Residential Treatment for Teens Abusing Cocaine

This article seeks to guide on:

  • What cocaine is and how it works
  • Signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse
  • Residential Treatment for cocaine abuse in Teens

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant extracted from coca leaves for over a century. Cocaine has historically been extracted from coca leaves (Erythroxylon coca) as cocaine hydrochloride used in tonics to treat various illnesses. Surgeons also used cocaine as a local anesthetic to block pain during medical procedures before the development of synthetic anesthetics. Now, cocaine is used as a stimulant during parties to energize the users. Cocaine comes in two forms, cocaine hydrochloride (a water-soluble salt) or cocaine freebase (an insoluble form of cocaine). Teens who use cocaine may inject, sniff, smoke, or snort (mainlining) it to get high.

Cocaine is listed under section II of the Controlled Substances Act, which contains drugs with a high potential for abuse but also have medical uses. Cocaine can still be used as local anesthesia for eye, ear, and throat surgeries.

How Cocaine Gets Teens High

Cocaine targets the brain’s reward circuitry. When a teen takes cocaine, it stimulates the brain’s mesolimbic dopamine system, which releases dopamine as a reward during sex, food, and other activities such as drug abuse. The mesolimbic dopamine system begins in the brain region called the ventral tegmental area and connects to the nucleus accumbens. These regions are also part of the brain’s reward circuitry.

Once dopamine is released into the nervous system, it binds to the dopamine receptors in the synaptic cleft. Teenagers get high from cocaine because it prevents the transportation of dopamine from one synapse to the next. Accumulation of dopamine in the synaptic cleft causes the euphoric feeling associated with drug use.

Why Teens Abuse Cocaine

You might be wondering what drives teens to use and abuse cocaine. Teens are in a unique stage of growth where their brain is developing rapidly. At this stage, a teen’s reward system is rapidly developing, leading them to make impulsive decisions that give them a rush. As a result of this, teens may turn to drugs out of curiosity. Teens may use cocaine for several reasons, including the following:

  • Experimentation and curiosity. The region of the brain that controls decisions, judgment, and self-control is still underdeveloped during adolescence. As a result, teenagers are easily influenced into making impulsive and risky decisions, such as experimenting with cocaine.
  • Attempting to fit in. Popular and social media portray cocaine use as fun and cool. In an attempt to look cool and fit in with all the ‘cool kids,’ teens may start using cocaine and other substances to fit in with their peers and celebrity idols.
  • To feel good. Teens often use cocaine for euphoria. Teens seek thrilling activities that stimulate the pleasure pathways in the brain. Drug and substance abuse specifically target these pathways, making it a popular way of feeling good.
  • Self-medication to feel better. Studies indicate a link between drug use and mental health issues. People with schizophrenia often abuse nicotine since it binds to the same receptors that alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia. Teens may abuse cocaine to feel better when feeling low, depressed, or anxious.

Prevalence of Cocaine Abuse Among Teens

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it was estimated that about 4.8 million Americans above 12 had used cocaine within 12 months preceding the survey. Among high school goers, the ‘Monitoring the Future Survey’ reported that 0.5% of 8th, 0.3% of 10th, and 1.5% of 12th graders had used cocaine within the year the survey was conducted. Among the reported numbers, it was estimated that over 1.4 million people aged 12 and older developed a substance use disorder from cocaine abuse.

Unfortunately, cocaine-related overdoses remained high. In 2021, it was reported that 24,486 people died from cocaine-related overdoses.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse in Teens

If you suspect your teenager is abusing cocaine, you first need to learn as much as possible about the warning signs of cocaine addiction. This will help you spot these symptoms as they appear and intervene immediately. Spotting these symptoms is not difficult since they are often present as behavioral changes. Some signs to watch out for include:

  • Declining academic performance,
  • Teenage Isolation,
  • Change in friend groups,
  • Financial dependence without accounting for their expenditure,
  • Teenage mood swings,
  • Engaging in risky behavior,
  • A decline in personal hygiene,
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed,
  • Teenager stealing,
  • Insomnia,
  • Periods of hyperactivity followed by a depressive episode,
  • Frequent nose bleeds,
  • Dilated pupils,
  • Frequent sniffling and runny noses,
  • Hiding their arms using long-sleeved clothing to hide track marks,
  • Looking spaced out and unable to piece together coherent thoughts.

You can also look for cocaine paraphernalia like needles, syringes, spoons, white residue on plastic bags, aluminum foil with burn marks, and razor blades.

