Symptoms, Signs & Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Understanding the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction can help you or a loved one make a decision about treatment. Every experience with cocaine addiction is different, and if you or a loved one are struggling, we are here to help.

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine addiction and substance abuse

Cocaine, also known as coke, snow, or nose candy, is the second most commonly used narcotic in the United States. Causing a high that brings about feelings of euphoria and exhilaration, cocaine blocks pain receptors in the brain leaving the user with feelings of pleasure for about thirty minutes at a time. Because the high does not last, the user must consume more of the drug in order to feel the same euphoric effects, resulting in the development of a tolerance for cocaine.

Commonly seen as a white powdery substance or in the form of crystals (known as crack cocaine), users can snort, inject, ingest, inhale (as a vapor), or rub the drug on his or her gums to get high. The varying routes of administration for cocaine also make it one of the most deadly and life-consuming addictions in existence.

An addiction that can impact several areas of a person’s life, cocaine has been blamed for countless deaths. Impairment in functioning, decrease in cognitive abilities, and the number of health risks associated with the substance are what make cocaine an extremely dangerous drug. However, those who seek treatment for cocaine use disorder have a greater chance of eliminating these negative effects and regaining control over his or her life.


Cocaine addiction statistics

Studies have found that 3.6 million Americans use and abuse cocaine and that nearly 15% of the total population has used cocaine at least once. Recent studies have found that 75% of those who experiment with cocaine ultimately become addicted.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

Addiction experts agree that a mixture of genetic, physical, and environmental contributors can make some individuals more susceptible to a cocaine use disorder. When trying to determine that susceptibility, consider the following explanations:

Genetic: A number of researchers believe that addiction is heritable. Individuals with a parent or sibling who have struggled with substance use or addiction are at a greater risk for becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, including cocaine.

Physical: Dopamine, the chemical in the brain most effected by cocaine use, is altered when a person uses the drug. The parts of the brain that control the release of this chemical are also adversely affected.

Environmental: Certain environments and circumstances could lead a person to begin using cocaine. Living in a chaotic place or experiencing chronic stress may result in a person using cocaine to escape the world around him or her. Exposure to drug use and access to cocaine also increases a person’s likelihood of abusing cocaine.

Risk Factors:

  • Cocaine exposure before birth
  • Easy access to cocaine
  • Exposure to drug use
  • Chaotic home environment
  • Preexisting mental illness
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Chronic stress
  • Peer pressure to use cocaine

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

Depending on the severity of the addiction, signs and symptoms of cocaine use disorder can vary. The amount of cocaine used, the duration of use, and the individual physical and mental health states are what cause variances in the signs and symptoms of coke use. It is helpful to take note of the following to know whether or not a person is suffering from cocaine use disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggression
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Increased energy
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hurried speech

Physical symptoms:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Nose bleeds
  • Increased heart rate
  • Profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Dilated pupils

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic
  • Paranoia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities or things
  • Depressed mood
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased anxiety


Effects of cocaine addiction

Long-term use of cocaine can have devastating effects on a person’s life. Also wreaking havoc on the lives of his or her friends and loved ones, the following effects have been known to occur when cocaine use becomes the focus of an individual’s existence:

  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Family discord
  • Divorce
  • Financial strife
  • Loss of employment
  • Academic failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Obliteration of nasal tissue
  • Loss of one’s sense of smell
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor lung function
  • Permanent damage to vital organs
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Overdose
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

People with a cocaine use disorder often meet diagnostic criteria for other mental health conditions. Furthermore, those with an undiagnosed mental health disorder may begin to use cocaine in attempts to reduce symptoms of another disorder. The following mental health conditions are commonly seen in those who use and abuse cocaine:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Conduct disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal & overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal:

Symptoms of withdrawal can occur when a chronic user of cocaine abruptly ceases his or her use of the drug. Symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine involve:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Intense cravings for more cocaine
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Drowsiness
  • Vivid dreams
  • Increase in appetite

Effects of cocaine overdose:

A cocaine overdose requires immediate medical attention. With one of the consequences being death as a result of overdose, a person presenting with any of these symptoms should be taken to the nearest emergency room for medical intervention:

  • Nausea
  • Profuse vomiting
  • Delirium
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Labored breathing
  • Signs of stroke (e.g. face dropping, weak limbs, difficultly speaking)
  • Signs of heart attack (e.g. chest discomfort, pain in the neck, back, jaw, stomach, or arms, and lightheadedness)