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Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

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 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 around cocaine abuse and addiction. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse and addiction can be the first steps 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

What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Use and 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 a 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 (p561), 5 (p16), 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.

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

American Addiction Centers’ treatment centers are devoted to helping people overcome addiction. 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 Addiction is a complex disease, and in addition to treating the symptoms, American Addiction Centers also address the underlying factors causing the addiction.7 Treatment also addresses any co-occurring mental health issues.7 There are 8 American Addiction Centers facilities across the U.S., so treatment is available no matter where you are.8 For more information, call the free helpline—it’s available 24/7 and you’ll be connected to a compassionate and caring staff member.7

Not Sure About Cocaine Addiction Treatment?

Seeking help for a cocaine addiction may seem overwhelming and intimidating, but it can help you understand what to expect during treatment. Since addiction is a complex disease, treatment should not be approached as a one-size-fits-all option. Because each person has unique treatment needs, different types of treatment settings and therapeutic techniques are available.9 Problems addressed in treatment can include physical or mental health disorders, legal issues, problems in family or marital relationships, and employment concerns.9

Treatment can be provided in 3 types of settings and successful treatment often involves more than one type of care provided over 90 days or more for better results.9  The 3 major components of treatment include:

  • Detoxification (detox). This process will help you filter cocaine out of your body in order to prepare for medical treatment and recovery. Detox is most effective and safe when overseen by medical personnel.
  • Inpatient treatment. This type of medical treatment will see you staying at an inpatient or residential rehab facility in order to receive cocaine addiction treatment. Inpatient treatment may involve medical treatment, therapies, and other holistic programs.
  • Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment normally occurs after detox and inpatient treatment, and involves patients attending regular therapy or medical sessions. The benefit of outpatient treatment is that it allows the patient to live and work outside a treatment facility while continuing medical and therapy support.

American Addiction Centers Can Help

As the leading addiction treatment provider in the United States, American Addiction Centers focuses on not only treating the addiction itself, but the causes that led to its development. At American Addiction Centers, treatment is specialized to meet the needs of each person.

There are 8 treatment centers across the country, making it easier to access care. We are located in the following states:

To learn more about how American Addiction Centers can help, you can call our free helpline 24/7 to speak to an admissions navigator.

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:


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Cocaine.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). DrugFacts: Cocaine.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of adolescent substance use disorder treatment: A research-based guide.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Signs of cocaine use.
  7. American Addiction Centers. (2020). American addiction centers.
  8. American Addiction Centers. (2020). Our treatment centers.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (3rd edition).
  10. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.