Cocaine Addiction Symptoms & Warning Signs

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine addiction & abuse

Cocaine is a strong illicit substance that is a member of the stimulant category of drugs. Also referred to as “coke”, cocaine is often abused recreationally due to its ability to bring on feelings of power, euphoria, and invincibility. It also has the ability to enhance one’s sense of self-esteem and perceptions, and trigger a sense of grandiosity. Cocaine can be smoked, snorted, or injected. The high that it produces is often short, lasting only about 30 minutes. Because of the sensations that it causes and brief high that it produces, many cocaine users find that they start using more and more of the substance. As a user increases his or her dosage, or takes it more frequently, changes begin to develop within his or her brain. These changes can lead to the onset of dependence, tolerance, and addiction. Sadly, once a cocaine addiction has developed, it can be terribly challenging to overcome. However, with proper professional treatment, it is possible to recover from a cocaine addiction.


Statistics on cocaine addiction & abuse

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that amongst those who are ages 18 and older, 0.3% battle with cocaine use disorder. According to the Office of the National Drug Control Policy, roughly 3.6 million people use cocaine regularly within the country.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction & abuse

There are a variety of causes and risk factors that have been known to impact an individual’s likelihood of developing a cocaine addiction, or cocaine use disorder, including:

Genetic: People whose parents or siblings have a substance use disorder are at increased risk for also having problems with chemical dependency. Certain heritable traits also increase the likelihood that a person will struggle with substance abuse and addiction.

Environmental: The APA states that there are a number of ways that an individual’s environment can add to the onset of cocaine abuse and addiction. Environmental factors such as prenatal exposure to cocaine, having parents who abused cocaine, living within an unstable home as a child, and witnessing violence within one’s community can all serve as factors in which a cocaine use disorder can develop.

Risk Factors: In addition to the environmental factors previously stated, there can also be a number of other factors that add to an individual’s vulnerability to start abusing cocaine:

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

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction & abuse

The signs and symptoms that might be shown by someone who is abusing cocaine can vary, however most commonly include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

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


Effects of cocaine addiction & abuse

When an individual keeps abusing cocaine, he or she is putting himself or herself at serious risk. All areas of their lives can be destroyed in one way or another when the abuse of this substance is allowed to continue. Some of the ways in which cocaine can impact an individual can include:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders

Unfortunately, it is common for individuals who battle with cocaine use disorder to also struggle with symptoms of other mental illnesses at the same time. Some of these conditions can include:

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

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: When an individual abuses cocaine and then abruptly stops his or her use, or attempts to lessen how much he or she is consuming, withdrawal can begin. The symptoms connected to cocaine withdrawal can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, and can occur within a mere few hours of one’s last use. Some of the symptoms and effects that can occur during the withdrawal period can include:

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

Effects of cocaine overdose: Whenever a person abuses cocaine, he or she is putting himself or herself in harm’s way for overdosing. An overdose can occur when a person consumes more of a substance than he or she is able to handle physically. Since cocaine is so potent and so quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier, people can easily consume too much without even realizing it. Therefore, if someone overdoses on cocaine, it should be treated as a medical emergency and treatment should be obtained as quickly as possible. Some of the signs of a cocaine overdose can include:

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

My daughter was struggling with a cocaine addiction. Nothing I did seemed to help her. It wasn't until she went to Burkwood that she was able to finally turn her life around.

– Mary