Cocaine Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Cocaine addiction can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine addiction

Cocaine, also known as “blow,” “snow,” or “coke,’ is a powerful stimulant drug that is often abused due to its ability to produce a euphoric and energetic high. Derived from the cocoa plant, this highly potent drug is widely abused throughout the United States. Most often found in powder form or as a crystallized rock, cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or injected. When ingested cocaine will almost instantaneously create an intense high, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours at most. However, because the high associated with cocaine is so short-lived an individual will often consistently use more of the drug, before the high subsides, often resulting in a pattern of use that can quickly lead to the development of an addiction. When an individual has become addicted to cocaine this means that he or she is both physically and psychologically dependent upon the drug and if continued use is allowed to continue the potential for serious consequences is high.

While an addiction to cocaine can destroy almost all aspects of a person’s life, there is treatment available that can help an addict get clean and stay clean. By seeking professional treatment for a cocaine addiction this dangerous habit can be overcome and those addicted can go on to live a happy, healthy life.


Cocaine addiction statistics

In the United States research has shown that cocaine is the second most commonly abused illicit drug. More specifically, the office of the Natural Drug Control Policy estimates that nearly 3.6 million individuals in the U.S. alone use cocaine on a regular basis and that approximately 75% of people who experiment with using cocaine go on to develop an addiction to it.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

Most addiction and mental health experts have come to the conclusion that there are a number of factors that come together to make an individual more susceptible to the development of a cocaine addiction should they begin to use the drug. Some of these factors are explained in more detail below:

Genetic: Multiple research studies have shown that addictive behaviors tend to run in families. This means that individuals who have family members who struggled with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol are more susceptible to developing an addiction themselves.

Environmental: The environment in which an individual is immersed in can have a significant impact on the possible development of a cocaine addiction. For example, should an individual’s friends and family regularly use cocaine he or she is more likely to use as well because we tend to pick up the same habits as those that we spend a significant amount of time with. Additionally, those who are facing chronically stressful situations or have been exposed to traumatic events are at a higher risk for using cocaine because he or she often times will take the drug in an attempt to escape from the painful or stressful emotions they are feeling.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of chemical dependency concerns
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Being exposed to cocaine while in utero
  • Peer pressure
  • Having easy access to the drug
  • Exposure to crime and violence
  • Being subjected to extreme levels of stress

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

There are a number of signs and symptoms they may present themselves when an individual is abusing cocaine. However, the exact symptoms are going to be dependent upon a number of factors including how long he or she has been using this drug, the frequency of use, and the amount that is being abused. Recognizing the signs of cocaine abuse are important because it can lead to earlier intervention and recovery. Some of the possible signs and symptoms that may indicate that a cocaine use problem exists include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Talkative
  • Engages in conversation that lacks coherence
  • Difficulties sitting still
  • Aggressive outbursts
  • Engagement in high-risk, impulsive behaviors
  • Change of social group
  • Possession of certain drug paraphernalia
  • Frequent need for money
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irrational behavior

Physical symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Dilated or large pupils
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry nose and mouth
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Excessive sweating

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Heightened startle response
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Hyperfocus
  • Inability to use sound judgment
  • Paranoia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Prolonged periods of mania
  • Excessive irritability and agitation
  • Extreme anger


Effects of cocaine addiction

The effects that can result from the abuse of cocaine can be detrimental on all areas of a person’s life. The social, physical, and psychological effects that can arise can be devastating on the user’s life, as well as on the lives of those around him or her. Examples of various effects that can result from the abuse of cocaine can include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic or occupational failure
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial strife
  • Relationship discord
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Permanent damage to the heart and blood vessels
  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Damage to one’s liver, lungs, and/or kidneys
  • Malnutrition
  • Loss of one’s sense of smell
  • Destruction of nasal tissue
  • Respiratory failure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Sudden death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

Those who are battling a cocaine addiction often times are struggling with another mental health condition at the same time. Some of the most common mental health disorders known to co-occur alongside cocaine abuse include:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: Anytime a person has been using cocaine for a prolonged period of time and abruptly stops taking the drug it is likely that he or she will experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. While everyone’s withdrawal experience is going to be different there are a number of symptoms that an individual is likely to incur. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Increased appetite
  • Intense, overwhelming cravings for the drug
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness

Effects of cocaine overdose: When anyone ingest more cocaine than their body can handle it is likely that an overdose will occur. A cocaine overdose should be seen as an emergency and medical treatment should be sought immediately. Some signs that can indicate that someone may be overdosing on cocaine may include the following:

  • Irregular breathing
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pains
  • Tremors
  • Increased heart rate
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

Harbor Oaks Hospital is the best place to get sober. I am so thankful to all of the amazing staff that helped me break free from my cocaine addiction and am now about celebrate my third year of sobriety.

– Former Patient
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