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Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Table of Contents

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug derived from the coca plant in South America.1, 2  It is classified as a stimulant and can be prescribed as an anesthetic for specific kinds of surgery since it can numb the areas it comes in contact with. However, it is illegal outside of these purposes due to the drug’s high potential for abuse and addiction.1 Other names for cocaine include coke, blow, powder, or crack, which is a form that can be smoked.1 Cocaine can also be snorted or injected.1 In 2018, nearly 1 million Americans had an addiction to the drug.3

Despite the prevalence of the drug in society, there remains a lack of understanding of cocaine abuse and addiction. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse and addiction can be the first step towards healing and recovery.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine

Cocaine is a fast-acting drug; the effects are immediate, although they don’t last long.1 The short-term effects of cocaine can include:1, 2, 4

  • Being irritable or paranoid.
  • Erratic and possibly violent behavior.
  • Euphoria.
  • Feeling anxious or panicky.
  • Feeling more mentally alert.
  • Increased energy.
  • Increased sensitivity to sights, sounds, and touch.
  • Tremors.
  • Vertigo.

Cocaine also has immediate physical effects on the body. These can include:1, 2, 4

  • Constriction of the blood vessels.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Elevated blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Nausea.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine

Long-term effects of cocaine use can have a variety of negative effects on the body and brain.1 Chronic, long-term use of cocaine can lead to:1, 2, 4

  • Increased tolerance.
  • Physical dependence.
  • Ulcers.
  • Cardiovascular risks.
  • Stroke.

Why Is Cocaine Addictive?

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that works by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain, which causes a feeling of euphoria.1, 2  Since it increases mental alertness and energy, people often feel more productive when taking it.1, 2 Because these effects don’t last long, there is often a strong urge to take more to continue feeling such euphoric effects.1 Over time, the brain becomes desensitized to dopamine, and larger amounts of cocaine are needed.2 When cocaine use is stopped, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms such as feeling depressed, tired, hungry, trouble sleeping, and thinking more slowly.2

Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

The warning signs and symptoms of cocaine use and addiction fall into two general categories: physical and behavioral. A diagnosis of cocaine addiction often includes symptoms from both categories.4 One of the criteria for diagnosis is when cocaine use causes severe distress or interferes with a person’s ability to function in one or more areas of their life.3, 4

Physical Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

When a person has an addiction to cocaine, physical symptoms are commonly present. These warning signs of an addiction can include:1, 2, 4

  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Runny nose.
  • Constant sniffling.
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sounds, and touch.

Behavioral Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

People who are addicted to cocaine may show behavioral changes. These warning signs include:4, 5, 6

  • Obsessive thoughts of using or finding cocaine.
  • Inability to stop using the drug.
  • Incessant excitability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Lack of physical hygiene habits.
  • Lying.
  • New financial problems.
  • New legal problems.
  • Risk-taking behavior.

Cocaine Withdrawal & Detox

While understanding the physical and behavioral symptoms of addiction can help you determine if you or someone you love truly has a problem, it is important to understand that the physical symptoms of cocaine addiction and withdrawal can be the most challenging pieces of achieving sobriety.

That is why the first phase of addiction treatment for most programs often includes detox. Detox is generally a 5-7 day period in which you are supervised by clinicians or medical staff to ensure your health and safety are preserved. You can find more information on detox here. 

Are You Struggling with Cocaine Addiction?

If you are concerned that you may have a cocaine addiction, reading this article is a good way to learn about what it is and what the dangers are. If you recognize one or more of the symptoms listed above, you may want to consider seeking help. If you are looking for help but don’t know how to go about it, cocaine addiction treatment is available. Treatment can help free you or a loved one from an addiction to cocaine.

How American Addiction Centers Can Help

As the leading provider of addiction treatment in the U.S., American Addiction Centers offers high-quality care using effective treatments and unique amenities to make you comfortable while in treatment.7

Our treatment model focuses on identifying any existing mental illnesses or mental health issues that may stimulate the need to cope with issues by using cocaine.

The next step in our treatment model provides an initial support system for those attending treatment and teaches them healthier ways to cope with their addiction.

We offer a full continuum of care that encompasses the primary types of treatment all the way from detox for those initially struggling to aftercare options like sober-living, counseling sessions, and support groups for those maintaining their recovery.

To find out more, or to get started, American Addiction Centers operates a confidential addiction hotline available 24/7 to help people find their path to recovery.

We can be reached at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? .

Still Unsure About Seeking Treatment?

If you are still unsure about how treatment works, how to ask for help, or how to get treatment, consider the following guides: