Some people view cocaine as a harmless party drug. In reality, cocaine can be a highly addictive and dangerous illicit drug. If you or someone you love is showing signs of cocaine abuse, take it seriously. Learn about symptoms of cocaine addiction and what to do about it.

Signs of Cocaine Use in a Loved One

If you’re concerned a loved one is using cocaine, there are certain signs you can look out for. The short-term effects of cocaine come on quickly after taking the drug. The high usually lasts several minutes to an hour. During the high of cocaine, people are chatty, uninhibited and carefree. The high of cocaine looks much more energetic than the high of alcohol.

Short-term cocaine use signs and symptoms may include:

  • More energy
  • Euphoria
  • Giddiness
  • Alertness
  • Sensitivity to touch, sounds and sights
  • Being chatty
  • Less need for sleep and food
  • Feeling uninhibited
  • Runny nose
  • Dilated pupils

Warning Signs of Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Some people consider themselves casual cocaine users. This comes with serious risks. Casual cocaine use often progresses to drug addiction. Any time a substance impacts the reward center of the brain, the person risks becoming addicted. Cocaine acts on dopamine in ways that can trigger physical and psychological cravings in a short time. Before you know it, you’re dependent on this highly addictive drug. You need more to get the same effect. You crave the high of cocaine and think about it constantly.

If you are spending a lot of your time either thinking about cocaine, trying to get cocaine, or using cocaine, you may have an addiction. Symptoms of cocaine addiction can be mental and physical:

  • Craving cocaine
  • Trying to quit using cocaine without success
  • Needing more and more cocaine to get the same effect
  • Continuing to abuse cocaine despite it causing problems at work, school or in relationships
  • Financial, professional or legal problems because of cocaine
  • Needing cocaine to feel normal

If you can relate to these cocaine addiction symptoms, it’s time to consider professional treatment.

Withdrawal from Cocaine

Cocaine users may use more of the drug and more frequently to avoid symptoms of withdrawal. To safely recover from cocaine addiction, you may need medically supervised detox. This process helps get the drug out of your system. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Problems controlling movement
  • Lack of energy
  • Nightmares and unusual dreams
  • Changes in appetite
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach issues
  • High heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty concentrating

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Other cocaine use signs and symptoms come in the form of long-term effects of cocaine abuse. A key sign of drug addiction is using the drug despite negative consequences. Knowing about these risks or experiencing them and continuing to use cocaine is a red flag.

Nasal Problems

Sometimes cocaine users inject it or smoke crack cocaine. Most often people snort cocaine through the nose. This can cause a number of nasal issues. Cocaine irritates the nose by potentially causing:

  • Chronic nose infections
  • Trauma to the inside of the nose by snorting it rapidly and regularly
  • Irritation from some of cocaine’s ingredients like talc, borax and levamisole
  • Wounds to the nasal septum
  • Damage to nasal membranes
  • Inflamed sinuses
  • Narrowed blood vessels
  • Nosebleeds
  • Loss of smell

Heart Problems

People who abuse cocaine are at high risk for heart problems. Cocaine can cause brain chemicals to tell the heart to beat faster and more intensely. The heart starts working overtime. Cocaine abuse can also decrease oxygen and blood flow to the heart. Because of the burden cocaine puts on the heart, people who abuse cocaine are at greater risk for:

  • Blood clots
  • Permanently increased blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Tears in the aorta
  • Enlarged heart

Mental Health Disorders

People with cocaine dependencies often also struggle with mental health disorders. These may include:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Panic attacks
  • Personality disorders

When people struggle with both mental illness and cocaine abuse, it’s known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. It can be hard to tell which came first: mental illness or drug abuse. Some people try soothing mental illness symptoms by using drugs to self-medicate. Substance abuse can provide a brief reprieve from depression or anxiety. Other times, drug and alcohol abuse contribute to mental illness symptoms. Some of the same brain chemicals are involved in drug use and mental health disorders. More or less of these chemicals can create mental health symptoms. This is true whether you have a natural imbalance or the imbalance comes from substance abuse.

Cocaine abuse can cause mental disorder symptoms like:

  • Paranoia
  • Homicidal thinking
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Violent behavior

An addiction to cocaine can also make existing mental illness symptoms worse.

Brain Damage

Research shows addiction to cocaine can damage your brain. A study by the University of Cambridge suggests cocaine may age the brain faster. It can shrink the brain’s gray matter. This causes a number of issues that affect normal functioning. Another study found cocaine can damage the brain in both casual users and dependent users. A recent study looked at the effects of additives in cocaine. Cocaine makers often add a dangerous substance to cocaine called levamisole. This substance can prolong the effects of cocaine. It can also damage the part of your brain responsible for functions like:

  • Reading
  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Learning
  • Paying attention
  • Reasoning

Cocaine Addiction Treatment

You can recover from cocaine abuse with the help of substance abuse professionals. Effective cocaine abuse treatment may include a number of approaches such as:

Medical detox – If you’re mixing alcohol or other drugs with cocaine, you may require detox. In a professional rehab center, drug and alcohol detox is safe and as comfortable as possible. Medical professionals monitor you around the clock. They administer medications as needed to ease withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapies – You’ll work in individual, group and family therapy to understand the reasons behind cocaine abuse. These can range from emotional pain and trauma to low self-esteem and relationship issues. You’ll learn healthy thinking and coping skills. Learning how to deal with stressors and challenges helps you in everyday recovery. Therapy approaches may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Contingency management

Mental health treatmentDrug rehab addresses addiction and co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression. It’s important to tackle both conditions to prevent relapse. You’ll take part in behavioral therapy and psychiatric appointments. Your treatment team will prescribe medications as appropriate for mental health disorder symptoms.

Aftercare – Recovery work doesn’t end after you leave the treatment center. Staff will connect you with resources like therapists and support groups to help you stay sober for the long haul.

If you notice the signs and symptoms of cocaine use in yourself or someone you care about, know that help is available. You’re not alone. The Ranch has helped hundreds of people recover from cocaine addiction and live fulfilling, sober lives. Let us help you live a happier life. Call 844-876-7680 today.

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

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