If you assume that cocaine use is reminiscent of an archaic era long gone, think again. Whether credited to the continually increasing speed of life in the fast lane or a steadily growing number of people laden with fatigue and depression, millions of people still get tangled up in the powerfully addictive world of cocaine. For cocaine addicts ready to abandon this dangerous illicit drug, massage therapy offers a therapeutic, grounding and welcomed addition to any cocaine recovery program.
Due to its classification as a Schedule II drug, cocaine has a very high potential for abuse and addiction. Generally snorted or injected, cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric and energetic. A cheaper version that is typically smoked, crack is cocaine that has been processed from cocaine hydrochloride to a free base form. Because of the pleasure and alertness resulting from its use, cocaine and crack use can quickly transform into a compulsive and deadly addiction. These drugs are known to attract those who are seeking escape from depression and fatigue. Since the cocaine high is short and tolerance escalates quickly, addiction to this drug can develop almost immediately.
Because it is one of the most potent central nervous system stimulators, cocaine’s effects include:
- Increased energy
- Heightened sensory arousal and pleasure
- Decreased appetite
- Reduced sleep requirements
- Elevated body temperature
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Physically, cocaine can cause many problems, including:
- Chest pain and nausea
- Blurred vision
- Heart problems (including a heart attack)
- Headaches and seizures
- Lung damage
- Chronic cough
- Kidney failure
Psychologically, cocaine can cause many problems, including:
- Poor judgment
- Anxiety and irritability
- Suicidal feelings and behaviors
- Aggressive behavior
Symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, panic disorder, depression or mania can be triggered or exacerbated by cocaine use or withdrawal.
Cocaine addiction can occur very quickly and be very difficult to recover from. People addicted to cocaine typically go to great lengths to get their drug despite its damage to their physical, emotional and social health. Those who abruptly stop cocaine abuse can experience cocaine withdrawal symptoms as they adjust to functioning without this central nervous system stimulant.
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Intense drug cravings
- Anxiety, agitation and anger outbursts
- Extreme fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shaking and muscle pain
- Disturbed sleep
Bodywork for Recovery
Through appropriate touch applications, bodyworkers with an interest in helping addicts can help them conquer from cocaine withdrawal. However, recovering from an addiction is best accomplished through a comprehensive program incorporating various disciplines. When it comes to addiction recovery, Barrie R. Cassileth, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University says, “As a general rule, holistic therapies are most helpful when they’re used in conjunction with – not in place of – other treatments.” Consequently, there are many opportunities for massage therapists to join a recovery program team.
While several types of bodywork can be helpful adjuncts to a cocaine recovery program, the following two stand out:
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage – As part of the natural detoxification process, the lymphatic system cleanses the body’s connective tissue of foreign substances to strengthen immune function. Although cocaine itself is usually metabolized by the body quickly, performing lymphatic drainage massage enhances an addict’s immunity. This immune system advantage eases the body’s transition to functioning without cocaine.
- Swedish Massage – Long, nurturing effleurage strokes can ground a person recovering from a cocaine addiction. Because this Swedish massage technique has been shown to slow and calm the central nervous system, it is particularly valuable when a person’s body is trying to readjust to life without cocaine’s stimulatory effects.
Due to this drug’s influence on the body, cocaine addiction is a very dangerous problem. Because of the potential for serious physical and psychological problems being triggered during cocaine withdrawal, bodyworkers are urged to work together with other professionals.
Understanding the physical and psychological problems associated with cocaine abuse and the challenges of withdrawal better prepares bodyworkers to work with this population. Since providing comfort to people who are at their most vulnerable is one of the most satisfying experiences a bodyworker can have, helping cocaine addicts recover is ultimately rewarding.