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Cocaine Symptoms and Warning Signs

An addiction to cocaine can be hard for many people to distinguish. Knowing the symptoms can help you determine if someone needs help.

Signs of Cocaine Abuse

cocaine-symptomsCocaine is a highly addictive substance. What starts off as seemingly harmless experimentation can quickly develop into a potentially life-threatening addiction.

By recognizing the signs of cocaine abuse, you can get your loved one the help they need before an addiction takes hold.

Common signs of cocaine use include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Long periods of wakefulness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Overconfidence
  • Over-excitement
  • Paranoia
  • Runny nose or frequent sniffles
  • White powder around nostrils

The Dangers of Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine is a dangerous drug in part for its highly addictive potential, but it also poses serious risks on a person’s overall health. There are both short- and long-term dangers associated with cocaine use, ranging from overdose to organ failure. Cocaine abuse constricts blood vessels, which causes an increase in unhealthy blood pressure. Snorting cocaine can also cause serious damage to the nasal cavity and septum.

The effects of cocaine are felt relatively quickly and are short-lived compared to other substances—only lasting roughly 30 minutes. Taken in smaller doses, cocaine produces effects of happiness, sociability, concentration and a decreased need for sleep.

However, larger amounts of cocaine are particularly dangerous. Large doses can cause violent behavior, nosebleeds, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Common side effects of cocaine use include:

Headaches

High blood pressure

Nausea

Trouble sleeping

Coma

Chills

Confusion

Sweating

Seizures

The extent to which long-term side effects become more severe depends on the frequency and amount of cocaine used for an extended period of time. Over time, cocaine abuse can affect the brain, lungs, heart, kidneys and gastrointestinal system. Continued abuse of cocaine can also lead to harmful behavioral and physiological side effects, such as depression and damage to the nasal cavity.

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Recognizing a Cocaine Addiction

While abuse often leads to addiction, they are not the same. Cocaine abuse often causes immediate negative consequences, but some people who abuse cocaine are capable of quitting on their own. Cocaine addiction is more complex.

Cocaine use disorders are measured on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe. The criteria are based on the negative impact that cocaine has on the user’s life, from consequences at work to strained interpersonal relationships.

Intervention for a Cocaine Problem

Once a cocaine addiction has been realized, the next step is to make sure the person affected seeks help. Many times those suffering from an addiction may deny they have a problem or refuse to seek treatment.

Setting up an intervention is a powerful way to persuade someone to get help.

Interventions should be handled in a safe, encouraging environment. It’s important to make your loved one understand that you want to help. If someone you know is exhibiting the symptoms of cocaine addiction, it’s important that you bring it up before it’s too late.

Withdrawal from Cocaine, Treatment and Next Steps

Cocaine use releases excess amount of happiness-inducing biochemicals known as dopamine. After a cocaine binge, the brain isn’t able to produce natural amounts of dopamine on its own. This is why those who are addicted need the drug to simply feel normal.

Cocaine withdrawal doesn’t typically produce physical symptoms, but psychological symptoms can range from depression to fatigue.

Giving up cocaine doesn’t require medical detox and is generally not life-threatening. However, finding treatment, whether it be rehab, therapy or a 12-step program, can increase the chances of successfully quitting. These treatments help people cope with withdrawal, cravings and reestablishing a drug-free life. Find treatment for a cocaine addiction now.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: January 21, 2016

  1. Frances, R. J., & Miller, S.I. (1998) Clinical Textbook of Addictive Disorders, Second Edition. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
  2. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Retrieved on February 10, 2014, from: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/NationalFindings/NSDUHresults2012.htm
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). How is cocaine abused? Retrieved on February 10, 2014, from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction/how-cocaine-abused
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). What are the short-term effects of cocaine use? Retrieved on February 10, 2014, from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine-abuse-addiction/what-are-short-term-effects-cocaine-use
  6. National Institutes of Health. (2014). Cocaine Withdrawal. Retrieved on February 10, 2014, from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000947.htm
  7. Drug Abuse Warning Network. (2012). Outcomes of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits Associated with Polydrug Use. Retrieved on February 10, 2014, from: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k12/DAWN032/SR032Polydrug2012.pdf
About the Writer, Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith is the editorial director for Addiction Center. After working for years as a journalist, she joined the Addiction Center team in hopes of spreading awareness about addiction and mental health issues and helping people get treatment.

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