Cocaine Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & When To Get Help

Are you unsure whether you or your loved one is struggling with cocaine addiction? Read below to learn how to spot the warning signs.

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine addiction

Known for its powerfully addictive properties, cocaine is an illicit substance that is a stimulant. This substance, which comes in powder or rock form, is often snorted or smoked by users as a means of achieving a mind- and mood-altering short-term high that increases one’s energy and focus, while also bringing on feelings of pleasure and invincibility.

Whether consumed alone or with other substances, cocaine can cause an exceptional amount of damage to one’s life. For most individuals who abuse this substance, the high is so thrilling that an individual continues to abuse it more frequently and in larger amounts that can lead to a life-threatening outcome. Therefore, it is imperative for an individual who is grappling with this type of addiction to consider obtaining effective and appropriate treatment as fast as possible. If an individual who is addicted to cocaine partakes in care, the risks linked with ongoing cocaine abuse can be diminished or avoided altogether.

Statistics

Cocaine addiction statistics

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, men are more likely to abuse cocaine than women. In addition, this same manual, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), states that men are four times more likely to partake in the abuse of cocaine, and the rate of men diagnosed with cocaine use disorder is 0.4% compared to 0.1% of women.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

There are a number of reasons why and how an individual might come to abuse and eventually become addicted to cocaine. The following causes and risk factors are among the most commonly cited by experts in the field of addiction:

Genetic: Research has shown that the probability of an individual developing an addiction to cocaine can be partly influenced by an individual’s genetic background. For example, individuals with a family history of cocaine abuse and addiction and/or mental health concerns are more likely to struggle with cocaine abuse at some point within their lives.

Environmental: Since the environment in which an individual was raised or spends the majority of his or her time can have a significant impact on an individual’s chances of abusing cocaine, there are specific external factors that can influence the development of this type of addiction. For example, if an individual is exposed to cocaine or other substances of abuse, community violence, an unstable home environment, or those who distribute this drug, that individual is more likely to eventually abuse cocaine. In addition, if an individual is exposed to cocaine in utero, he or she possesses a greater risk for turning to cocaine use later in his or her life.

Risk Factors:

  • Being exposed to violence
  • Associating with others who use or sell cocaine
  • Personal history of mental health conditions
  • Personal history of abusing other substances
  • Lacking effective impulse control
  • Residing in an unstable home environment
  • Family history of mental health conditions or substance abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

If an individual is struggling with a cocaine addiction, the telltale warning signs could be noticeable to others. If you, a worried loved one, are unsure whether or not someone you care for is abusing this substance, it could be helpful to note the presence of any of the following symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Failing to keep up with responsibilities and obligations at home or work
  • Spending a great deal of time acquiring, using, or recovering from cocaine abuse
  • Being unable to control the amount of cocaine one uses
  • Abusing cocaine in hazardous situations
  • Using cocaine in favor of engaging in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Using cocaine despite being aware of problems caused by the use of this substance

Physical symptoms:

  • Irregular heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed movements
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Sweating
  • Having a tolerance to increased amounts of cocaine
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chills
  • Nausea

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Rapid thought processes
  • Confusion
  • Hindered judgement
  • Increased alertness
  • Strong cravings for more cocaine

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Episodes of anger
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Lack of emotional reactivity

Effects

Effects of cocaine addiction

Cocaine abuse, especially if it occurs for a long period of time, can cause an individual to experience a great deal of turmoil in numerous areas of his or her life. The effects listed below are among the many consequences that could occur if an individual does not obtain treatment to defeat a cocaine addiction:

  • Damage to nasal cavity from snorting cocaine
  • Decline in work performance
  • Job loss
  • Financial strife
  • Demise of meaningful relationships
  • Separation or divorce
  • Polysubstance use
  • Involvement with the legal system
  • Damage to arteries or veins from repeated injections
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Contracting HIV or another blood-borne virus or infection due to intravenous drug use
  • Social isolation

Withdrawal

Signs, symptoms, and effects of cocaine withdrawal

Prolonged cocaine abuse causes an individual’s body to grow accustomed to the presence of this substance. As soon as tolerance to cocaine develops, an individual will likely struggle with a process of withdrawal after the abuse of this drug has ceased. The following effects are those that might occur when an individual is withdrawing from cocaine:

  • Insomnia
  • Depressed mood
  • Increased appetite
  • Oversleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue

Overdose

Signs, symptoms, and effects of cocaine overdose

Considered a medical emergency when it occurs, an overdose following the excessive use of cocaine can be deadly if proper treatment is not obtained. Therefore, medical personnel should be contacted if any of the effects listed below occur:

  • Stroke
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Sweating
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Seizure
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Vomiting

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

Cocaine addiction, or cocaine use disorder, is known to occur with other mental health conditions and substance use disorders. In the event an individual obtains treatment, he or she might receive care for his or her addiction and one or more of the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Gambling disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)