. I would encourage you to go to Cocaine Anonymous (CA) , listen to the stories of the members, and see if you think you can do it on your own or not. You can find meetings and other information at http://www.ca.org/index.html. Another option would be for you to have an assessment by a professional addiction counselor. Most treatment centers offer assessments, including the Choose Help website.

I would encourage to strongly consider professional help with your cocaine addiction. One of the main features of addiction is loss of control. By taking action now, you may be able to salvage your health, your peace of mind, regain self-control, reinvigorate your career as a technical writer, restore your finances, and save your life. I hope this answer has been helpful to you but if you need anything else from me, please let me know.


John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, MSW, MA, LPC, NCC

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Page last updated Jan 31, 2012

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