Cocaine: An Honest Look Into Detection and Recovery

According to the European Drug Report, cocaine is the second most commonly used illegal drug in Europe. In 2021, a new record of 303 tonnes of cocaine were seized in EU countries. This suggests that cocaine use is prevalent across the globe and appears to be increasing.

2.4% of 16 to 59-year-olds living in England and Wales reported using powder cocaine in the year ending March 2023. This rose to 5.1% among those aged 16 to 24. An increase in cocaine use also indicates a potential rise in cocaine addiction. Addiction can be a steep downward slope; it is significantly more difficult to know how to quit cocaine than it is to fall into its grasp.

The first step towards recovery is awareness. Healing from cocaine addiction necessitates the knowledge of how it manifests. What are the signs of cocaine addiction? What kinds of drug rehab are available, and what types of cocaine addiction treatment do they offer? Can the drug be detected in the system, and what might a positive cocaine test mean?

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a stimulant drug. That means that it has a range of psychoactive effects. These can be short–lasting for the length of the high – or longer term. The short-term effects of cocaine are initially what drives repeat use. Users may find that the drug stimulates pleasant sensations and, therefore, wish to achieve the same feelings again.
A cocaine high may catalyse:

  • feelings of elation or euphoria
  • feelings of excitement
  • feelings of alertness
  • feeling confident and less sensitive to rejection
  • increased libido

After experiencing these feelings, individuals may be drawn to using cocaine again. This repeated use can be dangerous, as it can quickly lead towards addiction. Cocaine acts on the brain by stimulating the limbic system. The limbic system is associated with pleasure and motivation. Cocaine also leads to increased dopamine activity, meaning the brain perceives higher levels of this reward-related chemical. This means that brains start to draw links between cocaine use and pleasure. This leads to cycles of cravings, drug-seeking and frequent use. This is how cocaine addiction develops. It can sometimes be difficult to delineate between ‘moderate’ use and addiction.

If you are experiencing any of the following, you are likely dealing with a cocaine addiction:

  • increased use (higher doses or more frequently)


  • feeling very low, stressed or angry in the periods between use


  • struggling to cut down even when you intend to


  • finding drug use takes up a lot of your attention and time


  • becoming socially withdrawn



  • experiencing worsening physical health



  • difficulties maintaining work commitments


  • tension with loved ones


  • financial difficulties


  • you find yourself being deceitful

There are also physical signs of heavy cocaine use. These include:

  • your body temperature struggling to regulate itself


  • lack of appetite


  • nosebleeds


  • damage to sinuses and septum


  • change in sleeping patterns (likely needing less sleep)


  • issues with renal systems


  • cardiovascular incidents (including heart attack or stroke)

Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

Cocaine is not considered to be addictive in a physical sense. Instead, it is thought to be linked with psychological dependency. This means that withdrawing from cocaine can leave you feeling quite uncomfortable.

Whilst withdrawing from cocaine, you may experience:

  • feeling agitated or anxious
  • feeling restless or fidgety
  • feeling depressed
  • feeling generally physically uncomfortable
  • experience instances of bad dreams
  • experience cognitive impairment

Cocaine Detection

One of the key concerns drug users may have is around the detection of substances in the body. Just like with food or drink, when substances enter our body, they remain in our system until they have been fully processed. The length of time a substance stays in our bodies depends on the half-life of a drug. A half-life is the length of time it takes for half of a drug to leave the body.

When a substance is processed, the body starts to break it down. This means that there can be traces of a drug – or its metabolites – for some time following drug use. These periods are known as detection windows. The detection windows for cocaine alter depending on the method of screening.

Cocaine can be identified in various bodily matters, including blood, hair, saliva and urine.


  • Blood: traces of cocaine can be identified for up to 2 days following use
  • Saliva: for up to 48 hours after use.
  • Urine: cocaine and its metabolites can be detected for up to 3 days
  • Hair: has a much longer detection window. This is because traces of substances and their metabolites can be identified in air follicles. Unlike saliva, blood or cocaine, hair is not routinely secreted – instead, it grows. This means that cocaine can be detected in hair for months, or even years.


There are a myriad of factors that may alter these detection windows. Heavy cocaine users may find that their detection windows ‘overlap’, therefore resulting in longer periods when cocaine can be identified in their system. This means that the above detection times are a general rule rather than strict absolutes.


When Does Drug Screening Happen?

There may be some instances where you are asked to participate in a drug screening. These are most likely to happen as part of health and safety protocols in particular jobs – including those working at heights or using heavy machinery – and in connection with legal investigations. This can include drug testing on arrest or as part of a vehicle stop. If your test shows a positive reading for cocaine, you may face either legal consequences or disciplinary action in the workplace. This can include fines, sentencing to time in prison or discretionary action at work.

How To Recover From Cocaine: Accessing Drug Intervention

At UKAT, we believe that everyone deserves access to specialist drug addiction support. This is why we offer a range of different treatment options to help with cocaine addiction at a range of different price points. We offer inpatient and outpatient access to our cocaine rehab clinics, as well as affordable drug rehab options.
Typically, cocaine addiction help will work in two key stages: detox and rehab.

Cocaine Detox

Detoxing comes first, as the goal of this stage is to reduce cravings and monitor your physical and mental health. When you start to decrease your cocaine intake, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can be both difficult and distracting. Starting with detox hopes to give you the upper hand. It is a way of both mitigating risk and reducing the likelihood of relapse in the early stages of cocaine recovery.

Cocaine Rehab

Following detox, people often find that they have obtained a newfound clarity. Without the diversion of unsettling cravings, it is quite common for people to feel an improved ability to focus. This gives a prime opportunity to reflect. Reflection is a key element of rehabilitation. During rehab treatment, you may access a range of therapies, group support and enrichment opportunities. During these times, with the support of professionals, you will have the chance to reacquaint yourself with your thoughts and feelings outside of the influence of cocaine. This can happen during 1-1 psychotherapy, enrichment opportunities, mindfulness sessions, and peer engagement in treatment.

This approach aims to combat both the physical and psychological effects of cocaine addiction, giving you the strongest start to a long-term recovery. Some people may find that following rehab, they need more sustained support. For these cases, tailored aftercare programmes are available. These can be especially helpful in reducing the risks of relapsing once formal rehab has been completed.

If you’re ready to combat your cocaine addiction, contact us at UKAT today.