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Cocaine Addiction: Signs and Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Junkie man sniffing a line of cocaine in the shape of a skull through a dollar, sachets with a dose

Published: July 18, 2023

Cocaine use has become exceedingly popular over the last several decades and often leads to addiction. About 1.4 million people over the age of 12 had a cocaine use disorder in 2021.

As with all kinds of substance abuse, cocaine addiction can be challenging due to the physical and mental challenges associated with substance addiction and the fact that sometimes people don’t even know they’re addicted.

The good news is there are several effective addiction treatment options to help you or your loved one manage addiction and build new habits to maintain sobriety.

Keep reading to learn more about cocaine addiction signs, side effects, risk factors for cocaine addiction, treatment programs, and more.

Cocaine Abuse vs. Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is an illicit drug, so any cocaine use is considered cocaine abuse. It’s possible for some people to use cocaine only casually, but as a disclaimer, it is very common for casual use to develop into an addiction.

Cocaine addiction is a mental reliance on the substance. Because addictive drugs affect the chemicals in our brains (such as dopamine in cocaine use), our brains will often start to tell us we need the drug to function.

Aside from the addictive properties of cocaine, it is also often mixed with other addictive substances such as fentanyl. The combination of these drugs can be incredibly addictive, not to mention dangerous.

Can You Become Dependent on Cocaine?

Yes, you can become dependent on cocaine. As mentioned above, cocaine addiction is a mental reliance on the drug. However, cocaine dependence is a physical reliance.

As your body gets used to the effects of cocaine and it being in your system, it is possible for your body to rely on the presence of cocaine to function.

When you’re experiencing cocaine dependence, trying to stop using cocaine typically results in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are a big part of why it’s difficult to stop using cocaine.

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

There are several signs you can keep an eye out for that may point to cocaine addiction in yourself or friends and family.

Some common symptoms of cocaine addiction include:

  • Increased agitation
  • Hyperactivity or increased movement
  • Changes in concentration or focus
  • Increased enthusiasm
  • Involuntary movements like muscle twitches
  • Disinhibition
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased use of cocaine
  • Engaging in risky behavior for cocaine
  • Mood swings

Addiction can present differently in different people, so the person you suspect has an addiction may only show a couple of these signs.

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Stopping cocaine use when you’ve become dependent on it can result in withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant physical symptoms your body has as a reaction to the lack of cocaine.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Delayed thinking
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Agitation
  • Intense cravings

Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, but they also depend on several factors including weight, age, genetics, and severity of dependence or addiction, among others.

Side Effects of Cocaine Use

Aside from the signs of cocaine addiction, it’s important to know about cocaine’s effects. Some are short-term and others are long-term, and they can be pleasant or very dangerous.

The pleasant effects of cocaine use are typically what lead to addiction, and the long-term effects can often affect one’s health.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

Short-term effects of cocaine can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending on when you took the drug, how much you took, and other factors.

Short-term effects can include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Mental alertness
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Decreased appetite
  • Euphoria
  • Restlessness or agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Muscle twitches
  • Vertigo
  • Erratic or violent behavior

Long-Term Dangers of Cocaine Addiction

There are also countless long-term effects that come with cocaine use and addiction.

Long-term effects may include:

  • Addiction
  • Restlessness
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular heart rhythm and other cardiovascular symptoms
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Heart attack
  • Respiratory failure
  • Chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Headache
  • Coma
  • Nosebleeds or runny nose
  • Holes in the nasal region
  • Hepatitis C
  • Death

Risk Factors for Cocaine Drug Addiction

While anyone can become addicted to cocaine, there are several risk factors that can make an individual more likely to develop a cocaine addiction.

Risk factors can include family history of addiction, genetics, traumatic history, peer use.

Genetics and family history can play a big part in someone’s likelihood to develop cocaine addiction. Being around cocaine use during one’s childhood or having a family history of cocaine addiction can make it easier to slip into addictive habits.

On the other hand, being in environments in which cocaine use is common or having a history of abuse or other kinds of trauma can lead to cocaine use and, in turn, addiction.

Diagnosing Cocaine Use Disorder

While it’s possible to recognize cocaine use disorder in yourself or someone you care about, it’s important to get a diagnosis from a healthcare professional.

When visiting a healthcare provider for possible addiction, they will often ask several questions about your cocaine use and may perform certain tests like bloodwork.

Not only is it important to get a diagnosis to have proper medical evaluation, it’s also a good idea to seek professional help, as doctors can provide you with great resources for addiction treatment.

