Cocaine Addiction Symptoms and Warning Signs

Content Overview

Cocaine is a powerful drug that can quickly lead to a crippling addiction when abused. Knowing the signs of cocaine abuse and addiction is important as it can help lead to early diagnosis and rehab treatment. Rehab treatment comes in diffferent forms but the first step is recognising the signs and symptoms and getting professional guidance

Cocaine abuse often results in a cocaine addiction, but not always. There are those who can use this drug recreationally without ever having a problem. However, it is important to be able to recognise the symptoms and signs of a cocaine addiction before it fully takes hold. The sooner you act, the sooner you can take back control of your life once more.

When cocaine abuse spirals out of control, the result is usually a crippling addiction that can then be extremely difficult to break. Based on this then, you can probably appreciate by now that early intervention is definitely the key to a full recovery from cocaine abuse and addiction.

Cocaine Abuse Warning Signs

If you are a cocaine user, you might have found that you quickly developed a tolerance to the effects of the drug. This means requiring more of the drug to achieve the same level of pleasure or satisfaction as when you first started using. Increasing the dose of cocaine is one of the first warning signs of cocaine abuse, and it should not be taken lightly.

It is highly likely that once you start increasing the dose of cocaine you are taking you will need to continue doing this to achieve the desired feelings of pleasure or relief. Your tolerance to the drug will continue to increase with time, meaning that you will always keep needing more to achieve satisfaction.

You might also find that you are becoming preoccupied with cocaine. When you first started taking the drug, you might very well have enjoyed the experience, but you may not have thought about the drug again until the next time you were presented with the opportunity to use it. However, if you start to use the drug more frequently, you could begin thinking about it more often. Constantly thinking about cocaine is another warning sign to watch out for.

Long Term Cocaine Abuse Signs

Long term use of cocaine has a devastating impact on the mind and body of most users. Continued abuse of the drug affects the way the brain works, preventing you from being able to feel pleasure unless using the drug. Research conducted at the University of Cambridge found that chronic cocaine use can also speed up the aging process.

The imaging study showed that cocaine addicts in their thirties and forties had brains that were indicative of people in their sixties or older. As well as this, cocaine addiction results in memory loss and poor cognitive functioning over time.

Some of the long-term effects of cocaine abuse are:

  • high blood pressure
  • increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • lung damage
  • liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • respiratory problems
  • malnutrition
  • disorientation
  • apathy
  • sexual problems
  • severe depression

Short Term Cocaine Abuse Signs

If you are worried about someone you care about using cocaine, there are a number of signs to look out for. Short term signs of cocaine abuse include:

  • extreme euphoria
  • dilated pupils
  • trouble sleeping
  • erratic behaviour
  • rapid breathing
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • hyperactivity
  • aggressive or violent behaviour
  • paranoia
  • panic
  • depression
  • anxiety

Cocaine Abuse and the Brain

Cocaine abuse has a profound effect on the human brain. It can cause changes to the way in which the brain functions, and it can even cause long-term damage as well as speed up the aging process, as discussed in the paragraphs above.

Taking cocaine stimulates the pleasure centre in the brain, causing a flood of the natural feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine, to be released. Dopamine is naturally released by the brain in response to things designed to make you feel good, such as the smell of food you enjoy for example.

However, unlike when dopamine is naturally produced by the brain and then reabsorbed, when it is produced in response to cocaine, the brain does not reabsorb it. The consequent build-up of chemicals in the brain results in a surge of pleasure that then affects the reward centre, causing the affected individual to associate the drug with pleasure and reward. This can make you want to use it again and again.

After a while, your brain will rewire itself around cocaine use and will no longer naturally produce dopamine in response to pleasure. This in turn means that in order to feel any pleasure, you will need to take cocaine.

Early Warning Signs of Cocaine Abuse

Spotting the signs of cocaine abuse in a loved one is crucial as it could allow you to take action before the situation gets out of hand. These early warning signs can be easily missed though, especially if you are unaware that a person you care about has been abusing this drug. Nevertheless, if you notice, for example, that this person is euphoric one moment and depressed the next, it could be due to cocaine abuse.

Sudden changes in behaviour can indicate a problem with illicit drugs, but not always, which is that which makes the whole situation rather tricky. You need to look for other warning signs as well, such as dilated pupils, loss of appetite, aggression, and paranoia. If you believe that someone close to you is abusing cocaine, it is particularly important to raise the issue as soon as possible.

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Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

There are a number of symptoms and behavioural changes synonymous with cocaine addiction. For your information before we proceed, addiction is characterised by a compulsive need to use a substance, despite knowing that negative consequences could result from your use.

So if you have an addiction to cocaine, you are likely to continue to use it even when you have promised yourself that you wouldn’t. This is because you will find it almost impossible to resist the cravings. You are likely to use more of the drug than you planned, and you might be putting your use of it above everything else. You will become preoccupied with the drug and you could consequently suffer financial problems because of your use.

You are likely to lie to loved ones about your use and you may feel guilty after using it, especially if you promised family members or friends that you would not use it.

Causes of Cocaine Addiction

There is no single cause of cocaine addiction in every addict. Every person is different and the reasons they develop addiction will be specific to them. Nonetheless, while there is no way of pinpointing an exact cause of cocaine addiction, there are certain factors that could increase the likelihood of it developing. These include:


Genes play a role in the development of addiction as research has shown that it can run in families. However, it is not simply a case of having the gene for addiction, as there are several different genes involved. Moreover, just having certain genes does not necessarily mean you will become addicted yourself.


