With more than 1.5 million coke users in the U.S. today, not all of them are as obvious as others.
If you don’t realize your friend or family member is addicted to cocaine, you should forgive yourself because so many addicts work hard to hide it. The signs of a coke addict don’t all look the same, but there are some basic patterns that we find in just about everyone addicted to the drug.
Here are four ways to spot a coke addiction if it’s taken over the life of a loved one.
1. Watch Their Mood
If you find that someone is erratic, unpredictable, and terribly defensive when you confront them, they might be hiding a drug addiction. Someone who uses cocaine to extreme excess is much different than a casual user or someone who uses it once at a party.
When you use cocaine for the first time, it usually makes you feel more social and chatty. Some people can become more vibrant and confident in ways that they usually aren’t. However, that high is met with a severe low that is hard to manage as people get deeper into their addiction.
When someone is coming down off of a binge or a serious high, they usually become hostile and can even avoid engaging in conversation. The residual effects of cocaine are hard to deal with. Some people turn to alcohol, while others begin to treat the low with more cocaine, which is when the cycle of addiction takes hold.
If you notice someone you care about and otherwise know very well is subject to extreme mood swings, it’s likely they’re struggling with cocaine addiction.
Figuring out how to spot a coke addict is hard during the early phases, as the addict might seem more friendly and outgoing than normal. However, when there’s a negativity to follow, that’s how you know addiction is present. If someone tries to quit, these symptoms might come with even greater extremity.
2. Extreme Financial Despair
Cocaine is a hard drug for anyone of limited means to even start to engage with. It’s out of reach for even many casual users, which is sometimes one of the reasons more people don’t become addicted. However, for those who become addicted, they’ll start to find a way to fund their addiction and their obsession with the drug.
The impact of the drug makes it hard for the average office worker to maintain employment while taking it. Movies like Wolf of Wall Street show us people with lots of expendable income taking the drug and being able to maintain highs for a long time. In a work environment like the stock market, extreme highs and lows are masked as just part of the job.
However, if you’re working a pretty standard job where things aren’t so extreme, it’s going to be clear that you’re on a drug. It can cause your supervisors or your colleagues to avoid working with you. You’ll end up paying for your addiction via decreased income and even job loss.
People who need to feed a habit start turning to crime. They’ll commit fraud or even steal to feed the addiction. If this starts to happen, it means the addiction has gotten in the way of your loved one’s ability to make decisions.
3. Look for Physical Changes
When someone is using any kind of chemical, it’s natural for the brain to change. Abusing a drug like cocaine for a long time is going to upset the natural balance of chemicals in your brain. Your ability to feel happiness, sadness, or excitement in any normal way is going to be jumbled up.
The people in an addict’s life are going to be the first to know that something is wrong when they see that their loved one is high. They’ll find that they don’t have much emotion at all when they’re not high and that they might seem manic and overjoyed when they are.
Ongoing use starts to change the body of the person who is addicted to cocaine. Regular use tears up the nasal cavity and leads to chronic nosebleeds, which become more obvious as the user does it more and more. They can even end up with bowel problems, as the bowels get gangrene.
Over time, cocaine addicts might even lose their sense of smell. The structure of their nose can even change is they snort enough of it. Look at comedian Artie Lange for an extreme way that your face can change.
4. Mental Health Can Deteriorate Fast
While addicted to any drug, your sense of reality can deteriorate fast. People lose touch with what matters, become focused on and obsessed with strange things, and can even start to become extremely paranoid. When coke addicts begin to worry that someone is doing them wrong, they can go to an extreme place emotionally.
Cocaine and crack users or freebasers experience exacerbated mental health deterioration. If there were any mental health issues present previous to the addiction, they’re going to be much worse once they’re addicted. Even when they’re not using, they’re going to still keep experiencing those problems that come with addiction.
Cocaine users are going to need a serious mental health assessment once they’re clean. There will need to be a dual diagnosis to address the addiction-related problems and the underlying issues. When someone is plagued with the irritability, insomnia, and fatigue that follow coke addiction, it’s hard to parse through the issues.
Don’t Be Surprised When a Loved One Is Addicted to Cocaine
When someone becomes addicted to cocaine, they’re not alone in that there are millions of people who’ve struggled with this very addiction in their life. It’s not an easy addiction to kick and hard to treat, but still very possible to get over.
When someone overdoses, check out our guide to understanding just how that happened.