Cocaine Symptoms & Effects

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn About Cocaine Abuse

Made from the leaves of the coca plant, cocaine, also known as coke or blow, is a powerful and illegal stimulant that typically comes either in a white powder or in a crystal form known as crack cocaine. As a stimulant, the drug tends to increase the level of activation in a user’s body when ingested, which can result in excessive energy, racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, fast speech, and feelings of invincibility, among other symptoms. When used, cocaine produces a strong, pleasurable high, though the effects typically last no more than 30 minutes at a time. Because the high is short, cocaine users will sometimes engage in cocaine binges and repeatedly take hits of cocaine sometimes for days on end. Long-term use of cocaine can result in tolerance, which then requires users to take larger and larger doses of the drug to achieve the desired high.

Cocaine produces a strong high that can lead to a powerful addiction. When a person becomes addicted to this drug, that individual’s life can become centered on securing the next hit. While winning a battle against cocaine abuse can feel all but impossible when done alone, it is possible to reclaim one’s life with proper treatment.


Cocaine Addiction Statistics

According to a 2008 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly two million people use cocaine at least once per month and almost 360,000 are active users. The majority of these people are 18- to 25-year-old men.

The dangers of cocaine are not restricted simply to its direct effects on one’s body. The feeling of invincibility that cocaine users experience can be dangerous in and of itself and can encourage people to perform dangerous or risky acts. According to a recent report from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), nearly 500,000 hospital visits have been related to cocaine use.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Cocaine Addiction

Substance abuse experts agree that one’s risk of abusing cocaine cannot be traced to a single gene or environmental factor. Rather, one’s risk of abusing cocaine arises from a mix of genetic and environmental factors. These factors can include:

Genetic: As with other mental health disorders and substance use disorders, a person is at a higher risk of abusing cocaine if his or her family members also abuse the drug. For example, variations in a person’s individual biology, which are passed down genetically, can also influence a person’s chances of developing an addiction to cocaine. Cocaine works by increasing the brain’s available supply of dopamine, a neurotransmitter commonly associated with pleasure. The biology of some people results in them having naturally lower levels of dopamine, and these people can find drug use more pleasurable, increasing the chance of developing an addiction.

Environmental: Genetics play an important role in determining a person’s vulnerability to cocaine addiction, but it is important to also consider potential environmental factors. People who are exposed to environments where cocaine is readily available are more likely to develop an addiction, as are people who are exposed to violence, traumatic experiences, severe chronic stress, or childhood abuse or neglect.

Risk Factors:

  • Having lower natural dopamine levels in one’s brain
  • Being related to people who use cocaine or other drugs
  • Having a family history of mental illness
  • Being in an environment with a high availability of cocaine
  • Being exposed to crime or violence
  • Suffering from abuse or neglect during childhood
  • Experiencing a personal history of other mental health diagnoses
  • Having family members with a history of mental illness
  • Using other drugs
  • Being exposed to cocaine prenatally

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

People who are struggling with cocaine abuse may exhibit a number of signs and may experience a number of symptoms related to their cocaine abuse. These signs and symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Experiencing financial troubles as a result of spending money on cocaine
  • Rapid or excited speech
  • Acting in a risky or impulsive manner
  • Unexplained absences from work
  • Changes in one’s friends or social circle
  • Aggressive outbursts
  • Failing to meet work obligations

Physical symptoms:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pupil dilation
  • Malnourishment
  • Illnesses or STIs resulting from risky behavior
  • Bodily harm related to the method of ingestion, such as nose bleeds or burned lips from smoking a crack pipe

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty with attention or concentration
  • Poor judgment
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions, such as belief in one’s own invincibility

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Withdrawal from social relationships
  • Loss of pleasure in daily activities
  • Conveying distress about one’s cocaine use
  • Agitation or irritability


Effects of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine abuse can produce profoundly devastating consequences across nearly all domains of a person’s life. These negative effects can include:

  • Organ damage
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Stress on, or dissolution of, relationships
  • Loss of employment
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Incarceration
  • Financial problems
  • Development of mental health concerns
  • Polysubstance use
  • Death from heart attack or overdose

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Sometimes people who use cocaine meet criteria for other diagnoses, some of which may include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD)
  • Gambling disorder

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Cocaine Addiction Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: Over time, a person’s body can become accustomed to the presence of cocaine. When this is the case, if the person suddenly ceases using the drug, his or her body experiences a shock and must readjust to operating without the substance. This process, called withdrawal, can include some of the following symptoms:

  • Strong cravings for the drug
  • Paranoia
  • Nightmares
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation

Effects of cocaine overdose: Ingesting more of a drug than a person’s body is able to metabolize can result in an overdose, a potentially fatal medical emergency. People who use cocaine and exhibit the following signs and symptoms may be experiencing an overdose and should receive immediate medical attention:

  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fever
  • Stroke
  • Seizures

Twelve Oaks allowed me to seek healing from my cocaine addiction. My counselor and the caring staff here truly believed in me and were supportive in my journey. Now, I am sober and have never felt better.

– Julia F.