Signs & Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction

Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and effects of cocaine addiction. Understanding what you or your loved one is going through can be the first step to getting help.

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine addiction and substance abuse

An illegal drug that is known to cause euphoric sensations when a person is under the influence, cocaine is a highly addictive substance that can render a number of harmful effects if a person does not receive care to end this type of substance abuse problem. Commonly referred to as coke, this narcotic causes a high that can last for up to thirty minutes during which time the user will be unable to feel pain. Because the high induced by cocaine produces favorable effects within a short window of time, abusers typically experience intense cravings for continued use in order to feel the ongoing pleasurable effects associated with this drug.

Experimentation, as well as prolonged usage of cocaine, can cause a number of risks to a person’s health. With an ever-present risk for overdose, cocaine has the capability of causing permanent damage to an individual’s vital organs and overall brain functioning. Furthermore, other areas of a person’s life are likely to be affected when a cocaine addiction problem is a factor in an individual’s life. Academic performance, occupational functioning, and relationships with others are known to be negatively affected when someone is addicted to cocaine. Fortunately, those that wish to recover from and overcome a cocaine addiction have access to treatment options that can help a person break free from the vicious cycle of addiction so that a sober life can be achieved.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for cocaine addiction

Experts in the field of mental health, as well as addiction specialists, agree that there are a number of causes and risk factors that increases a person’s vulnerability to a cocaine addiction. Consider the following explanations that describe how and why a person can become addicted to cocaine:

Genetic: If an individual has a first-degree relative who has battled an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, there is a high likelihood that that person will come to abuse substances at some point as well. With specific regards to a cocaine addiction, there is an even higher chance that an individual will also use this drug if there is a family history of this type of addiction.

Physical: Studies that examined cocaine’s effects on the brain have produced a number of interesting findings. Dopamine and serotonin, neurochemicals that regulate emotions and impulsivity, are known to be adversely affected when a person uses cocaine. When these negative effects take place as a result of cocaine use, a person’s ability to resist urges to continuously use cocaine is hindered and the pleasurable sensations experienced while under the influence of cocaine are believed to be caused by the imbalance of and miscommunication among these neurotransmitters.

Environmental: While genetics and certain physiological changes are known to contribute to the development of a substance abuse problem, certain environmental factors can make a person more vulnerable to an addiction to cocaine. For example, if a child is exposed to cocaine before being born, there is a high likelihood that he or she will eventually become addicted to cocaine later in life. Furthermore, if an individual has easy access to cocaine and endures overwhelming amounts of stress, there is an increased chance that that person will become addicted to cocaine.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of addiction or mental illness
  • Living in an environment where drug use is prominent
  • Being exposed to cocaine while in utero
  • Unstable home environments
  • Lack of parental supervision and/or involvement
  • Suffering from a mental illness or illnesses
  • Peer pressure
  • Experiencing high levels of stress
  • Having easy access to cocaine

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction

Friends and loved ones have the ability to observe a number of behaviors that suggest a person is abusing cocaine. In addition to behaviors, there are a number of physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that suggest an individual is battling a cocaine addiction. Take note of the following signs and symptoms if you are concerned that someone you care for is engaging in this type of harmful substance use and consider treatment options to help end this life-threatening addiction:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Prolonged periods of excessive energy
  • Rapid speech
  • Aggression
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Sudden bursts of hyperactivity
  • Participating in risk-taking behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Sweating
  • Increased body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Hypertension

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Panic
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Declined interest in things that were once enjoyed
  • Anxiety
  • Unpredictable mood swings


Effects of cocaine addiction

There are several short and long-term effects that can result if a person is addicted to cocaine. With the potential to be permanent and even life-threatening, the listed consequences are probable if an individual does not receive care for a cocaine addiction:

  • Malnutrition
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Permanent heart, brain, and/or blood vessel damage
  • Heart attack
  • Financial strife
  • Decline in quality and quantity of relationships
  • Legal problems
  • Loss of one’s sense of smell
  • Damage to one’s liver, kidneys, and/or lungs
  • Stroke
  • Unemployment
  • Academic failure
  • Destruction of nasal tissue
  • Respiratory failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

Self-medication among sufferers of mental illnesses is quite common. Cocaine, for example, is a drug that is known to be addictive by people who meet diagnostic criteria for an array of mental health conditions. Additionally, cocaine use can trigger the onset of symptoms synonymous with a mental health disorder. The following are mental health conditions that can occur alongside a cocaine use disorder:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Conduct disorder

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: Prolonged usage of cocaine can ultimately cause symptoms of withdrawal to occur if a person ceases his or her use of this illicit drug. In many cases, withdrawal from cocaine is unpleasant or warrants medical attention. If you notice that you or a loved one is displaying the following signs of withdrawal, it is necessary to consider and seek treatment to end this perilous addiction:

  • Lethargy
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Intense cravings
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Excessive irritability
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams

Effects of cocaine overdose: Cocaine overdose is serious and medical attention should be sought immediately so as to prevent a fatal outcome. The following signs and symptoms are those that can occur when a person is overdosing on cocaine:

  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Nausea
  • Heavy vomiting
  • Irregular breathing
  • Hyperthermia
  • Delirium
  • Paranoia
  • Panic

My severe depression had taken over my life. I’m so thankful for San Juan Capestrano Hospital for giving me the strength to start living my life again to the fullest.

– Luis S.