Cocaine Addiction, Its Symptoms, and Warning Signs

cocaine addiction symptoms and warning signs

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 24 seconds. 

Cocaine is a very popular and addictive drug. It’s usually introduced as something harmless or even thrilling, and shared within a close group of peers. In small doses, cocaine could give one a feeling of excitement and energy as it stimulates high levels of dopamine, a chemical that bonds to neuron receptors in the brain to make us feel good.

However, what starts as just a fun icebreaker might lead to extreme drug dependence, addiction, physical and psychological damage, or even death. Cocaine abuse, once in place as a habit or coping response, is a gruesome cycle that does not end unless a person decides to stop the use of this substance and receive proper rehabilitation and treatment.

To help anyone you know how to avoid the horrible aftermath of being addicted to cocaine, you must first be aware of the signs that your friend or loved one may need help.

How Dangerous is Cocaine Addiction?

Normally the brain releases dopamine into the synapses, where it binds to receptors and then is recycled back. When one uses cocaine, the recycling process is stopped, causing a build-up of dopamine in the body, which explains the increase of the feeling of pleasure. This is what makes cocaine so enticing to people because the excessive levels of dopamine give them the sensation of an irregular “high.”

The influence of cocaine in the body is intense but short-lived, often lasting between 5-30 minutes depending largely on the method used. To keep the sensation, cocaine users often take frequent doses—thus developing a dangerous habit. 

This habit shortly turns into substance abuse, which over time harms the body and becomes an addiction. This is some of the physical damage brought about by long term cocaine use: 

  • Heart muscle and cell deterioration, causing heart complications and heart failure. 
  •  Constriction of blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure.
  • Damaged nasal cavities and lungs.
  • Gastrointestinal system problems, and damaged digestive tract
  • Impairment of the olfactory sensors and nasal passages, that can lead to losing sense of smell.
  • Chemical changes in the brain, due to abnormal dopamine release. This can cause psychotic tendencies, drug dependency, or even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

The effects of cocaine in a person manifest in visibly evident ways, especially when it is constantly used. While it does range from mild to extreme physical changes or shifts in behavior, it remains very important to pay attention to these changes to give people the help they need before it develops into an addiction. Here are some signs and symptoms you might observe from someone who uses cocaine frequently:

  • Over-excitement and hyperactivity
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Frequent nosebleeds or runny nose
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle tics
  • Overconfidence and reckless behavior
  • Powder or a white substance around nostrils
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Irregular sleeping habits
  • Periods of confusion
  • Paranoia

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

The effects of cocaine abuse depend on how long a person uses the substance. Continual use makes a person develop a dependence on it, which will eventually lead to higher levels of tolerance and worse consequences. Both short-term and long-term effects manifest because of this. Here are examples of short-term effects of cocaine:

  • Euphoria
  • Headaches
  • Decreased desire to sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irregular and/or increased heart rate

When cocaine is used for a long period, physical and psychological symptoms occur. The severity of damage of these symptoms increases with the increase of frequency of substance use. Long-term effects of cocaine include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Waves of memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme Aggression
  • Seizures
  • Dental problems
  • Depression

Seeking Treatment 

Cocaine abuse and cocaine addiction, although closely related, are two different things. Cocaine abuse if not dealt with can lead to an addiction. However, cocaine addiction is a whole other problem that is more difficult and complex.

When someone becomes addicted to a substance, there is a psychological and physical impact that comes with it. In addition, the body has been conditioned to process a drug so frequently, it becomes a necessity for a person to go back to physically feeling “normal.” From a psychological perspective, as well, if there is an alernative purpose for the use of this substance such as to feel pleasure, or to avoid pain, then it is more difficult to give it up. 

Most people who are addicted to cocaine deny the need to stop their use and deny that there is a problem in the first place. However, this is exactly when someone has to step in and intervene. When your loved one is dealing with this problem, it is important to approach him/her with empathy and understanding.  Someone with addiction must not be treated as if he/she is the problem, but regarded as someone who has the power to be a big part of a solution. Needed interventions that call for a change should be done in a way that makes a person feel safe and understood. 

Deciding to get treatment for an addiction is the first and most important step towards recovery. The next step is to seek professional help and treatment. 

There are several rehabilitation centers available, but not all of them are right for everyone. It’s helpful to seek an evaluation from an addiction professional first to determine the kind of support that is best for your loved one. Some people can quit the use of cocaine on their own, but many people still need professional centers both for medically assisted withdrawal and for following psychological and physical rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation centers are places set up to provide an environment for people to get

 motivated to stay clean and avoid the temptation of using any substance. A typical rehabilitation program includes mental health counseling, equine and art therapy, cognitive and behavioral therapy, support groups, 12-step programs, and measures against relapse.

Cocaine Withdrawal and the Path to Recovery

Cocaine addiction has proven to be difficult to overcome because of the body’s dependency on the substance. A sudden stop to the use of cocaine will cause withdrawal. A rehabilitation center that is supervised by professionals and physicians will be able to help deal with this problem, handling the two phases of a person’s withdrawal; the acute withdrawal and the protracted withdrawal.

Acute withdrawal is symptoms that are immediately felt when undergoing a cocaine detox. These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration problems
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

The protracted withdrawal refers to the psychological symptoms felt weeks or months after stopping the use of cocaine. This includes:

  • Agitation and/or shaking
  • Strong cravings
  • Depression
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Numbness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sleeping difficulties

Each person differs in how long rehabilitation and recovery takes place. This is dependent on how long a person has used the substance, body chemistry, tolerance, and how long the addiction lasts. 

Cocaine addiction destroys a person’s physical, mental, and emotional state. The goal of recovery is to recover the person as they truly are without the use of the substance. Many people who have experienced the same problem can overcome their addiction. This is proof that it is never too late to reestablish a drug-free life.

If you or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment in Catalina Island, CA, Roots Through Recovery can help. Reach out today to get started. Visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (866) 766-8776 for immediate assistance.

Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not necessarily reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. The purpose of this blog is not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. On the subject of safe or legal services, products, and appropriate therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case to case basis. 



  •   “Cocaine Addiction, Effects, and Symptoms.” Cirque Lodge. Alcohol Drug and Rehabilitation Center, 2018.
  •   “Understanding Drug Addiction – Drug Use Causes.” Cirque Lodge. Alcohol Drug and Rehabilitation Center, 2018,
  •   “Cocaine Addiction and Abuse.” Written by Jeffrey Juergens, Addiction Center, September 17, 2020.
  •   “Cocaine Treatment and Rehab.” Written by Jeffrey Juergens, Addiction Center, September 17, 2020.
  •   “Crack Cocaine Withdrawal and Detox.” Written by Jeffrey Juergens, Addiction Center, September 17, 2020.

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