Cocaine Addiction Signs & Symptoms

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 14 percent of all Americans age 12 and older have experimented with cocaine at one time or another. Classified as a schedule 2 drug, cocaine is a stimulant that affects one’s central nervous system while also raising heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, the drug is known to increase energy levels and trigger severe bouts of insomnia, which can last for days on end. It is also worth noting that cocaine can cause users to experience extreme feelings of euphoria as the brain becomes bombarded with dopamine, one of the brain’s many chemical messengers responsible for feelings of pleasure. Collectively, these characteristics can make cocaine exceedingly addictive. In this article, we will detail the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction and substance abuse and the importance of seeking help for this particular drug problem.

Cocaine Statistics

Before delving into statistical data regarding cocaine use in America, it is important to note that there are two types of cocaine that are commonly abused, powder cocaine and crack cocaine. Having made that distinction, according to the 2011 report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, cocaine abuse has resulted in more than 40 percent of all emergency room admissions related to illicit drug abuse or misuse. Also, cocaine abuse has been on the rise for decades and has resulted in nearly 5,000 overdose deaths in 2013, according to data compiled by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Given this information, it is imperative that we recognize the signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse early to help our friends and family avoid a similar fate.

Identifying Cocaine Abuse

When it comes to cocaine, identifying a pattern of abuse can be difficult as the drug can be consumed in multiple ways, snorting, injecting, or smoking it. As such, the tell-tale signs of abuse are not always immediately noticeable, especially given the drug’s relatively short half-life. To be more clear, the effects of cocaine can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Therefore, the probability of encountering your friend or loved one while they are in a state of feeling “high” is probably unlikely. Instead, it would be far more advantageous to look for sudden changes in behavior as well as changes in sleeping and eating habits. Additional signs of cocaine abuse, depending on how the drug is being consumed, can include

  • Nose bleeds
  • Burn marks on the lips, fingers, or hands
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Isolation
  • Frequent changes in sexual partners
  • Drug paraphernalia on their person
  • Needle marks
  • Powder residue on nose, mouth, or clothing
  • Larger than normal pupils
  • Financial difficulties

Along with these tell-tale signs, individuals struggling with cocaine abuse may suddenly become more excitable, talkative, and exhibit fewer inhibitions. If these behaviors are characteristic of your friend or loved ones, it may be a sign of substance abuse and addiction.

Increased Physical and Psychological Dependence

As previously noted, the increased energy and feelings of euphoria derived from cocaine use are short-lived. As such, those who abuse cocaine will often binge on the drug as a means of gaining an even more intense and prolonged “high.” In doing so, however, the likelihood of becoming physically and psychologically dependent on the drug also increases. This general premise applies to those who smoke, inject, or snort the drug. It should also be noted that introducing larger amounts of cocaine into one’s system can result in increased hostility and irritability, which, coincidentally, are additional tell-tale signs of cocaine addiction or substance abuse. That said, long-term and high doses can also cause paranoia, hallucinations, and extreme anxiety.

Combining Cocaine With Other Substances

To further compound problems with cocaine addiction and substance abuse, many users tend to combine the drug with other substances like alcohol, for example. To further illustrate this point, the Treatment Episode Data Set, which was published by, shows that from 2002 to 2012 more than 7 percent of individuals who sought treatment for cocaine abuse also struggled with alcohol and other substances. Combining cocaine with other substances, commonly referred to as poly-substance abuse, can lead to severe physical and psychological side effects as users are more likely to experience the psychoactive effects of each substance simultaneously. Studies have also shown that the likelihood of overdose increases considerably once cocaine is combined with alcohol or other drugs. Some of the more common signs of a cocaine overdose include

  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Tremors
  • Increased heart rate

How Abuse Turns Into Addiction

Because cocaine changes the way the brain experiences pleasure, many individuals find it difficult to feel the same level of pleasure without taking it. In many cases, this leads to higher doses, increased tolerance, and addiction. Once an individual becomes addicted to cocaine, he or she will find themselves spending more time trying to get the drug and experiencing the high that comes with using it. Not surprising, the drug ultimately begins to take over their lives, impeding upon their family life, careers, and a number of other responsibilities. Furthermore, they may begin to distance themselves from friends and family once obtaining the drug becomes their primary objective. Also, they may find that they no longer derive the same level of fulfillment in participating in the activities that they once enjoyed.

In summary, cocaine is a very powerful and highly addictive drug that can quickly disrupt the lives of those who are abuse it. While the signs of addiction and substance abuse are not always obvious at first, they inevitably become apparent. That said, if you have a friend or family member who you believe has a problem with cocaine or any other substance, St. John’s Recovery Place can help. The treatment facility offers a variety of amenities and a staff of experienced and compassionate practitioners. For more information, consider calling their admissions department at 1-833-EZ-REHAB.

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