Cocaine Abuse & Addiction Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Effects

Cocaine addiction can rob you of your health, your dignity, and your hope for a better tomorrow. At Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center, you will reconnect with your best self, and begin to build the foundation for a more promising future.

What is Cocaine Abuse

 Learn More About Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is a dangerous stimulant created by the purified extract of the Erythroxylum coca bush. Although there is a variety, the two most common forms of cocaine found on the streets are powdered and crack cocaine. Powdered cocaine, also referred to as “coke” or “blow” is consumed by either snorting or liquefying and injecting the substance (IV drug use). Crack cocaine, also called “freebase” or “rock” is inhaled by heating the crack rock in a “crack pipe” allowing the smoke to be absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. Each form of cocaine use produces a different type of high for the user.

Since the high achieved by cocaine use is relatively short, the abuse of cocaine often occurs in a binge and crash pattern. Upon initial use of cocaine an individual will get a rush of good feelings often times talking excessively or thinking quickly. Eventually, all of the good feelings caused by the high wear off and the following crash causes intense sadness and exhaustion. In order to avoid these negative symptoms, the user takes more cocaine which creates the vicious binge and crash cycle.

Cocaine addiction is a long-term chronic problem that is caused by changes in the structure and function of the brain. Cocaine affects the central nervous system by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This stops the natural process of dopamine, preventing it from being recycled back into the brain cells leaving an increased level of dopamine, resulting in the high. After a while an individual will need more and more of the drug in order to create the high first experienced which leads to cocaine addiction.

Many individuals who are addicted to cocaine are also addicted to another substance, called poly-substance abuse. As cocaine is a stimulant, an “upper,” a coke addict may resort to using “downers,” such as benzodiazepines or alcohol to manage the unpleasant side effects of cocaine abuse. This poly-drug abuse compounds the need for treatment as the negative effects of being addicted to more than one substance can cause substantial interpersonal, health, and emotional consequences.

While a frightening addiction, cocaine addiction can be treated and coke addicts can recover completely if treated promptly and effectively.


Statistics on Cocaine Abuse

It is estimated that 1.9 million people use cocaine each month; 359,000 of those used crack cocaine. Adults between the ages of 18-25 report higher rates of cocaine usage with 1.5% reporting cocaine usage in the last month. Additionally, it has been reported that more men abuse cocaine each month than women.


Causes of Cocaine Abuse

As is the case with most substance abuse, there is not one single known cause for cocaine addiction. It is most likely that many factors such as genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological, work together to cause an individual to become addicted to cocaine.

Genetic: Research has indicated the individuals with first-degree relatives who struggle with a drug addiction (cocaine or otherwise) are more likely to develop an addiction later in life.

Biological: Biological factors such as changes in the structure and function of the brain have been hypothesized as a cause for cocaine addiction. When the levels of dopamine fluctuate, an individual may continue to abuse cocaine in order to maintain pleasurable feelings thus leading to drug addiction.

Environmental: Research suggests that people who come from homes in which there is a history of child abuse, traumatic events, or other environmental stressors may have an increased chance of developing an addiction later in life. Early usage of drugs can also increase the likelihood that a person will become addicted to drugs later in life.

Psychological: Sometimes substance abuse is an attempt to manage symptoms of undiagnosed mental health disorders. Cocaine can also provide an emotional numbing type of coping mechanism for those experiencing excruciating emotional pain.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and the Complexity of Cocaine Abuse

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Depressive disorders
  • Addiction to other drugs of abuse
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Conduct disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine addiction is an addiction to a very potent drug which means that correctly identifying the ways in which someone who is a cocaine addict will display symptoms can be a challenge. The following is a list of some of the common signs and symptoms of cocaine abuse:


  • Increased levels of anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of superiority
  • Euphoria
  • Panic
  • Irritation
  • Fearfulness


  • Extremely talkative while high
  • Increased energy levels
  • Stealing or borrowing money
  • Decreased need for sleep while high
  • Increased need for sleep after usage
  • Decreased appetite
  • Erratic, bizarre behaviors
  • Violence
  • Abandonment of once-pleasurable activities in order to get high
  • Reckless and risky behaviors
  • Inability to sit still for even short periods of time
  • Constantly rubbing runny nose


  • Headaches
  • Muscle twitches
  • Malnutrition
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Constriction of blood vessels
  • Chronically runny nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nasal perforation
  • Hoarseness
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Gangrene of the bowel
  • Risks for HIV, Hepatitis and other bloodborne pathogens
  • Tremors

Psychological symptoms:

  • Intense paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Violent mood swings
  • Hallucination
  • Break from reality
  • Cravings
  • Inability to exercise good judgment
  • Rationalization of drug use
  • Lack of motivation


Effects of Cocaine Abuse

As cocaine is a particularly vicious drug, the effects of cocaine addiction are long-lasting and can impact every part of an addict’s life. Some of the most common side effects of cocaine abuse may include:

  • Worsening anxiety
  • Worsening depression
  • Psychosis
  • Permanent changes to heart rhythms
  • Bloodborne diseases
  • Legal problems
  • Unemployment
  • Divorce
  • Domestic violence
  • Coma
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Death


Withdrawal Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse

Although cocaine withdrawal is rarely serious, it still produces a number of very unpleasant withdrawal effects. Symptoms generally only last for about a week or two and may including the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Tremors and shakiness
  • Pain
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Exhaustion
  • Challenges in concentration
  • Intense cravings for cocaine
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