Signs Someone May Be Addicted to Cocaine

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug use and Health, an estimated 5.2 million people aged 12 or older used cocaine in the past year, and approximately 1.3 million people aged 12 or older met the diagnostic criteria for cocaine use disorder.1

Addiction, or substance use disorder, is a treatable medical condition. While only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose someone with a cocaine use disorder, if you recognize signs or symptoms of cocaine use and addiction in yourself of a loved one, professional treatment can help.

What Are the Signs of Cocaine Use?

Cocaine is a powerful drug with addiction potential that can seriously impair functioning and can have negative effects on a person’s physical and mental health, putting even first-time users at risk.2

Some short-term effects of using cocaine include:3,5

  • High energy and talkativeness.
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch.
  • Constriction of the blood vessels.
  • Dilated (enlarged) pupils.
  • Elevated body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
  • Erratic behavior.
  • Insomnia and restlessness.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Paranoia, or the extreme and unreasonable distrust of others.

Many of the long-term effects and health risks of using cocaine result from whether a person snorts, injects, or ingests cocaine orally, or if they smoke crack cocaine.

  • Snorting cocaine: Loss of smell, frequent nosebleeds, damage or perforation to the nasal septum, trouble swallowing.
  • Oral use of cocaine: Infection and ulcers in the digestive tract; bowel decay from reduced blood flow.
  • Smoking crack cocaine: Lung diseases including asthma; pneumonia and other lung infections, respiratory distress, and chronic cough.
  • Injecting cocaine: Track marks on forearms or other injection sites; increased risk of HIV or hepatitis C; scarring and other damage to blood vessels.

Other long-term effects of cocaine use may include:3

  • Malnourishment because of loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases due to risky sexual behavior resulting from impaired judgment.
  • Movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.
  • Extreme paranoia, including auditory hallucinations and other breaks with reality.

Risk Factors for Cocaine Addiction

signs of cocaine useCocaine can be addicting, but not everyone who uses it develops an addiction or a substance use disorder. Smoking crack cocaine or injecting cocaine are more strongly linked to cocaine addiction than other ways of using the drug.4,7

Anybody who uses cocaine risks developing an addiction to the substance, but there is no single cause that determines whether a person will become addicted. Addiction is a complex disorder associated with a number of risk factors including genetics, life events and environmental influences. Risk factors that may increase an individual’s chances of developing a substance use disorder include:2

  • A personal history of addiction.
  • Parental or familial substance use or addiction.
  • Alcohol or drug use at a young age.
  • Trauma, abuse, neglect, or recurring stress during childhood.
  • Poor social skills.
  • An inability to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders.

When Cocaine Use Turns to Addiction

Cocaine use results in increased levels of dopamine in areas of the brain related to reward and reinforcement. It does this by preventing the body’s natural dopamine from being recycled.5

With repeated cocaine use, the brain adapts by decreasing its sensitivity to the drug — a phenomenon called tolerance. As a result, the individual may take higher doses of cocaine or use it more often to feel the same high. The brain can also adapt in a way that a person only feels “normal” when cocaine is used — an adaptation called dependence.5 When someone becomes dependent on the substance, they will experience symptoms of cocaine withdrawal when they significantly decrease their use or stop using the drug altogether.

Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can include:4,5

  • Cocaine cravings.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Anxiety and irritability.
  • Low mental and physical energy.
  • Increased hunger and weight gain.
  • Insomnia followed by hypersomnia (i.e., sleeping a lot).
  • Slowed cognition.
  • Anhedonia (i.e., lack of pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed).
  • Withdrawal from social activities.

Cocaine Addiction Signs and Symptoms

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.) outlines the specific criteria that are used when diagnosing someone with a cocaine use disorder. While tolerance, as well as dependence and experiencing withdrawal symptoms are two of the criteria that can indicate a cocaine use disorder, they are not the only indicators that someone may be addicted. Other criteria include:1,6

  • Having strong desires for or urges to use cocaine (cravings).
  • Spending a significant amount of time getting, using, or recovering from cocaine use.
  • Using larger amounts of cocaine for longer periods of time than intended.
  • Using cocaine in hazardous or dangerous situations, such as while driving a car.
  • Being unable to fulfill important obligations at work, home, or school as the result of cocaine use.
  • Giving up or stopping hobbies, socializing, or other activities that were once enjoyed due to cocaine use.
  • Continuing to use cocaine despite knowing that is has caused or worsened physical or psychological problems.
  • Continuing to use cocaine even though use has cause social and interpersonal problems.
  • Attempting or wanting to stop or cut back use of cocaine but being unable to do so.

Whether you or a loved one are struggling with cocaine use, dependence, or addiction, you may benefit from receiving professional treatment for cocaine or stimulant use disorder.

What to Do if You Suspect Someone is Addicted to Cocaine

talking to a loved one with cocaine use disorder

If you think someone you love is addicted to cocaine, often the best place to start to help is by having a conversation with them. These kinds of conversations can be difficult, so it may be helpful to be as prepared as possible before you sit down with your loved one. Some helpful tips include:8

  • Educate yourself. Learn everything you can about cocaine, cocaine addiction, and treatment options.
  • Look for signs of intoxication. It’s generally recommended to avoid starting a serious conversation about a sensitive topic when someone is under the influence.
  • Speak up and offer support. Write down what you want to say. Be sure to follow through on any offers to help.
  • Speak with love and concern. Let them know that they are loved, and you are concerned about their well-being.
  • Be prepared for denial or anger. Your loved one may not be ready to admit that they need help. Be ready to offer specific examples of physical or behavioral changes that worry you. Remember to stay calm.
  • Come prepared. Don’t expect them to stop on their own or know where to go to get help. It can be helpful to have a list of treatment options ready.

Things to avoid include:8

  • Blaming your loved one for their cocaine use.
  • Using emotional appeals or attempting to guilt them into sobriety.
  • Arguing with them while they are intoxicated.
  • Making excuses for their behavior.
  • Using stigmatizing language or trying to shame them into getting help.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

When you’re ready to get help, finding the right treatment for your needs is an essential first step. At Sunrise House in New Jersey, there is effective addiction-focused healthcare to get you on the road to recovery and back to living the life you deserve.

At our inpatient rehab in New Jersey, we use evidence-based therapies to create individualized care plans to help people struggling with substance use disorders. We also offer different levels of addiction treatment — including medical detox, residential treatment, and aftercare planning.

If you’re interested in learning more about our treatment center and want to get more information about how to start the admissions process, contact our caring and compassionate admissions navigators at . They will be happy to answer your questions about what to expect in inpatient treatment, different ways to pay for rehab, and can even help you find out about using insurance for addiction treatment.

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