Cocaine Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Learn about cocaine abuse & addiction

Cocaine is a powerful, dangerous, and addictive stimulant that is derived from the leaves of the cocoa plant. This drug usually appears as a white powder or as a rock crystal. The powder form is most commonly abused by being snorted. With the rock form of cocaine, users usually heat the substance, and then inhale the vapors. The immediate effects of cocaine abuse include strong temporary feelings of increased energy, numbness to pain, and enhanced self-confidence.

Because cocaine’s effects are powerful yet fleeting, users often experience an intense desire to abuse the substance repeatedly, often ingesting increasingly large doses. Repeated cocaine abuse can quickly lead to addiction, which is associated with a wide range of profoundly negative outcomes. The good news is that cocaine addiction is a treatable condition. With effective professional intervention, individuals can overcome the compulsion to abuse cocaine, and can address the co-occurring conditions that may have contributed to or resulted from the cocaine abuse.


Statistics for cocaine abuse

Experts estimate that more than 35 million people in the United States have abused cocaine at least once in their lives, and that about two million Americans have abused this dangerous stimulant at least once in the previous 30 days.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), cocaine abuse is the most common cause of drug-related visits to emergency rooms in the United States. In the most recent year for which statistics were available, cocaine use was a factor in more than 450,000 ER visits.

Causes & Risks

Causes & risk factors of cocaine addiction

The development of dependence upon cocaine or any other addictive substance most often results from a combination of genetic factors and environmental influences, such as the following:

Genetic: Having a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, who has developed a substance use disorder significantly increases a person’s risk for developing a similar condition. If one or both parents have struggled with substance use disorders, the risk of a child also developing a drug problem can be between three to eight times greater than the risk within the general population. Considerable research also strongly suggests that having a family history of mental illness also puts a person at increased risk for developing an addiction to cocaine or another drug.

Environmental: People who are exposed to drug use at a young age are more likely to also engage in this behavior than are the offspring of parents who maintain drug-free households. Also, a parent’s struggles with mental illness can create a stressful or chaotic environment for children, which can prompt them to turn to substance abuse as a means of emotional escape or self-medication. Living in poverty, enduring chronic stress, and experiencing trauma are additional environmental factors that can influence the development of a cocaine problem.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse and/or mental illness
  • Ineffective parental oversight
  • Personal struggle with mental illness or prior substance abuse
  • Living or working in a high-stress environment
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Associating with friends, colleagues, or other peers who engage in cocaine abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs & symptoms of cocaine addiction

Cocaine abuse does not always present itself in a consistent manner, but the following are common symptoms that may indicate that a person is struggling with cocaine abuse or addiction:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Rapid speech patterns
  • Unprovoked outbursts of anger or aggression
  • Reckless, risky, or otherwise dangerous behaviors
  • Borrowing stealing money
  • Lying about one’s whereabouts, activities, and associates

Physical symptoms:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny or bleeding nose
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • High body temperature
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Overconfidence
  • Poor decision-making capabilities
  • Irritability
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Psychosis

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in issues and events that were previously important
  • Inability to experience pleasure without drugs


Effects of cocaine abuse

The following are just some of the many devastating impacts that cocaine abuse or addiction can have on an individual’s life:

  • Heart damage
  • Cardiac arrest
  • High blood pressure
  • Damage to kidneys and liver
  • Irreversible brain damage
  • Stroke
  • Academic failure
  • Lost interpersonal relationships
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment
  • Financial ruin

Co-Occurring Disorders

Cocaine addiction and co-occurring disorders

Many people who struggle with a substance use disorder related to cocaine may also be experiencing one or more co-occurring mental health disorders, including the following:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Withdrawal & Overdose Effects

Effects & symptoms of withdrawal from cocaine

Effects of cocaine withdrawal: Stopping or significantly reducing one’s cocaine use after one’s body has become dependent upon this stimulant can lead to the onset of several unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including the following:

  • Strong cravings for cocaine
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Nightmares

Effects of cocaine overdose: Cocaine overdose, which can be fatal, can occur the first time a person abuses this dangerous drug. If a person exhibits the following signs and symptoms of cocaine overdose, immediate medical attention may be required:

  • Irregular heart rate
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Extremely high blood pressure and/or body temperature
  • Breathing problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Delirium
  • Stroke

My cocaine addiction was out of control. Keystone's addiction treatment gave me the strength to quit and I've not looked back since

– Anonymous Patient

Take an Online Assessment

An assessment is an important first step toward treatment of and recovery from addiction.