The environment in which you grew up in can affect your risk for future addiction. If you were surrounded by people who abused alcohol or drugs when you were growing up, you might have developed the belief that substance abuse is normal.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure often results in some people abusing drugs when they would rather not. The need for acceptance by peers can cause some individuals to act in a way that they might be uncomfortable with.

Unresolved trauma

Emotional trauma often leads to substance abuse. Many individuals take drugs to numb the pain or to help them forget about a traumatic experience from their past.

Mental health problems

Substance abuse is closely linked with mental health problems, with many people self-medicating with mood-altering chemicals.

Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

The first step on the road to recovery from cocaine addiction is withdrawing from the drug; this can be complicated process though thanks to the symptoms associated with it. While rarely life-threatening in and of itself, cocaine withdrawal is unpleasant and uncomfortable and can result in symptoms such as:

  • intense cravings for the drug
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • irritability
  • lethargy
  • extreme fatigue
  • insomnia
  • trouble concentrating
  • hyperactivity
  • tremors
  • vivid nightmares
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • increased appetite
  • restlessness
  • suicidal thoughts.

Cocaine Overdose

Overdose is, unfortunately, a common problem insofar as cocaine abuse is concerned. In 2016, in England and Wales alone, cocaine deaths rose by 16 per cent, from 320 to 371. This was the highest number of deaths from cocaine abuse since records began in 1993 (according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)).

It is believed that higher purity cocaine is responsible for the surge in deaths. As cocaine purity levels rise, people’s risk of overdose increases right along with it. Elevated levels of cocaine can cause the body to go into overdrive due to overstimulation of the central nervous system. This causes the heart to race and blood pressure to rise dangerously high.

The effects of cocaine are amplified when too much of the drug is taken, and this can then lead to the shutdown of various physiological systems in the body. Fatal cocaine overdose is common among those who take too much of the drug or who mix it with other chemical substances.

Cocaine Overdose Symptoms

It is important to be alert to the signs of a cocaine overdose if you are a regular user of the drug or if you know someone who uses it. The symptoms include:

It is important to seek medical help immediately if you or someone you love is displaying the above symptoms after taking cocaine. These symptoms could be the prelude to a stroke, heart attack, or seizure.

Cocaine Overdose Treatment

Cocaine overdose requires medical intervention to reduce the risk of severe or life-threatening complications. Various tests will have to be done to assess the extent of the damage.

If a dangerously high temperature is present, steps will be taken to lower it while medical professionals will continuously monitor the patient to ensure there are no issues with the heart. Sedative drugs could also be administered to keep the affected person calm and to give him or her the chance to recover from the impact of the overdose.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is cocaine addiction physical or psychological?

Addiction to mood-altering drugs usually involves both physical and psychological dependence. With some drugs, the addiction can be more of a physical problem, but in the case of cocaine, the psychological issues are the biggest concern. Having said that, those who abuse cocaine will usually experience both physical and psychological symptoms when they try to quit.

Is cocaine addiction hard to beat?

Cocaine addiction is notoriously difficult to beat, but not impossible. The intense cravings for the drug can often be a huge barrier to recovery as many affected individuals find it hard to resist the pull of the drug. To have the best chance of a long-term successful recovery, it is important to engage in a good programme of detoxification and rehabilitation with support from fully-trained individuals. By committing to a programme and making necessary changes, you can overcome your addiction once and for all.

How is cocaine addiction treated?

Cocaine addiction is treated with a detox and rehabilitation programme. Detox will help to break the cycle of drug abuse while rehabilitation deals with the underlying emotional and psychological issues that may have caused the illness in the first place.
Through behavioural therapies, you can learn how to quit cocaine for good and develop new healthier strategies for dealing with life situations going forward.

What medications are used for cocaine addiction?

There are no medications approved for use in the treatment of cocaine withdrawal and addiction, but there are many that are currently being trialled for their efficacy. During treatment for cocaine addiction, medications that could help to curb cravings and reduce symptoms associated with withdrawal such as depression and anxiety may be used.

How does cocaine addiction start?

Cocaine addiction starts with abuse of the drug. As cocaine is a Class A illegal drug here in the UK, any use of it is classed as abuse. However, not everyone who uses the drug will develop an addiction. Those who do tend to start by increasing their use of the substance when they develop a tolerance to it.
With frequent use, you will need to increase the dose to achieve the desired level of satisfaction. If this trend continues, you are likely to develop both a physical and psychological dependence, which will increase the chances of you becoming addicted.

How can you overcome a cocaine addiction?

The best way to overcome cocaine addiction is to commit to a programme of recovery. Think about the reasons you want to quit the drug and seek help from your doctor. There are many options for treatment in the UK, including NHS-run programmes and those provided by charity organisations and private clinics.
Committing to a programme of recovery means deciding to quit cocaine and doing everything required to achieve full sobriety. You will need to complete a programme of detoxification and rehabilitation to get your life back on track. With a good programme of care and support, you can say goodbye to cocaine abuse for good.

How bad is cocaine addiction?

Just like with any other addiction to a mood-altering drug, a cocaine addiction can have negative consequences for many aspects of your life. Without treatment, your mental and physical health will be affected and your ability to live a normal life will be impaired.
You should also be aware that you risk an overdose every time you take the drug because there is no way to tell how pure it is just by looking at it. It is important, therefore, that you seek help for your addiction as soon as possible.

Can cocaine addiction kill you?

Because there is a risk of overdose with cocaine abuse, your addiction could result in fatal consequences. You can also run the risk of developing life-threatening conditions such as heart, liver, and kidney damage if you continue to abuse the drug.

Can you recover from cocaine addiction?

While cocaine addiction might be difficult to beat, it is not impossible. Provided you are ready to get better and are prepared to make the necessary lifestyle changes, you can achieve a full recovery from a cocaine addiction.

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