Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use, Abuse, and Addiction Facts

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is known to be a highly addictive drug. In fact, it’s so addictive that the federal government has labeled it as a schedule II drug because it is

cocaine affected mom

Cocaine Affects Many

prone to high abuse rates and high risk for addiction. The symptoms of a cocaine “high” depend on the way it’s taken, the purity levels and other factors. “Crack” cocaine (the rock form that is smoked) has been said to be “instantly addictive” for those who are prone to addiction (for reasons of environment and genetics). However, all forms of cocaine are considered to be highly addictive.

Other Names for Cocaine

Cocaine is also known by the following names. Different regions will have different slang terms to refer to it:

  • Coke
  • Nose Candy
  • Yayo
  • Blow
  • Snow

How is Cocaine Ingested or Used?

The powdered form of cocaine is inhaled through the nose (i.e. snorted) or it’s dissolved into water and injected directly into a vein via a syringe. While injecting the drug presents extreme danger, there is no “safe” way to use cocaine – each use is a gamble. Cocaine has been known to cause fatal heart attacks and is also sometimes “cut”(i.e. mixed) with dangerous substances.

Injecting Cocaine

Some users inject cocaine directly into their vein by diluting it in water. Others inject it right into the skin. This is also known as “skin popping.” This method increases the duration of the high, but the risks are greater.

Crack is probably the most common method via which cocaine users take the drug. Crack is a hard form of cocaine that has been processed into rock crystal and then smoked in some kind of pipe or device. Crack is frequently not as pure as powdered cocaine as it has been “cooked” in a home based lab of some sort. During this process, the cocaine is often cut with dangerous chemicals. As stated aboe, some people have become obsessed with crack after literally a single use. It is considered even more highly addictive than powdered cocaine.

What Are the Symptoms of Cocaine Use?

A person who is using cocaine may disappear from a room and return more talkative, animated, and with more energy than before. A user may also have dilated pupils and, if snorting, they may suffer from constant runny noses or frequent nosebleeds. Cocaine causes an elevated heart rate and the user may exhibit personality changes such as euphoria, overconfidence or unusual excitement.

Of course, as with almost all drugs, a sense of foreboding or unhappiness when the drug is not present is a universally present symptom (although often overlooked by observers or attributed to other causes).

What Are the Long-Term Effects and Dangers of Cocaine Usage?

Syringe drug users, especially “skin poppers”, risk many medical complications, the most serious of which is the risk of fatal heart attack.  Injecting users are also prone to dangerous skin infections. There is a risk of diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis that comes from using hypodermic needles that others have used.

Users who snort cocaine also run risks of long-term damage to their sinuses and noses. Long term snorting of any substance can lead to chronically running noses, nosebleeds, loss of sense of smell, as well as throat problems such as difficulty swallowing, and hoarseness.

Long-term users often have trouble quitting cocaine. In the throes of addiction, their family and friends may notice that they become irritable or explosive.

A person who is dependent on cocaine is also at risk of the following health problems:1

  • Heart problems, including heart attacks, especially during usage.
  • Breathing problems, lung disease, and respiratory failure.
  • Nervous system problems, including strokes or comas.
  • Digestive problems, issues with the lining of the stomach.
  • Severe allergic reactions or chemical sensitivities.

There’s no “safe” level of cocaine use, and no “safe” way to ingest it. Each method has its own risks, and each method could potentially kill the user.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Dependency/Addiction

Cocaine addiction may also produce noticeable behavioral or personality changes that are startling and sometimes difficult for family and friends to understand. Obviously, secretive behavior and mood swings accompany cocaine abuse.  The person will require a lot of cash in order to keep the habit going, so financial irresponsibility (and stealing) often accompany cocaine addiction.

A person who has been abusing cocaine can also  experience a condition called “severe paranoia”, which is a form of short-term psychosis. This is usually a psychiatric emergency.2

When a person experiences this condition, they have lost touch with reality and may experience frightening hallucinations that include hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t real. They may exhibit strange thoughts and beliefs that aren’t factual, such as thinking that everyone is “out to get them” or “send them to jail.” They may require hospitalization to prevent them from hurting himself or herself or someone else.

How Does Cocaine Abuse Change a User’s Brain?

Cocaine dependence results from the effect the drug – the “high” that creates a brief period of intense pleasure. Drug abusers tend to “chase” the high, using more and more amounts to try and achieve a greater effect. Cocaine is a stimulant drug that works by increasing the levels of brain chemicals (especially dopamine) which gives the body a pleasure response. Cocaine produces a euphoric effect in the user by artificially increasing the release of dopamine, and preventing normal re-absorption of dopamine back into the brain’s nerve cells.

As a user continues to abuse cocaine, the body builds a tolerance. The cocaine user needs progressively larger amounts of cocaine to feel high. They may behave erratically or become increasingly moody. They may lose a job or friendships due to their behavior. They often resort to crime to continue to get high. When a person is addicted, they often do things that they regret. Some people literally lose everything and end up mired in the legal system after breaking laws in order to continue the addiction.

Addicted to Cocaine or Other Drugs? Recovery Is Possible

If you think you or a loved one has a problem with cocaine (or any other drugs), you’re not alone, and you can recover. We want you to know that you can get clean, and recovery is possible. Many people who felt like “hopeless cases” have learned to live fulfilling, drug-free lives with the help of professionals and their peers in a therapeutic, safe environment.

The first step to recovery? Pick up a phone and give us a call using the number above.

1.Cocaine Abuse & Addiction, available here.
2.Cocaine and Psychiatric Symptoms, available here.