Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant drug. People abuse two forms of cocaine: powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. In 2021, about 4.8 million people reported using cocaine and about 1.4 million were addicted to it.

Chronic cocaine use results in functional and structural changes in the brain that change the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Over time, the development of dependence and addiction to cocaine can cause a range of physical, behavioral, and emotional symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Physical Signs of Cocaine Abuse

Some common physical signs of cocaine abuse include:

  • Dilated pupils – Cocaine causes pupils to become larger than usual.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure – Cocaine stimulates the cardiovascular system, leading to elevated heart rate and blood pressure. This can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Weight loss – Cocaine is an appetite suppressant, and chronic use can lead to significant weight loss and malnutrition.
  • Tremors or twitching – Cocaine can cause involuntary muscle movements, such as tremors or twitching, particularly in the face and limbs. It can also cause people to grind their teeth.
  • Changes in sleep patterns – Cocaine abuse can disrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or irregular sleep habits.
  • Excessive sweating – Cocaine can cause profuse sweating, even in cool environments, due to its stimulant effects on the body’s temperature regulation.
  • Skin problems – Skin infections, abscesses, or sores are common, especially for individuals who inject cocaine intravenously.
  • Increased risk of infectious disease – Sharing contaminated drug paraphernalia or engaging in risky behaviors associated with cocaine use can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

These physical symptoms can vary in severity and be influenced by factors such as frequency and duration of cocaine use, method of administration (for example, snorting, injecting, or smoking), and individual differences in metabolism and health status.

Behavioral Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine abuse can lead to erratic behavior, unexplained increases in energy, mood swings, and unpredictable reactions. Individuals may become more agitated, irritable, or aggressive, especially when experiencing withdrawal symptoms or cravings. People who are addicted to cocaine may experience these symptoms frequently.

Other behavioral signs of cocaine abuse and addiction include:

  • Secrecy and lying to loved ones – Cocaine addicts may become more secretive about their activities to conceal drug use. Lying or manipulation becomes common to hide addiction from others.
  • Financial strain – Addiction often leads to financial difficulties as money is spent on acquiring cocaine rather than on savings, bills, and one’s needs.
  • Social isolation – Individuals may withdraw from social interactions to avoid judgment or scrutiny.
  • Relationship changes – Relationships with friends and family may suffer due to conflicts arising from addiction-related behavior.
  • Neglecting responsibilities – Addicts may neglect duties at work, school, or home due to drug use.
  • Loss of interest – Hobbies and activities once enjoyed may take a backseat to cocaine use.
  • Continued use despite consequences – Despite negative outcomes associated with abusing cocaine, addicts may struggle to stop using.
  • Risky behaviors – Cocaine addiction can lead to engaging in dangerous activities to obtain or use the drug.

Brief Periods of Excitement or Stimulation

Many cocaine users exhibit distinct behavioral shifts. It’s often evident when they are sober versus under the influence of cocaine.

The effects of cocaine are short-lived, typically lasting only 30 to 60 minutes. While using cocaine, individuals may appear energetic and confident. On the other hand, when abstaining, they might seem irritable, withdrawn, or sluggish.

If someone you know frequently shifts between these states, possibly within a single evening, they may be using cocaine.

Disrupted Sleep Cycles

Since cocaine is a stimulant drug, it increases wakefulness and can cause insomnia. Even more worrying, however, is that cocaine abuse can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

After taking cocaine, sleeping may seem impossible because of its stimulant effects. Even after the drug’s effects have worn off, getting restful sleep is still challenging. People often experience a comedown when the high wears off, causing them to feel irritable and restless.

When individuals are tired, irritable, and restless, they’re more likely to rely on cocaine for energy. This continues the cycle and leads to chronic sleep problems. Not only that, but cocaine is a short-acting drug so the high doesn’t last very long. As a result, people often binge on the drug.

Chronic Nosebleeds or Sinus Problems

Cocaine typically comes in powder form. While it can be smoked or injected, it is most commonly snorted. Snorting cocaine or other substances can damage the nasal passages, leading to irritation, inflammation, and nosebleeds.

Additionally, cocaine abuse can cause nasal congestion, runny nose, or chronic sinusitis due to irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages. It can also worsen existing sinus issues.

Cocaine Dependence and Withdrawal

Regular or chronic cocaine use can cause individuals to become less sensitive to the drug’s effects. This is known as tolerance. People who develop a tolerance must take higher doses to achieve the desired effects. However, increasing cocaine use can have negative effects on the mind and body.

When tolerance develops, dependence usually follows. People who become dependent on cocaine experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it or cut back on their dose.

Common symptoms of cocaine withdrawal include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Agitation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Slowed thinking or cognitive impairment
  • Intense cravings for cocaine

Although cocaine withdrawal is generally not life-threatening, it can be severe and difficult to cope with on your own. The best way to treat withdrawal is with the help of a trusted detox program.

Cocaine Overdose

Taking too much cocaine at once can result in a potentially life-threatening overdose. Symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia (elevated body temperature)
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Death

Call 911 or seek emergency medical assistance if you or someone you love may be overdosing on cocaine.

Find Help for Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

If you or a loved one has a substance use disorder, know that you are not alone. Our supportive team at First Step Behavioral Health is here to help. Contact us today to learn about our cocaine addiction treatment program.

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