Cocaine Addiction Treatment Options

Cocaine addiction treatment can seem overwhelming at first, but with the guidance of a medical provider as well as a basic understanding of your options, it may not be so scary.

Rehab programs for cocaine addiction can include different offerings like detoxification, inpatient care, outpatient care, therapy, and aftercare services.

Scroll on to learn a bit about each cocaine addiction program option.

Cocaine Detox

Medical detox is a service designed to help an individual purge cocaine from their body. Because stopping cocaine use and processing the rest of the drug in your body can be uncomfortable and challenging, cocaine detox is also focused on managing withdrawal symptoms.

Medical detoxification involves basic medical care like monitoring one’s vitals and administering fluids, but also involves the administration of other medications to help with withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine Rehab Programs

There are two main kinds of cocaine rehab programs: inpatient and outpatient.

Inpatient treatment provides around-the-clock care in a designated facility where individuals stay for an allotted amount of time.

On the other hand, outpatient programs only provide care for a certain amount of time each day or week. In outpatient programs, individuals can live in their homes and travel to a facility for care.

There are also specialized programs for certain groups who may need unique care. For instance, some common specialized programs offered at facilities include men’s programs, women’s programs, teen’s programs, veteran’s programs, and even first responder’s programs.

Behavioral Therapy

Both inpatient and outpatient programs may involve some kind of behavioral therapy to address your behavioral health. There are two commonly offered kinds of behavioral therapy: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

CBT is a kind of talk therapy that focuses on learning new coping skills to help with the thoughts and feelings one may be experiencing.

CBT is known to be very effective in addressing many mental illnesses. Because mental health issues often come hand in hand with addiction, known as co-occurring disorders, CBT can be extremely beneficial in changing one’s habits.

On the other hand, DBT is a type of CBT. DBT focuses on identifying negative thinking patterns and changing them to be positive.

Support Groups

Support groups are another great treatment resource. Many facilities offer support groups, but people may also join local support groups after completing a rehabilitation program.

Support groups are group gatherings offered for people who have abused drugs or alcohol to talk about their experiences with addiction, their strategies, struggles, and successes.

They are also a wonderful way to meet understanding peers and create a support system.

Alternative Therapies

While behavioral therapies are effective, many treatment centers also offer alternative therapies. These kinds of therapy can be particularly effective for people who may not be as responsive to talk therapy.

Some common alternative therapy options include nature therapy, art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, adventure therapy, holistic therapy, and exercise therapy.

Alternative therapies are often used in conjunction with behavioral therapies and other treatment services.

Aftercare Options

Aftercare is an incredibly important part of any addiction recovery journey. Even though you may have completed a rehab program, it can still be challenging to stay sober.

This is why aftercare services are exceedingly beneficial for some individuals. Aftercare options can include services such as support groups, 12-step programs, sober living facilities, and individual or group counseling.

Sober living facilities are an exceptional opportunity for people who are transitioning from addiction treatment to their day-to-day lives. It can be difficult to make this transition without relapsing or feeling alone in your journey.

Sober living facilities offer housing for people who have been addicted to substances and are now living sober lifestyles. These environments can mitigate external pressures and temptations as well as create a sense of accountability.

Find Help With a Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction can have detrimental effects on your physical health, mental health, relationships, career, and more.

It can feel like a hopeless cycle when you’re actively addicted to cocaine, but there are so many options to begin your recovery journey.

If you’re ready to take the first step to a life free of addiction, give our helpline a call today.

Cocaine Addiction FAQs

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is an illicit, addictive stimulant made from coca leaves. It is typically found in powder form, with a white crystalline appearance, though there are many forms of cocaine.

Cocaine is primarily made in companies like Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia and goes by countless names including blow and coke.

It can be used in several different manners including snorting, smoking, injecting, or ingesting. Snorting powdered cocaine is the most common method of use.

Can cocaine cause overdose?

Cocaine use can cause overdose. Cocaine has a number of hazardous effects on the body and its systems, which can ultimately lead to overdose.

Additionally, as an addictive substance, your body may feel as though it needs more cocaine over time, which can cause an overdose.

Finally, cocaine can be mixed with other dangerous drugs that can increase your risk of cocaine overdose.

Can cocaine cause sudden death?

Yes, cocaine can cause sudden death. Because of its dangerous effects on the body such as increased heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, etc., it is possible for sudden death to occur.

Risks such as stroke and heart attack are common with cocaine use.

Can you cure a cocaine addiction?

No, you cannot cure cocaine addiction as there is no cure for addiction. However, it is possible to treat and manage the symptoms of addiction to achieve long-term sobriety.

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