What Are the Signs of Cocaine Use, Abuse, and Addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 15% of Americans over the age of 12 have used cocaine at some point in their lives. Cocaine is classed as a stimulant that works on the central nervous system to increase energy levels, which many people come to rely on as a way of coping with a stressful lifestyle or high-powered job.

While energy levels are maintained at accelerated levels when cocaine is used, it is also characterized by a raising heart and high blood pressure. Depending on the physical health of the user, the first or the hundredth time they use cocaine could be their last.

Among the more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, more than 7,000 were attributed to cocaine. Emergency department visits and drug-related overdoses are increasingly being linked with cocaine and currently accounts for over 40% of ER visits. These stats clearly show that cocaine abuse is a serious national problem that needs addressing.

CokeCirculating America through black market routes are two types of cocaine:

  • A powder form that users snort, inject or smoke
  • A crystallized or rock form, known as crack, which is most commonly smoked

Cocaine is powerfully addictive and has the capability of altering the brain’s chemical makeup, particularly if abused over a prolonged period of time.

Once a person has developed dependence of addiction to cocaine, it becomes progressively challenging for them to seek help at a cocaine addiction center. When someone has become addicted to a substance, their need to use is no longer within their control.

The unnerving fact is that if someone continues to use cocaine rather than seek treatment, there is more than likely going to be a tragic outcome. To prevent this, it is crucial to be aware of the warning signs that someone is either using cocaine recreationally or has become unable to control their need to use. Many people who seek cocaine rehabilitation do so as a result of a family intervention.

What to Look Out For

The effects of cocaine are generally quite short-lived although the drug acts quickly and within a few minutes, the user will experience a high that lasts anything from 5 to 30 minutes. The potency of cocaine’s effects depends on the method used to take it and how quickly it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

According to the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah, cocaine acts fastest when smoked, with injection being the second fastest method. NIDA reports that over 70% of admissions to cocaine addiction centers involve crack cocaine abuse.

A high from cocaine is created by the drug flooding the brain with dopamine which creates an exaggerated energy buzz. Because the brain’s function is accelerated by cocaine, users may be overly talkative or appear to be much more brash and bold than they ordinarily are.

Cocaine use is typically characterized by a “larger than life” presence that peaks and troughs within the space of an hour. Inhibitions can be lost and confidence boosted to an exaggerated degree that leads to out of character behaviors and extreme mood swings.

Because cocaine creates a high-octane high that keeps the user’s brain activity over-stimulated until it wears off, coming down can be an extreme experience. Cocaine users typically have a crash period when they’ve been using the drug and can appear withdrawn and irritable. They may eat and sleep more than usual in attempts to compensate for the energy cocaine abuse has drained.

Other signs of cocaine abuse include:

  • Powder residue around the mouth or nose
  • Marks from injecting cocaine
  • Burns on the hands and lips
  • Personal effects that include paraphernalia like syringes, pipes, razor blades, spoons, etc
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
  • Weight loss, sometimes extreme
  • Unpredictable behavior and mood swings
  • Increasingly risky behavior such as casual sexual encounters or minor misdemeanors
  • Photosensitivity (characterized by dilated pupils)
  • Constantly runny nose and random nosebleeds
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
  • Financial difficulties
  • Becoming isolated from loved ones and friends

Because cocaine leaves the body very quickly, it is not uncommon for users to binge on the drug. This means they will take the drug back-to-back so that they delay the comedown and maintain the high. Binging on cocaine is often the fastest path towards dependence and addiction than other, more “recreational” ways of using the drug.

Building a Tolerance

People who have been using cocaine for a while will tend to take higher doses to get the desired effect. This can exaggerate the symptoms considerably and has the potential to lead to anger, hostility and even violence. The negative effects of cocaine are more pronounced as a person continues to use and in time, they may experience more permanent mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

There is a significant correlation between addiction and mental health and for that reason; it is not unusual for people to be suffering from two concurrent conditions. These people are known as dual diagnosis and they require treatment at a cocaine rehab that addresses both illnesses separately but at the same time.

Getting Treatment at a Cocaine Rehabilitation Center

Although cocaine is a highly potent drug that has a significant influence on a person’s life, there are numerous routes to full cocaine rehabilitation available for someone struggling to cope. Cocaine rehab is challenging and it is always important to remember that cocaine rehabilitation is not a cure in itself. The best cocaine rehabilitation centers take considerable time to assess every patient admitted so as to devise the most appropriate cocaine rehabilitation program for their personal needs.


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