Cocaine Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Updated On: Jan 13, 2024
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    Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug that activates the brain’s reward center. Though it’s a commonly used party drug, it’s also extremely dangerous and habit-forming can have serious short and long-term consequences.

    What Is Cocaine?

    Cocaine is a stimulant drug that’s derived from the South American coca plant. In the past, it was used in medical settings as an anesthetic, but it’s now primarily a recreational drug. Cocaine is designated as Schedule II under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.[1] About 4.8 million people used cocaine in 2022.[2]

    Side Effects of Cocaine

    The primary side effect of cocaine is euphoria. As a stimulant, cocaine causes alertness, paranoia, hypersensitivity, and irritability.[3] In some cases, people using cocaine may act erratically or become violent.

    How Is Cocaine Taken?

    Cocaine can be snorted through the nose, which causes an instantaneous, intense high.[4] It can also be dissolved in water and injected into a vein, which delivers it directly to the bloodstream. In its crack form, cocaine is smoked and absorbed into the lungs, leading to a fast and short-lived high.

    Cocaine Quick Reference

    Drug Category Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule Administration
    Stimulant Coke, blow, powder, snow Schedule II Snorting, smoking, injection

    Statistics on Cocaine Use, Misuse, and Addiction

    Cocaine is a widely abused drug in the US:

    • Among people aged 12 or older in 2021, 1.7% — about 4.8 million people – reported using cocaine in 2021.
    • In 2022, an estimated 0.5% of 8th graders, 0.3% of 10th graders, and 1.5% of 12th graders reported using cocaine in the past 12 months
    • Among people aged 12 or older in 2021, 0.5% — about 1.4 million people – had a cocaine use disorder in the past 12 months
    • In 2021, approximately 24,486 people died from an overdose involving cocaine[5]

    Effects of Cocaine Abuse

    Cocaine’s effects appear almost instantly after a single dose and disappear within a few minutes to an hour. Small amounts lead to euphoria, alertness, talkativeness, and hypersensitivity. People that are under the influence of cocaine may feel like they can go without food or sleep.[6]

    With repeated exposure, cocaine affects the brain’s reward center, which begins to prioritize the drug over natural rewards like food or sex.[7] Addiction, damage to the cardiovascular system, digestive system, and other organ systems are other risks.

    Can You Overdose on Cocaine?

    Due to its ubiquitousness and use as a party drug, cocaine leads to many overdoses each year. Overdose can occur with the first use or in people who use cocaine frequently. Mixing cocaine with other drugs increases the risk of overdose.

    Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Overdose

    The symptoms of cocaine overdose may include paranoia, a raised body temperature and heartbeat, high blood pressure, and feelings of panic. Hallucinations, difficulty breathing, and unconsciousness may also occur.[8]

    What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on cocaine:

    If you think someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. Stay with the person until emergency medical services arrive. If they stop breathing, you can begin CPR if you are trained.

    Dangers of Long-Term Cocaine Use

    Because cocaine causes intense, short-lived euphoria, it’s commonly binged to achieve the same effects. Tolerance builds, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects, increasing the risk of addiction and overdose.[9]

    Mixing Cocaine with Other Drugs

    As a party drug, cocaine is often mixed with other stimulants like amphetamine or synthetic opioids like fentanyl.[10] Sometimes, cocaine is laced with other drugs without the user’s knowledge. Adding other drugs to the mix significantly increases the risk of overdose.

    Cocaine Addiction and Abuse

    Cocaine addiction, or a cocaine use disorder, is classified as a stimulant use disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The criteria for a stimulant use disorder include at least two of the following occurring within a 12-month period:

    • Using cocaine more frequently or in larger doses than intended
    • Trying to limit or stop cocaine use unsuccessfully
    • Spending increasing amounts of time getting, using, or recovering from cocaine use
    • Having intense cravings for cocaine
    • Experiencing problems in life because of cocaine
    • Using cocaine despite adverse effects
    • Requiring more cocaine to achieve the same euphoria
    • Continuing to use cocaine despite issues in interpersonal relationships
    • Having withdrawal symptoms from limiting or stopping cocaine use[11]

    Is Cocaine Addictive?

    Cocaine is extremely addictive because it targets the brain’s reward centers and floods the brain with dopamine.[12] This reinforces cocaine use and causes the reward center to adapt, leading to tolerance and an increased need for higher amounts.

    How Addictive Is Cocaine?

    Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs available because of its intense and short-lived high and effects on the brain, which reinforces its use.

    Signs of Addiction to Cocaine

    There are many signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction including:

    • Dilated pupils
    • Chronic nasal issues
    • Burns on the fingers or lips from crack use
    • Weight loss
    • Anxiety
    • Paranoia
    • Tremors and muscle twitching
    • Presence of drug paraphernalia
    • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
    • Nausea and stomach pain
    • Vertigo
    • Loss of the sense of smell[13]

    Cutting Agents Used for Cocaine

    Street dealers often cut cocaine with things like talcum powder, cornstarch, or flour to increase its bulk and increase their profit margin.[15] It may be mixed with other drugs, such as amphetamine or fentanyl, as well to make it more potent.

    Cost of Cocaine Addiction Treatment

    The cost and duration of cocaine addiction treatment can vary based on your treatment program and insurance provider. Typically, people are in cocaine addiction treatment for a few months, but some may stay longer. Each care plan is tailored to the individual’s needs.

    Cocaine Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

    Medical Detox

    Cocaine withdrawal isn’t often life-threatening, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. Medically monitored detox ensures you’re as safe and comfortable as possible to manage your symptoms while the drug clears your system.

    Inpatient Treatment

    Inpatient treatment involves 24/7 care in a residential environment. You can attend treatment sessions during the day and spend the night at the facility with others in recovery. This is ideal for people who need structured, supervised care.

    Outpatient Treatment

    Outpatient treatment is more flexible than inpatient treatment and involves treatment sessions during the day, but you have time to manage your responsibilities to work or family.

    Therapies Used in Cocaine Addiction Treatment

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This focuses on the unhelpful thought processes that lead to problem behaviors. Once these thoughts are identified, they can be replaced with healthier ones.
    • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): helps patients learn to understand, accept, and regulate their emotions with healthier outlets.
    • Motivational interviewing: this treatment helps people find their own motivation to change their behaviors.
    • Contingency management: This method uses incentives to change behaviors and reward abstinence.
    • Experiential therapy: This type of therapy uses activities, animals, art, or other experiences to facilitate change.
    • Twelve-step facilitation: This program uses 12-step mutual-support groups to build connection and overcome addiction.

    Cocaine Addiction and Mental Health

    Cocaine addiction can trigger or worsen other mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and psychosis.[14]

    Co-Occurring Disorders

    When you have a substance use disorder, like cocaine use disorder, and a mental health condition, this is known as a co-occurring disorder. Recovery hinges upon treating both of these conditions simultaneously, rather than individually.

    Cocaine often co-occurs with depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.[16]

    How to Find Cocaine Addiction Treatment in Connecticut

    The best way to find approved cocaine addiction treatment providers is by speaking to your insurance company or your primary care provider. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also offers a Behavioral Health Services Locator tool to find cocaine addiction treatment near you.

    Once you have a list of possible providers, do your research and evaluate their services, treatment options, and client reviews. If you want to take the next step, contact the helpline at Paramount Wellness Retreat and speak to our compassionate care team.


    Cocaine Detox and Withdrawal Management

    Stopping cocaine use can be extremely uncomfortable. It can take several days or up to a week, which is why medical detox and withdrawal management are recommended to keep you safe and comfortable.


    Frequently Asked Questions

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