Cocaine use has short and long-term effects on the teen. These effects can be social, legal, and health-related. Some health effects of cocaine use include the following:

  • Increased heart rate,
  • Dilated pupils,
  • Constricted blood vessels,
  • Increased blood pressure,
  • Restlessness, irritability, and anxiety,
  • Nausea,
  • Asthma and respiratory problems if cocaine is smoked or snorted,
  • Paranoia and psychosis,
  • Twitching and tremors,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Vertigo,
  • Onset or worsening of mental health conditions,
  • Heart arrhythmia,
  • Heart attacks,
  • Seizures,
  • Coma.

Cocaine use can also have social effects on the teen’s life. These social effects include:

  • Breakdown of interpersonal relationships,
  • Difficulty in finding and maintaining a job,
  • Legal problems since cocaine is an illicit drug,
  • Financial difficulty since cocaine is expensive,
  • Social isolation in Adolescence,
  • A decline in academic performance.

Residential Treatment for Teen Cocaine Addiction

If your teen is struggling with cocaine addiction, it is important to intervene immediately. There are many teen cocaine addiction treatment options available for teen addiction, depending on the severity of the addiction.

Outpatient services are usually reserved for teens with mild addiction, adolescent partial hospitalization programs for moderate and light addiction, and adolescent residential treatment for severe addiction. Residential drug abuse programs are inpatient programs that are more intensive than outpatient services. They are more restrictive and require a commitment to a structured environment for weeks or months. Here, your teens receive 24-hour care and emotional support as they undergo rehabilitation.

What To Expect During Residential Treatment

When you decide to enroll your teen in a teen residential treatment program, you should expect several things. On arrival, you and your teen will be asked to fill out a series of questionnaires to provide information on the teen.

The information provided is confidential and will only be used to create a treatment plan for your teen. The information is used to determine factors such as history of drug use, family history, and environmental factors that might have caused the cocaine addiction.

After completing the questionnaires, your teen will be assessed by clinicians and psychologists to establish their readiness to receive help. At this juncture, the psychologist also notes the level of care the teen needs and how they will build their treatment plan. The assessment also helps the staff build rapport and trust with your teen to help them recover.

After a successful assessment, your teen will be required to undergo a medically supervised detox where the staff will manage withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine. After a successful detox, your teens will now begin their cocaine addiction recovery journey. They will participate in individual, group, and family therapy sessions to determine and resolve any underlying conditions that may have caused the addiction. They will also engage in recreational activities to build healthy coping mechanisms.

After completion of the program, they will also receive aftercare support, such as support groups, to ensure they are kept accountable by their peers.

Residential Treatment Program (RTC)

At Key Healthcare, our inpatient drug treatment for adolescents is the Residential Treatment Center (RTC). This program is conducted in our Malibu, Los Angeles Facility. The residential treatment program for teens struggling with chronic mental health and addiction issues and is designed for teens aged 13-17.

Our RTC program utilizes evidence-based and holistic therapy approaches to treat teens suffering from severe substance abuse disorder and mental health conditions. The RTC program can be beneficial in teen cocaine abuse treatment since cocaine is a drug with a high potential for abuse and is also highly addictive.

Some components of the RTC program include individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, art therapy, music therapy, yoga therpy, and surf therapy which utilize evidence-based therapy options such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT for teens) and Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT for teens).

Individual Therapy

Individual teen therapy is the primary teenage substance abuse treatment. It is a one-on-one session between the teen and their therapist where they get to unpack their struggles in a safe environment. During individual therapy, the therapist guides the teen to open up about their life, struggles, and personal encounters that might have caused their condition. The therapist deploys evidence-based approaches like CBT and DBT to help teens manage their emotions and accept themselves. During individual therapy, the teen opens up about their struggles in an open, transparent environment free from judgment and ridicule.

Group therapy

During teen group therapy, teens struggling with cocaine addiction come together to participate in therapy as a group. They are led by the therapist, who prompts them on a topic of discussion, and they all get to contribute to it.

CBT and DBT are also used during group therapy to help teens manage their emotions and accept themselves. Teens also engage in holistic treatment approaches such as art, music, and yoga in group therapy. These activities help them build their expressiveness and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Family therapy

Teen family therapy is designed to ensure the family actively participates in the rehabilitation of teens struggling with substance abuse, including cocaine addiction. It is effective in addressing family issues since all members of the family can talk about their struggles.

During family therapy, teens struggling with addiction express their wants and needs to help their families understand them better. They also empathize with the struggles their family members are going through, helping them be determined to kick the addiction.

