Cocaine Addiction: Signs and Symptoms
Cocaine is a stimulant that is sometimes associated with recreational use and partying. While cocaine can be used recreationally, it has high potential of leading to problematic use or cocaine use disorder. Anyone can develop a cocaine use disorder, which can lead to harmful short-term and long-term risks including, heart attacks, psychological issues, seizures, or strokes. No matter how much of how long you or a loved one may have used cocaine, getting sober from cocaine is possible and there are thousands of others who have reclaimed their lives from cocaine addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction: What Does Cocaine Addiction Look Like?
Cocaine use disorder looks different in different people. For some it is a daily habit accompanied by physical dependency, and for others it may be used less frequently (weekly or monthly) in binges, sometimes for days at a time. Cocaine can be snorted, injected or smoked.
When cocaine is smoked, it is often referred to as crack. While there has been much more social stigma around crack use compared to cocaine use, there are no pharmacological differences between the two. The effects of smoking cocaine or crack tend to be faster acting, stronger, and shorter lasting, which increases likelihood of binges.
Cocaine can be misused by anyone. Some statistics show that 25% of people who use cocaine actually meet criteria for a use disorder. The euphoria or “high” that cocaine gives is short-lived, and this can lead to a person using more of the drug in short intervals to maintain the high and avoid coming down. Over time, the body can develop tolerance, which then requires higher quantities of the drug to feel the same high. Increased use of cocaine due to tolerance can increase the risks of more severe use disorder.
There are a number of signs of cocaine misuse including:
- You spend a lot of time thinking about and obtaining cocaine
- You can’t cut down on using cocaine despite multiple attempts
- You disregard social activities, work responsibilities or family obligations due to cocaine use
- You have to take more cocaine to feel the same desired effects
- You’re still using cocaine despite negative physical, emotional, and psychological effects
How to Tell If Someone Has A Problem with Cocaine
Cocaine addiction doesn’t just affect the person using. If you are concerned about a loved one or a friend using cocaine, you’re not alone. Knowing what to look for can be helpful. People using cocaine can exhibit a number of signs including:
- Dilated pupils
- Mood swings
- Changes in concentration and focus
- Decline in performance in school or work
Dangers of Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine, like other substances, alters the dopamine in a person’s body, meaning that it affects the way we experience pleasure, reward, concentrate, and balance ourselves. Regular cocaine use can decrease the amount of dopamine in the body and impair the body’s ability to respond to dopamine. This can lead to anxiety and other mood issues.
Using cocaine intranasally can cause damage to nasal passageways, which can result in loss of the sense of smell, runny or stuffy nose, and frequent nose bleeds. Smoking cocaine can lead to lung, throat, or mouth cancer as well as damage to lung tissue.
The elevated heart rate and blood pressure that are associated with cocaine use can also lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart disease or create an increased risk for a heart attack. Cocaine can also cause stomach ulcers, sexual dysfunction, or a stroke.
Dangers of Quitting Cocaine
Quitting cocaine isn’t easy, and making the decision to quit cocaine can be a difficult one to make. When someone stops using they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, and each person’s experience of withdrawals can be different. Some common symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Increased appetite
Generally, quitting cocaine does not have the same life-threatening risk that alcohol or benzodiazepines do. However, withdrawal symptoms can become extremely uncomfortable and difficult to manage, and medically-supervised detox may be helpful.
Who Becomes Addicted to Cocaine?
Cocaine does not discriminate, and anyone regardless of socio economic status, race or gender can develop a pattern of problematic use. While some may experiment or occasionally use cocaine as a “party drug,” there are many who will find they cannot stop using once they start and develop a use disorder. Some of the demographics that:
Military & Veterans
Elderly & Older Adults
Getting Sober & Rehab for Cocaine Addiction
Getting sober and finding help for cocaine use disorder is possible. Good treatment for substance use disorders helps develop insight into the relationship between substances and the person using them. Treatment might include medication and skills-based work in cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, or psychodynamic approaches to address underlying issues that drive drug use. If you are concerned about your cocaine use, it is possible to get help and change your life.
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Recovery Resources for Cocaine Addiction
Getting sober and staying sober from cocaine addiction is a lifelong process. Along with rehab, therapy, and medication-assisted treatment, there are many who have found likeminded people in support groups helpful to help learn how to live life without cocaine.
Read Sober Stories from those who have overcome cocaine addiction