Signs & Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Oasis Behavioral Health Hospital helps individuals in Chandler, AZ diagnose and treat their mental health & addiction disorders.

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine and substance abuse

Cocaine, also known as “coke,” “blow,” and “snow,” is a powerfully addictive stimulant narcotic that is often considered to be an upper-class way of getting high. Movies, television, and the media often portray cocaine as the drug of choice for society’s elite, playing down the problems coke can cause in a person’s life. Despite becoming popular in the 1980s and 90s, cocaine is actually one of the oldest-known psychoactive substances. In fact, cocaine was often included in many elixirs and tonics developed in the early 1900s to treat an array of illnesses.

Today, cocaine is sold on the street as a fine white powder and is often diluted with inert ingredients like talcum powder or sugar. Some dealers mix cocaine with other stimulants or with heroin, a combination known as a “speedball.” Cocaine comes in two forms on the street – crack cocaine, which is smokable, and powdered cocaine which can be snorted or injected. Cocaine is considered to be a highly addictive psychoactive substance and repeated use can quickly lead to addiction. With proper interventions, therapies, and self-care strategies, cocaine addiction can be successfully overcome.


Cocaine addiction statistics

In 2008, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated that there were 1.9 million cocaine users, of which about 360,000 were crack cocaine users. Adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have the highest rates of cocaine use, with 1.5% reporting cocaine use within the past month.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

Drug abuse and addiction is not thought to be the result of a single factor; rather there are a variety of physical, genetic, and environmental risk factors that work together to cause cocaine abuse. Some of the most commonly cited causes and risk factors for drug abuse and addiction include:

Genetic: Addiction is known to run in families; people who have a first-degree relative who abuses cocaine or other drugs are at greater risk for developing an addiction than others without a similar background. However, not all people who become addicted to cocaine or other drugs have a family history of addiction.

Physical: Cocaine use stimulates the pleasure center of the brain, notably a part of the midbrain called the ventral tegmental area (VTA) which contains nerve fibers that communicate with the nucleus accumbens – one of the key areas of the brain that is involved in pleasure.

Environmental: Many environmental stressors can work together with other risk factors to create an addiction to cocaine or other drugs. Early exposure to drugs or alcohol increases the likelihood of developing an addiction later in life. Additionally, a peer group that encourages drug use can play a role in the development of drug abuse.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Being between ages 18 and 25
  • Lack of family involvement
  • Additional mental health problems, such as ADHD
  • Anxiety, depression, and loneliness

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

The signs symptoms of cocaine abuse and addiction will vary based upon individual genetic makeup, length of addiction, amount used, and the presence of other drugs in the body. The most common symptoms of cocaine abuse include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Speaking very quickly
  • Talking excessively
  • Conversation jumping from topic to topic
  • Extreme energy
  • Engaging in illegal activities
  • Risk-taking behaviors

Physical Symptoms:

  • Racing heart
  • Hypertension
  • Sweating
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns
  • Tolerance
  • Physical addiction
  • Seizures
  • Increased libido
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Dilated pupils

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Extreme focus and concentration on one task
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased feelings of competence

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Psychological addiction
  • Euphoria and feelings of well-being
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Social withdrawal


Effects of cocaine addiction

When properly treated, many of the long-term symptoms of cocaine addiction can be avoided or lessened, which is why prompt treatment is vital for those who use cocaine. The effects of cocaine abuse will vary based upon individual genetic makeup, route of administration, length of abuse, and frequency of use.

  • Joblessness
  • Addiction
  • Poverty
  • Incarceration
  • Malnourishment
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Lung infections and scarring
  • Nasal perforation
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Infections from bloodborne pathogens from using contaminated needles (IV drug use only)
  • Collapse of veins and abscesses on injection site (IV drug use only)
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Sudden cardiac death followed by respiratory arrest

Withdrawl and Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of Cocaine Withdrawal:

When a person becomes addicted to a substance and that substance is abruptly discontinued, withdrawal symptoms set in. It is always best to go through cocaine withdrawal under the supervision of trained medical professionals to prevent complications. Some of the effects of withdrawal from cocaine may include:

  • Cravings for more cocaine
  • Increased appetite
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Depression
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Decrease in activity levels
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue and sleepiness
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia

Effects of Cocaine Overdose:

Cocaine overdose can be a potentially fatal condition and is more likely to occur when an individual injects cocaine as the speed at which the drug enters the body affects the risk for overdose. However, overdose from cocaine can occur at any time an individual is abusing cocaine. Any signs of cocaine overdose indicate a medical emergency.

Common symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular breathing
  • Hyperthermia
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

A number of mental health and related disorders have been linked to abuse and addiction to cocaine. These include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Alcoholism
  • Addictions to other substances
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