Signs & Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

The signs, symptoms, and effects of cocaine addiction can be different for every person impacted. Learning about cocaine addiction is one of the first steps towards getting better.

Understanding Cocaine

Learn about cocaine addiction and substance abuse

Cocaine is a powerful, illicit stimulant substance that is used for recreational purposes by many individuals. Also known as coke, cocaine is a drug that is known for its ability to produce intense feelings of euphoria, power, and invincibility. It can also heighten senses, enhance perception, increase self-esteem, and invoke a sense of grandiosity. Cocaine can be ingested through smoking, injecting, or snorting, but the high that is elicited is typically a short one, rarely lasting longer than about 30 minutes. Due to the pleasurable sensations that it causes, in conjunction with the short period of time that those sensations last, many cocaine users find that they begin to use more and more of the drug in order to maintain their desired high. As the dosage increases, or the frequency in which individuals are using the substance increases, changes begin to occur in the brains of users. These changes can then result in the onset of tolerance, dependence, and addiction. And, unfortunately, once an addiction to cocaine has developed, it can be exceedingly difficult for individuals to overcome. Help should be sought for cocaine abuse as early as possible.

Statistics

Cocaine addiction statistics

Among individuals aged 18 and older, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that approximately 0.3% suffer from cocaine use disorder. According to the office of the National Drug Control Policy, an estimated 3.6 million people use cocaine on a regular basis in the United States alone.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

A number of causes and risk factors have been cited as potentially affecting an individual’s susceptibility to developing an addiction to cocaine, or cocaine use disorder. Consider the following:

Environmental: According to the APA, there are a variety of ways in which an individual’s environment can impact the eventual onset of cocaine abuse and addiction. Such environmental factors can include being exposed to cocaine prenatally, having parents who use cocaine, growing up in an unstable home environment, and being exposed to violence within one’s community.

Risk Factors: In addition to the previously listed environmental risk factors, the following can also impact an individual’s vulnerability to beginning to use cocaine:

  • Possessing an impulsive personality or other such personality traits
  • Suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or antisocial personality disorder
  • Having a history of childhood conduct disorder
  • Being surrounded by people who abuse cocaine or other types of drugs
  • Ease of access with which one can obtain cocaine

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

The signs and symptoms that may be displayed and experienced by someone who is abusing cocaine will vary from person to person, but can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Jumping from topic to topic while in conversation
  • Engaging in repetitive movements
  • Acting differently in social settings than is normal for the person
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work
  • Failing to take care of responsibilities at home
  • Continuing to abuse cocaine despite having the desire to quit
  • Abusing cocaine in increasingly larger amounts or over longer periods of time that was originally intended
  • Participating in dangerous or high-risk activities in order to obtain cocaine
  • Rapid speech
  • Hypervigilance

Physical symptoms:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscular weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased bodily temperature
  • Elevated or lowered blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Experiencing intense cravings for cocaine
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired judgment
  • Confusion

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Experiencing episodes of unwarranted anger
  • Heightened states of irritability and agitation
  • Lacking emotional reactivity
  • Euphoria
  • Anxiety

Effects

Effects of cocaine addiction

When individuals continue to abuse cocaine, they are placing their health and wellbeing at significant risk. All aspects of their daily lives will likely be affected in some way or another when the abuse of this insidious substance is allowed to persist. Examples of ways in which cocaine use can negatively impact individuals may include the following:

  • Loss of one’s sense of smell
  • Malnutrition
  • Damage one’s liver, kidneys, and/or lungs
  • Damage to the cardiovascular system
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Marital strife or divorce
  • Familial conflict
  • Loss of child custody
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Failing to attend to one’s occupational responsibilities, potentially resulting in job loss
  • Financial turmoil

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

Sadly, it is not uncommon for individuals who suffer from cocaine use disorder to also suffer from symptoms of other mental health conditions simultaneously. Examples of such conditions may include the following:

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

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: When an individual has been abusing cocaine and then suddenly ceases his or her use, or drastically reduces the amount that is being used, he or she is vulnerable to experiencing a period of withdrawal. The symptoms of cocaine withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and may arise within hours or days after one’s last use of the substance. Examples of possible symptoms and effects that may arise during this withdrawal period can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Disturbed social functioning
  • Disturbed occupational function
  • Extremely strong cravings for the drug
  • Fatigue

Effects of cocaine overdose: Whenever individuals abuse cocaine, they are placing themselves at risk for experiencing an overdose. An overdose occurs whenever one ingests more of a substance than his or her body is capable of metabolizing. Due to cocaine’s potency and the speed with which it is known to cross the blood-brain barrier, people can easily ingest more of the drug than their bodies can handle without even realizing it. Should someone overdose on cocaine, it should be viewed as a medical emergency with treatment being sought immediately. Examples of signs that could indicate that someone may have overdosed on cocaine can include the following:

  • Flushing of the skin
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hypertension
  • Irregular breathing
  • Panicked feelings
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Chest pains
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cramping