Holistic Therapy Approaches

At Key Healthcare, we offer holistic treatment approaches such as art, music, and yoga therapies. These therapies help teens develop healthy coping mechanisms and find an outlet if they have trouble expressing themselves. Art, yoga, and music are relaxing and can alleviate anxiety. Using these approaches, teens learn skills such as drawing, painting, photography, music production, lyricism, and playing instruments. These skills help increase their expressiveness, confidence, introspection, and self-esteem.

Recreational Activities

Hiking, exercising, and surfing are just some recreational activities offered in our RTC program. They are thrilling and give the teen a “runner’s high” that keeps the urge to use drugs away. Recreational activities help the teen develop healthy coping mechanisms to maintain sobriety.

Benefits of Residential Treatment Center (RTC)

Teen cocaine addiction can be difficult to kick without professional help. Residential rehab facilities for teens can be very beneficial in treating cocaine addiction since it provides the following:

  • A structured and drug-free environment. An RTC provides structure and routine to help your teen recover. It also offers round-the-clock support to ensure your teen is never alone as they recover from addiction.
  • Academic support. Teens enrolled in an RTC program receive academic support from qualified academic coaches and tutors. This ensures they do not fall behind in school and can easily catch up when they return to their school.
  • Individualized treatment plans. Every teenager is different, and that is why RTC programs provide tailor-made treatment plans. Each teen will receive a different level of care depending on the assessment they receive from the therapist. Rest assured that your teen will receive the highest level of care at our RTC.
  • Dual Diagnosis. Substance use disorder often leads to the onset or worsening of menstrual health conditions. These conditions are called co-occurring disorders. RTC programs focus on treating the addiction and any co-occurring disorder that might arise.

Choosing the Right Residential Treatment Program for Teens

Professional rehabilitation services are important in treating cocaine addiction. It is important to choose a program that is suitable for your teenager. To make this decision, you need to consider several factors, including the following:

  • Location. The program’s location is an important consideration. Choose a facility close to your locality to ensure that you can actively participate in rehabilitating your teenager. Choosing a facility that is too far may be detrimental to recovery since it is a new environment that may cause anxiety.
  • Specialization. Choose a facility that specializes in treating teen issues. Teens require a different level of care compared to adults. A specialized facility will ensure your teenager receives the most appropriate care.
  • Cost. Choose a facility that is within your budget. Many facilities also offer financial aid and accept most insurance covers. Choose a facility that will not get you into financial trouble and provides a high level of care.
  • Staff Qualifications. Choose a facility that employs qualified personnel to care for your teen. You can visit the facility or its website to look at the staff profiles and qualifications.
  • Aftercare services. Pick a facility that offers aftercare services, such as support groups and periodic visits, to ensure successful rehabilitation.


In conclusion, cocaine addiction can be a difficult issue to manage. Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that may harm the health and well-being of teens. Cocaine can cause heart arrhythmia, asthma, collapsed veins, heart attacks, paranoia, seizures, comas, and even death. It also causes the breakdown of interpersonal relationships, legal problems, a decline in academic performance, and the onset or worsening of mental health conditions.

If you suspect your teen is addicted to cocaine, seek professional help. Residential treatment for teens can be effective in treating cocaine addiction since it utilizes several treatment approaches. These approaches include individual, group, family, and holistic therapies to help teens develop healthy coping mechanisms and kick the drug habit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does teen residential treatment last?

Typically, a teen residential treatment program lasts 30 to 90 days, depending on the facility.

Can family members visit during residential treatment?

Yes. Family members are allowed to visit teens during treatment to encourage recovery. Immediate family members are encouraged to participate in rehabilitation through family therapy sessions actively.

When is it safe for a teen to return home after residential treatment?

After residential treatment completion, developing an aftercare plan is important to help your teen transition to home life effectively. also, check out our guide on teen rehab aftercare program.

What is the cost of teen residential treatment?

The cost of residential treatment varies widely depending on the location and length of treatment. Depending on the facility, the cost ranges from $5,000 to $80,000.

What are the most common triggers for cocaine abuse in teens?

Common triggers for cocaine abuse include anxiety, loneliness, boredom, trauma, and drug use at home.

Can cocaine use cause permanent brain damage?

Yes, cocaine causes permanent brain damage by damaging the nerves associated with the brain’s reward system.

What is the withdrawal process like for cocaine addiction?

Cocaine withdrawal involves feeling agitated, restless, depressed, fatigued, and craving cocaine.

Can teens relapse after completing residential treatment?

Yes, teens can relapse after completing residential treatment. Every teen is different; treatment success depends on factors like environment, triggers, and genetics.

Is cocaine the most addictive drug among teens?

Cocaine is classified as a drug with a high potential for abuse. This means it is highly addictive when consumed.